Kentucky Steam: Rebirth of a Loco and a Region

By Giles Kennedy

Chief Editor and Founder The Ohio Railroader Website

Chief Administrator Ohio Valley Rails FB Page

I would like to start this article with three simple phrases.

COVID-19 is still out there. Don’t feed the fear. Be proactive and safe while traveling.

With this opening statement being cleared; all pictures were on a guided tour with Andy Wartman (General Manager/Director of Restoration). If you wish to volunteer with the efforts of helping any work sessions; please fill out the application and help this worth while cause.

Now; for the “Biscuits and Gravy” of our visit.

Estill County, Kentucky and C&O 2716 need a rebirth. With the combined efforts of Kentucky Steam; this will happen.

Throughout our visit and tour with Andy; the repeating phrase was , “They are many hands in this effort.”

CSX Transportation, The Kentucky Railway Museum, RJ Corman and KSHC have been collectively working together towards this goal.

Chesapeake and Ohio 2716, A K4 Berkshire Steam Locomotive has had two rebirths after its initial service.

1982; it had a time with the Southern Railway’s Steam program. Only after the summer of 1982; it went to New Haven, Indiana. (This due to the merger of the N&W and Southern, ending Southern’s steam excursions)

It remained in storage with the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society until the mid 1990’s. It was restored and ran excursion service for the FWRHS in the summer of 1996.

Being stored in Indiana for several years; it returned back to Kentucky via the Kentucky Railway Museum. From one New Haven to another; it was on static display.

In the spring of 2016; the KRM agreed to a long term lease with Kentucky Steam.

Enter Estill County, Kentucky and the new home of C&O 2716.

Irvine, Kentucky. (It’s pronounced Irving…trust me, I asked.)

Since the closure of the Ravenna Car Shops in 2006, Estill County and the towns of Ravenna and Irvine have fell on hard times.

Hence the second vision of rebirth, CSX offered a great deal on the property to Kentucky Steam. It is their assistance with not only the property; but other projects and efforts to have KSHC where they are at today.

However, this project of rebirthing the property into a tourism attraction is not an easy road.

The Kentucky Steam team have been in constant contact with the Kentucky State Capitol, the Kentucky EPA, and the Kentucky Board of Tourism for moving forward.

The 40 acre property is to be home to the Yard; a multi faceted rail attraction and park area.

Per KSHC’s website

“The Yard will be much more than a working rail museum. This vast campus that was once a sprawling rail yard will be transformed into a vibrant public use space, complete with a food truck venue, Hardy Music Pavilion and a great lawn – each portion of the campus giving a nod to Estill County’s rich rail heritage.

Visitors will be able to bring the whole family for a day of fun and choose from a variety of activities – from a farmer’s market and food trucks, to train rides, steam locomotive demonstrations and even a concert to cap off the evening.

The Yard Office – the only original building on site – will house the gift shop and Rail Heritage Center Museum as well as ticket office and meeting spaces. Across the tracks, a full-service restaurant and brewery will provide year-round dining as well as catered events. The wrap around outdoor seating area will be integrated into a passenger-train-era loading platform adjacent to the tracks. “

Any of these efforts will need your help.

Please reach out via Kentucky Steam’s website for any assistance for their goals.

Now; for the 24 dollar question….will there be any excursions to help fund these efforts?

When I asked that question to Andy Wartman; it wasn’t without hope.

“CSX owns the line and has not determined disposition of the EK Sub. Therefore the future of excursion services is unforeseen for the immediate future “

The fact that CSX, RJ Corman, the Kentucky Railway Museum and many others have partnered together; this road has promise and hope.

Again, if feel called…donate financially or volunteer. C&O 2716 and Eastern Kentucky needs you to make this dream possible.

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