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Friday, August 21, 2009

The Worst Intersection in Memphis

Posted By on Fri, Aug 21, 2009 at 3:19 PM

The intersection of Central and East Parkway has always presented a bit of a challenge, since one of the streets (East Parkway) is divided, while the other one (Central) isn't, so you always have to make a bit of adjustment when making left turns. Me? I just shut my eyes and floor it. So far, so good.

Well, half a century ago, traffic engineers must have decided to make that intersection a bit more challenging — by running a railroad diagonally across it. To make it even more interesting, the railroad track was elevated, so automobile drivers had to zig-zag around heavy cast-iron support beams. You had to really look hard to find the traffic light, dangling from one of the trestles. And making a left turn here, with your visibility so restricted, while a freight train rumbled overhead, was just about the most stressful thing you could do.

I found a photograph of this curious intersection, taken around 1950, judging by the cars and that sleek old city bus. The view is looking eastward on Central, with Fairview Junior High in the background. The Pan-Am gas station on the corner (just the sign is visible), has been replaced by a Kwik-Mart.

I also found an old map (below) which shows the route of the railroad — identified on the map as the "Union R.R." — cutting right across the campus of what was then Christian Brothers College, which must have been quite a headache for the school's students and faculty. Click on the image to enlarge it. Can you see it?

Somebody finally came to their senses and removed this eyesore, though I can't say when that happened, exactly. There's no trace of its path today on the Christian Brothers University campus, and on the opposite (or southwest) corner, the former right-of-way was converted into Spanish War Memorial Park, a nice bit of green space in our city.



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