By KENNETH HART
MOREHEAD It has been years since trains have run through Rowan County, but a group of rail and history enthusiasts has taken the initiative to bring a railroad back to Morehead.
The railroad won’t be functional, mind you, but one designed to showcase and preserve the town’s rail heritage.
The five principals in the project — Jimmie Jackson, Gary Lewis, Charlie McDaniel, Brian Riggsby and Steve Young — have reincorporated the long-defunct Morehead & North Fork Railroad as a nonprofit corporation.
According to Young, the CEO of the new M&NF, the goal of the organization is develop a rail-themed minipark along the Wilkinson bypass near the entrance to Morehead City Park. The park will share space with the Rowan County Farmers Market, he said. The rail portion will occupy about 200 feet of the 479-foot area, he said.
The project will be done in phases. The first, Young said, will involve the laying of a 200-foot rail bed and the restoration of the old C&O caboose on Ky. 801.
According to Young, the caboose, which is owned by him and his wife, Barbara, will be relocated to the park and restored so the public can watch the process taking place.
Plans call for a boxcar and locomotive to eventually be added to the exhibit, with the boxcar housing a museum showcasing the history of the railroad in Rowan and surrounding counties, Young said.
According to Riggsby, an authority on the old Morehead and North Fork Railroad, there was a time when no fewer than six railroads ran through Rowan County. The Elizabethtown, Lexington & Big Sandy laid the original line in 1881. The Chesapeake & Ohio bought out the EL&BS in the late 19th century. General Refractories built the Christy Creek Railroad to haul clay, and the M&NF, the longest of Rowan’s railroads, ran from Clearfield to Wrigley and Redwine in Morgan County.
Additionally, the county was home to two narrow-gauge timber railroads that operated east and south of Rodburn Hollow, Riggsby said.
The last trains ran through Rowan County in the 1980s when CSX Transportation abandoned its Winchester-to-Coalton line. The bypass near which the rail park will be is built on a portion of the former CSX rail bed.
In addition to the caboose, boxcar and locomotive, Young said plans call for the park to have picnic tables, walkways, benches and plantings.
To raise startup funds for the project, M&NF members are selling pieces of siding from the circa 1924 caboose. The sections are $10 apiece, and each comes with a numbered certificate of authenticity, Young said.
To purchase a piece of siding, to donate to the effort or for more information about the project, call Young at (606) 784-5122, Lewis at 784-6341, McDaniel at 784-6039, Jackson at (606) 356-7216 or Riggsby at (606) 207-2344.
If nothing else, Young said, the project could establish a rather interesting world’s record.
“At 200 feet, the new Morehead & North Fork may be the shortest railroad in the world!” he joked.
KENNETH HART can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2654.