THE HISTORY OF THE
JOHNNY RAY RAIL TRAIL
A passenger train ran twice a day from Opelika to Lafayette and on to Roanoke and back. This train ran on a line that 'spurred' off the main track to West Point and Atlanta. This was back in the days when people- if they wanted to travel any distance at all- went by rail.
The engineer on this particular train was named Johnny Ray. He has been described as a real 'Chesterfield' of a fellow, neatly dressed, dapper and carried himself with a certain air of aplomb. He became something of a local celebrity.
Once he was staying at the old Royal Hotel in Opelika when it burned and he had to jump out the window to save his life. He broke his leg and it never healed properly and he walked with a limp the rest of his life.
Eventually the train itself came to be called the JOHNNY RAY. Finally passenger service was discontinued between Opelika and LaFayette, but I remember old timers still referring to the little 'pulp wood' train that came down to Opelika every morning as 'Johnny Ray.'
The East Alabama Cycling Club (EACC) formed in 2003 and discussion around the Johnny Ray Rail Trail begin to take shape.
EACC asked the Opelika Bicycle Advisory Committee (OBAC) to take over the annual Century ride to shepherd the process moving forward.
The cyclists group expanded into a larger committee of community entities who are passionate about bringing a rail trail to Alabama and Georgia. The committee began developing a master plan for the Johnny Ray Rail Trail
There is much work to be done as a master plan is being finalized. The group is also seeking out sponsorships and researching grant opportunities to take this vision to the next level.