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Big South Fork Scenic Railway facts for kids

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Big South Fork Scenic Railway
Big South Fork Scenic Railway.jpg
Locale McCreary County, Kentucky, US
Transit type Heritage railway
Number of stations 2
Headquarters Stearns, Kentucky
System length 16.0 mi (25.7 km)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
(standard gauge)

The Big South Fork Scenic Railway is a heritage railroad in Stearns, Kentucky.

The route runs for 16 miles (26 km) through lush countryside in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. There is a stop in the historic coal mining town of Blue Heron, Kentucky which can be toured. There is also a gift shop and snack bar with picnic shelter as well as hiking trails in Blue Heron.

The railroad is restoring a large 0-6-0 steam locomotive from the Union railroad built by ALCO in 1944 and uses diesel locomotives for its excursion trains.

The adjacent McCreary County Museum (admission included in train ticket) demonstrates life in Kentucky's coal company towns during the first half of the 20th century.


The line that is used by the BSFSR was originally laid down by the Stearns Coal & Lumber Company, beginning in 1901. In order to move lumber from the Cumberland National Forest (now Daniel Boone National Forest), Stearns Company built the Kentucky & Tennessee Railroad. Shortly after opening up the lumber business, coal was discovered, and the company became Stearns Coal & Lumber. The first mine, at Barthell, was opened in 1902.

In 1904, the K&T changed their corporate charter name to the Kentucky & Tennessee Railway Company, in order to finance the extension of the line to Worley, White Oak Junction, Cooperative, and Bell Farm. Little K&T touched the Kentucky/Tennessee state line just south of Bell Farm. The line had graded roadbed to near Jamestown, Tennessee.

In 1937, Blue Heron Mining Camp was opened; K&T built a one-mile spur to the camp, crossing Roaring Paunch Creek. The bridge that was used to cross the creek was bought from New York Central Railroad (NYCRR) in 1936. K&T line builders needed a bridge to curve around to the right to meet the spur. The steel trestle was found in Upstate New York, shipped to Stearns, and installed upside down to meet the requirements. It is in use today, hauling passengers to Mine 18.

K&T had big plans to become a through trunk line railway. The Tennessee Central Railroad had a spur that ran into Monterey, Tennessee, where K&T hoped to meet them. Plans called for K&T and TC to meet in Monterey, Cookeville, Crab Orchard, and Harriman. They had intentions of using Southern Railway tracks into Chattanooga, but negotiations stalled with SR in 1951. In December 1963, the railroad purchased four ALCO S-2 diesel locomotives from the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. The line's remaining steam locomotives remained on standby service until their official retirement in February 1964. Today, engines #10 and #12 (formerly Southern Railway 4501), (both 2-8-2 Mikakdos), are currently residing at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee with #12 restored to operational condition with its original Southern Railway colors and number 4501 whilst #10 is awaiting restoration.

In 1974. Stearns opened up Justus Mine, which would technically be Mine 19. It was named in honor of the town's founder, Justus S. Stearns, and operated from 1974 until its closure by Blue Diamond Coal in October 1987.

The Big South Fork Scenic Railway started operating on July 1, 1982. The railway had 7 open-air passenger cars, all home built, and two ALCo S2 diesel switchers, Nos. 102 and 105. Number 102 was the second of four Alco switchers K&T purchased from the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway in late 1963. Each unit spent two months in East St. Louis, Illinois, getting multiple unit controls installed.

Today, BSFSR is a thriving railway, pleasing tourists and railfans alike. Trains Magazine has said that the K&/BSFSR is a “spectacular trip back in time, when life was simple. The scenery is second to none and the hospitality of the citizens and staff is unmatched.”


These are the locomotives that ran on the Kentucky & Tennessee Railway.

No. Model Builder Built Serial Number Retired Notes
1 2-8-0 ALCo-Schenectady 1903 27409 1953 Purchased New. Scrapped 1953.
2 Shay locomotive Lima Locomotive Works 1904 874 1953 Purchased New. Sold to Georgia Car & Locomotive. Later became Grasse River Railroad #6.
3 Shay Lima Locomotive Works 1905 1530 1909 Purchased New. Sold to the Raleigh Lumber Company in 1909. Sold to Southern Iron & Locomotive who later sold it to the Smoky Mountain Railroad as their #1. It was later sold to the Ritter Lumber Company as their #5. It was scrapped in 1942.
4 Shay Lima Locomotive Works 1906 1675 1909 Purchased New. Sold to Millstead Manufacturing Company in 1909.
5 0-4-0ST H.K. Porter, Inc. 1881 406 Unknown Ex-Lucy Furnace Company #3. Later sold to Southern Iron & Locomotive as their #1211 who later sold it to Pittsburgh Construction Company as their #7 in 1917.
6 0-6-0ST Baldwin Locomotive Works 1877 4202 1920 Ex-Memphis & Little Rock Railroad #16. Later sold to Cincinnati Equipment Company who later sold it to the K&T. Scrapped 1920.
7 2-8-2 Baldwin Locomotive Works 1908 32763 1951 Purchased New. Scrapped in 1951.
8 2-6-2 Baldwin Locomotive Works 1911 37269 1951 Purchased New. Scrapped in 1951.
9 2-6-0 Pittsburgh Locomotive and Car Works 1907 44416 1940 Ex-Atlantic Equipment & Construction Company #1. Sold to SA&N who later sold it to the K&T. It was scrapped in 1940.
10 2-8-2 Baldwin Locomotive Works May 1920 53182 February 1964 Purchased New. Retired in February 1964. Now at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum awaiting restoration.
11 2-8-2 ALCo-Schenectady 1922 63271 1963 Purchased New. Retired in 1963. Sold to the U.S. Army to move gunnery targets at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. Accidentally destroyed in 1966.
12 2-8-2 Baldwin Locomotive Works October 1911 37085 February 1964 Ex-Southern Railway #4501. Sold to the K&T in October 1948 and renumbered 12. Retired in February 1964. Now operating at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.
101 ALCo S-2 American Locomotive Company May 1944 unknown 1987 Ex-Denver & Rio Grande Western #110. Sold to the K&T in 1963.
102 ALCo S-2 American Locomotive Company May 1944 72051 1987 Ex-Denver & Rio Grande Western #118. Sold to the K&T in 1963.
103 ALCo S-2 American Locomotive Company 1944 72052 1987 Ex-Denver & Rio Grande Western #119. Sold to the K&T in 1963.
104 ALCo S-2 American Locomotive Company 1944 unknown 1987 Ex-Delaware & Hudson #3028. Sold to the K&T in 1963.

See also

  • List of heritage railroads in the United States
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