June 15, 2012 — Five area history/railroad buffs are bringing a railroad back to Morehead.
Jimmie Jackson, Gary Lewis, Charlie McDaniel, Bryan Riggsby and Steve Young have recently reincorporated the once defunct Morehead & North Fork Railroad name as a non-profit corporation and are determined to see a locomotive, boxcar and caboose exhibit become part of a mini-park along the Wilkinson bypass in Morehead.
“We’re working on a plan for the 479-foot park that we will share with the Farmers Market,” said McDaniel. “The railroad exhibit will comprise about 200 feet of that. Ultimately the park will include benches, picnic tables, walkways and plantings. It will become an attractive as well as historical park and one the community can take pride in for generations to come.”
Phase one will involve the restoration of the old C&O caboose currently located on KY 801 and moving it to the site. Other phases will include the locomotive, boxcar, landscaping and a museum.
“The boxcar will eventually house a museum of railroad history of Rowan and surrounding counties,” said Bryan Riggsby, a long-time authority on the old Morehead & North Fork Railroad. “Not a lot of people realize that no less than six different railroads ran in this county. The Elizabethtown, Lexington and Big Sandy laid the original line through Morehead in 1881. The C&O bought out the EL&BS in the late nineteenth century. General Refractories built the Christy Creek Railroad to haul clay, and the Morehead & North Fork, the longest of the local railroads, ran from Clearfield to Wrigley and Redwine in Morgan County. Besides those standard gauge railroads, two narrow-gauge timber railroads, the Kentucky Northern and the Triplett and Big Sandy operated east and south of Rodburn.”
“It’s important that our young people know their heritage,” said Lewis, who is also president of the Rowan County Historical Society. “Railroads were once the lifeblood of this county. All three of our earliest communities, Farmers, Clearfield and Morehead, were founded because of timbering, and it was the railroads which brought that timber to the sawmills and provided transportation for rural families before cars and roads even existed.”
Jackson, who, along with McDaniel, is also a civil war re-enactor, is concerned that local history and heritage are disappearing.
“For too long we have ignored our local history,” Jackson said, “with irreplaceable historic landmarks being demolished or sold off to make way for parking lots and the other trappings of so-called ‘progress.’ We are trying to preserve what little is left and we hope the community will join us in this effort.”
“We encourage everyone to truly make this a community effort,” said Young. “We need your support, money, time and encouragement. Acquiring and moving a locomotive is a very expensive proposition, so join us! Hey, we might even establish a record here. At two hundred feet the new Morehead & North Fork may be the shortest railroad in the world,” he chuckled. “So while we may not be doing any long-distance hauling, we will have a museum to preserve our railroad history and a train from the past that youngsters can climb aboard, stand in the engineer’s cab, ring the bell and relive a time that once was.”
On Saturday, June 16, M&NF members will begin selling authentic pieces of siding from C&O caboose #90739 (1924). Ten dollars will purchase a section of siding from the original caboose and a numbered certificate of authenticity will be provided. Buy a piece of history and help the project.
The caboose (phase one) located at the intersection of I-64 and KY 801 is currently being stripped for restoration. A work session to complete the stripping process is scheduled for Tuesday, June 19, starting at 6 p.m. Anyone interested in helping is encouraged to come. Bring a hammer/crowbar and be prepared to use it.
A charter membership meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 26, at 6:30 p.m. at the Rowan County library. All current and prospective members are encouraged to attend as well as those who simply want to know more about the project. An organizational business meeting will be followed by a video of the M&NF and a brief history of the railroads that ran in Rowan County.
To join, donate or volunteer, contact any M&NF member: Gary Lewis - 784-6341, Charlie McDaniel - 784-6039, Jimmie Jackson - 356-7216, Bryan Riggsby - 207-2344 or Steve Young 784-5122. Brochures about the project are available at community banks and several local businesses and will be available at the meeting.