New documentary showcases Opelika as a bustling city

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - One of the great things about east Alabama is that the towns have never lost sight of where they began. From the historic downtowns in Opelika and Auburn to the feature of a new documentary: the Rocky Brook Rocket, a kid's ride in Opelika's Monkey Park.

"Opelika is a railroad town," said Rex Roach, the documentary's producer. "What happened was, the first significant railroad in Alabama came through Opelika. It went from Montgomery, over to West Point and then up to Atlanta. Not long thereafter a line went from Birmingham down to Columbus Georgia and they crossed in Opelika. So Opelika has been a railroad hub almost its entire existence."

To honor that past, the people of Opelika paid to have the Rocky Brook Rocket placed at the park in 1955.

And just like its name, the train's time in the park has been a little rocky.

"Over the years, it has had its ups and downs. The manufacturer of the train went in and out of business. It has undergone a couple restorations in the past and it just became very hard to get parts for it," said Matthew Battles, a supervisor for the Opelika Parks and Rec.

During the last restoration, it was Battles that had the idea to document the process.

"The documentary took a couple of years," said Roach. "Matt Battles contacted me about this. I had done some video work with the city in the past he said, 'Can we document the restoration of the train?' and originally that is all we were going to do."

But the final product did so much more. The movie, which is divided into three parts, takes a look at the history of trains in the area, the history of the Rocky Brook Rocket, and the restoration of the ride.

"We worked hand in hand for almost 2 years. From getting everything together the video of the restoration and the all of the research to go back and find all the history," said Battles.

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