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train tracks in forest

Big South Fork Scenic Railway

Witness the unparalleled beauty of the Daniel Boone National Forest when you take a ride on the historic Big South Fork Scenic Railway. See southern Kentucky's green mountains, rugged vistas, and breathtaking river gorge from the comfort and convenience of a chugging locomotive. In addition to providing a stunning tour of the lush Cumberland landscape, the iconic Big South Fork Scenic Railway also gives riders a glimpse into the area's long and storied mining history. The railway excursions take visitors to the carefully preserved Blue Heron Coal Mining Camp before returning to the restored freight depot in Stearns, KY.

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The Route

kentucky railroad bridge

The Big South Fork Scenic Railway takes passengers on a nostalgic, 14 mile trip into the heart of the Daniel Boone National forest. Along the way, the classic locomotive travels along the beautiful Cumberland Plateau, declines into the breathtaking 600-foot Cumberland river gorge, stops at the historic Blue Heron Mining town, and returns along the serene tree-lined track.

 

History of the Big South Fork Scenic Railway

house in forest near train tracks

In 1902, Justus Stearns founded the Stearns Coal & Lumber Company along the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. The massively successful company occupied more than 200 square miles of land in Kentucky and Tennessee and built what is now the Big South Fork Railway to transport workers and materials between the Blue Heron Coal Mining Camp and the boomtown of Stearns, KY. The Stearns Coal & Lumber Company concluded its operations in 1976, but the carefully preserved Big South Fork Scenic Railway and the Blue Heron Coal Mining Camp now act as living tributes to the area's rich history.

 

McCreary County History Museum

old locomotive and building

All Big South Fork Scenic Railway excursions begin and end at the Big South Fork freight depot in the historic coal town of Stearns, KY. Here, guests can listen to live music by local entertainers and enjoy views of the lush flora on the horizon. Visitors are also encouraged to visit the McCreary County Museum to delve deeper into the area's local history. The museum features a wide range of exhibits, including a moonshine still and Native American, Pioneer, boom-era, coal, and lumber displays. Admission to the McCreary County History Museum is included in your Big South Fork Scenic Railway fare.

 

Directions

  • Take South 10th Street towards KY-92 W
  • Turn right onto KY-92 W
  • Turn right onto N US Hwy 27 N
  • Turn left onto State Hwy 1651
  • Turn right onto Henderson St
  • Big South Fork Scenic Railway will be on the right