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Louis Houck's railroad track trick

Friday, September 24, 2004

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The latest panel completed on the Mississippi River Tales mural represents the introduction of the railroad to Cape Girardeau.

On the right side of the panel is the large figure of the man responsible for bringing the railroad to Cape Girardeau, Louis Houck. In addition to being a railroad builder, Houck was a lawyer, historian and author.

Houck had a six-month deadline in which to build the first rail line from Delta to Cape Girardeau.

The workers ran out of track about 1,000 feet from Cape Girardeau, but Houck was determined to make the Dec. 31, 1880, deadline so he ordered the train to run to the end of the uncompleted track so the workers could tear up the rails behind the train and complete the track into the city.

According to stories, the train came into Cape Girardeau three minutes before the deadline approached. This is why the figure of Houck in the panel is looking at a pocket watch.

While the Mississippi River Tales mural is nearing completion, there still remain eight original artist renderings of each of the panels available for sale.

The renderings by artist Thomas Melvin are available for a tax-deductible $5,000 donation and the proceeds will go toward the mural project and the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri and Old Town Cape.

Those who purchase the renderings are considered sponsors and will have their names included in a planned booklet and reading wall that will be constructed once the murals are completed.

The reading wall will be mounted on a safety rail about 25 feet in front of each of the murals.

Anyone interested in purchasing one of the remaining renderings should call Blattner at either 334-3288 or 334-6327, or contact River Heritage Mural Association treasurer Narvol Randol Jr. at 278-693.


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