|Big South Fork Scenic Railway near Sterns, Kentucky|
Want to ride the rails, explore an abandoned coal mining town and hike over scenic Big South Fork River? Your ticket to Appalachian heritage is at Stearns, Kentucky, nestled in the mountains 25 miles from the nearest interstate.
Family friendly train rides are offered from the former coal mining metropolis of Stearns to the former coal camp at Blue Heron now run by the National Park Service. An open air museum of sorts features photos and oral history from residents who once called this company town their home. The mine closed in 1962. You can walk a pedestrian bridge across the river, passing through the tipple structure where coal was sorted and loaded onto rail cars.
Back in Stearns you'll find another museum and a few shops. A restoration project is still underway after fire destroyed a restaurant and theater there. A picnic lunch and limited food choices are offered in connection with the trade ride. You might want to pack your own lunch and snacks.
A highlight for visitors is often live music from local musicians like 75-year-old Edsel Ford Blevins. Blevins says he grew up at Bald Knob, "just over the ridge" from Blue Heron coal camp.
|Musician Edsel Ford Blevins of Big South Fork Scenic Railway, |
Park Ranger Sherry Fritschi with the National Park Service,
Engineer Bill Johnson with Big South Fork Scenic Railway