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Development of Estill County railroad attraction gets a boost from AMLR

Samantha Morrill

The Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation received a $1.9 million grant from the Abandoned Mine Lands Economic Revitalization program. Officials said the money will support their current project “The Yard”, which looks to build a railroad-centered attraction in Estill County on an almost 43-acre tract of former rail yard.

Chris Campbell, president of the board of directors of KY Steam, said the project has been enthusiastically received by the community of Estill County.

“The Yard is the name that kind of is the umbrella for the individual projects that we have going on in Estill County. It involves a music venue, which has already been built, as well as a locomotive repair facility and a museum, an office, and grounds that will eventually be multiuse and there will be an event center on the space,” said Campbell.

This project came about when the group was presented with the chance to restore an old steam locomotive, Chesapeake and Ohio 2716. The train was built in 1943 for the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad and ran between Lexington and Ashland. It ran until 1957, when it was donated and used as a display in the Kentucky Railway Museum. Campbell said this train was one of about ninety made, and is one of the last of its kind, with most no longer existing or being operational.

Campbell added he hopes this project would encourage both local and regional economic growth and development by bringing more people to the area and showcasing the best of Appalachia.

“We want to bring positive economic development to the area, in our trajectory of this we’ve really said that this is more of, rather than a job creator natively, it’s an economic development incubator,” said Campbell. “So, you bring more people to the area, they have to spend their money on gas and food and lodging in the area, so the infusion of money begins to grow the economy.”

The project currently has an operational amphitheater, called “The Hardy Pavilion”, and a museum which is open to the public on select weekends.