Kentucky Steam invites public to open house event
IRVINE, Kentucky — Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation will open its doors to the public next weekend to showcase the progress being made on the group’s burgeoning tourism project in Estill County.
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On June 12, the Irvine-based non-profit will host an open house event at its campus at the former CSX railroad yard in Ravenna, where the group is actively restoring a historic steam locomotive to operational condition. Visitors will be given walking tours at noon and 3 p.m. that Saturday of Kentucky Steam’s grounds and shop areas where the steam locomotive, former Chesapeake and Ohio Railway No. 2716, is being rebuilt and restored. Those taking the tour will even be given the opportunity to climb aboard the nearly-80-year-old locomotive, which was brought to Estill County in summer 2019.
The 2716 will eventually be the centerpiece of Kentucky Steam’s multi-purpose campus, named “The Yard,” which will also include an open-air concert venue, a restaurant and a brewery. Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation President Chris Campbell says the open house is a good opportunity for the public to see the organization’s progress firsthand.
“We want people to come in and get reacquainted with this project,” Campbell said. “Open house events like this are new to us again after the difficult times we’ve experienced over the last year and a half, so that newness brings some excitement with it, and it’s exciting to know that the public will once again have the opportunity to see, up close, the results of the hard work being performed by our volunteers.”
Site work at “The Yard” is already underway and is set to accelerate this summer thanks to a sizable grant recently awarded to Kentucky Steam by the federal government. In early May, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded a grant through its Brownfields Program worth $500,000 to Kentucky Steam for site cleanup of the former railroad yard in preparation of the construction of the “Hardy Pavilion at the Yard,” which will host outdoor concerts, farmers markets and other events. The grant is the second set of funds awarded to Kentucky Steam through EPA’s Brownfields Program.
On September 11th, Kentucky Steam will also be partnering with the Estill Development Alliance and the City of Ravenna to host the Ravenna Railroad Festival on its campus. The festival was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. More details about the festival will be released later this summer.
“The entire purpose of Kentucky Steam is to showcase the history of not only the railroads that criss-crossed Appalachian Kentucky, but also the people that kept those railroads moving,” Campbell says. “A lot of folks that we hope eventually pass through these shop doors or walk across the development could likely trace their lineage back to someone who helped move some of the millions of tons of coal that passed across this very soil for a century.”