Scenic USA - Kentucky

Big South Fork Scenic Railway

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Big South Fork Scenic Railway - Stearns, Kentucky

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website

   Over a century ago, Justus S. Stearns purchased 30,000 acres of land in Kentucky’s Big South Fork River Valley. With the discovery of coal, the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company soon controlled 200 square miles of land, set up the first electrically powered sawmill, and established the Kentucky and Tennessee Railway.
   Today, Main Street - Historic Stearns, Kentucky the McCreary County Heritage Foundation leads the task to preserve the last company town, complete with a functional railroad. The business district, still dressed in company colors of sage and white, once catered to a town of 2000 residents who worked in 18 coal and lumber camps. The Stearns Company headquarters still sits on a hillside overlooking Main Street, and now serves as the McCreary County Museum.
   The Kentucky and Tennessee Railroad covered 25 miles of Big South Fork River Valley and utilized a dozen steam-powered locomotives. Operated by the National Parks Service today, the Big South Fork Scenic Railway McCreary County Museum - Historic Stearns, Kentucky offers a 16 mile excursion over the Route of the Painted Rocks. Powering through spectacular canyon vistas and thick Kentucky forests, the Big South Fork Railway makes a stop at the Blue Heron Coal Mining Camp. Here visitors may see the ghostly structures, cross the river on a tipple bridge and walk into the mine entrance. Special packages allow for a ride in the cab of the AMD #106 locomotive (powered by a 12 cylinder, 1200 hp diesel), the train's caboose, or enjoy a coal miner's lunch. Special runs include the Haunted Hollow Express, December's Santa Express, and night excursions called the Painted Rocks and Twinkle Train.

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