**edit with comments from Andy Barr and Mitch McConnell**
Irvine, KY – May 19, 2018 – The Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp. (KSHC), a not-for-profit rail preservation group, announced the intent to purchase nearly 50 acres of former rail yard property from CSX Transportation to establish a rail-based tourist and community development center. KSHC plans to establish a multi-use facility on the site of CSX’s retired Ravenna Car Shop, creating an immersive, hands-on experience for tourists and tradespeople alike.
The historic yard office building, track, and a modern-era railcar facility will be included in the transaction and will be used to showcase the rehabilitation and operation of world-renown steam locomotive Chesapeake and Ohio 2716 and other regionally-relevant equipment. The purchase of the property and facilities is the first of many steps on the path to achieving KSHC’s vision for the Kentucky Rail Heritage Center.
“The model for this campus is not that of a traditional museum,” said Chris Campbell, president of the Lexington (KY)-based charity. “The Kentucky Rail Heritage Center will be a destination where people can experience the operation of historic rail equipment, take their dog for a walk, and get a bite to eat at a local restaurant, all on the same visit,” he added. “We can’t thank CSX enough for providing the opportunity to creatively infuse the local and regional economy.”
KSHC has worked closely with its community, state and private partners over the past several years to rally support for this endeavor and to gain key proponents in Washington, D.C.
“Today’s announcement is an important step toward preserving the unique culture of our Commonwealth,” said Senator Mitch McConnell. “Together, the Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation, CSX, local leaders, and state officials are reviving this retired facility with opportunity for a new generation. As Kentuckians’ economic needs adapt and change, it is incumbent upon each of us to remember our rich history. Visitors to this facility will have the chance to learn about the vital rail lines that have helped Kentucky fuel American prosperity for generations.”
U.S. Congressman Andy Barr echoed Sen. McConnell’s enthusiasm for the project and its impact on Eastern Kentucky.
“Ravenna’s railroad history is one to be recognized and celebrated, as it brought tremendous economic growth to Estill County,” said Rep. Barr. “The Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation is doing just that by developing the Kentucky Rail Heritage Center. I applaud Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation for their leadership in garnering community support for these restoration efforts and I appreciate their dedication to sharing the rich industrial history of Ravenna with the rest of the country and world.”
KSHC is partnering with Estill County Schools to establish a technical skills training component to the rail-themed campus, which will enable vocational students to practice modern trades on historic equipment. The initial railroad property purchase is the first milestone on the road to revitalize Ravenna, a process that will require continued support, diligent fundraising, federal grants, and more land transactions. This will allow KSHC to fully realize its long-term vision for the multi-use campus, which would give the community a meeting and event space, along with rail excursions that attract visitors to the area.
"I definitely see many positives for Estill County and the entire region. I look forward to working together with Kentucky Steam Heritage on innovative educational opportunities for the good of our students and the entire community." said Jeff Saylor, superintendent of Estill County Schools.
Other community leaders also echoed Saylor’s optimism.
"This is a breath of fresh air for Estill County” said Joe Crawford, director of the Estill Development Alliance. “This gives us a great opportunity to work hand-in-hand regionally with our cousins in nearby Eastern Kentucky counties. The fact that this project builds on our own history and heritage to help us progress makes it all that much sweeter. Economic development, education, tourism development, job creation, heritage preservation - it's a win on every front. We look forward to a long and successful relationship with CSX and KSHC."
CSX has been working closely with KSHC and community leaders for over a year to help establish this unique endeavor.
“This is a win-win transaction that allows CSX to focus on our core business, while bringing new economic opportunities to Eastern Kentucky through CSX’s retired Ravenna Car Shop,” said Shantel Davis, vice president of real estate and facilities for CSX. “It’s an honor to work with organizations like KSHC to make a positive, meaningful impact on the community and to move our company forward.”
KSHC anticipates taking possession of the property in mid-summer 2018, and will immediately begin work on the project.
“Fundraising is our first and most important aim,” said KSHC Vice President Chad Harople. “Without significant investment, this will take time to get going. But, with proper funding, we envision being up and running by late 2018.”
Harpole says that the group hopes to raise $300,000 in the first three months of the project, and $500,000 by years’ end. Much of the work revolves around improving rail infrastructure on the grounds. Contributions also will provide matches for federally-funded ARC grants that the project has already applied for.
“It's an incredible opportunity to attract federal grant dollars to Eastern Kentucky, and it’s all because of CSX’s generosity to get us in this position” Harpole added.
“This is just the beginning of what we hope will be a long and fruitful relationship with CSX.”
For more information, and to make a tax-deductible donation call 833-KY-STEAM (833-597-8326) or visit them on the web at www.kentuckysteam.org
Corporate sponsorships are also available.