NEWS

Updated: Dec 27, 2021

December 25, 2021


Kentucky Steam announces first of several operations for historic locomotive 2716 RAVENNA, Ky. — An ambitious plan to restore and operate C&O 2716, a 75-year-old, 400-ton steam locomotive, has received a major boost. The Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation has inked an agreement that will bring the mammoth steam engine rolling into New England on the first of several stops on an exciting residency program. The Railroad Museum of New England, based in Thomaston, Connecticut, has signed up to be a months-long host to C&O 2716, a massive “Kanawha” type engine built by the American Locomotive Company in 1943. The agreement will allow the engine to be the star of the already-popular tourist operation that operates a 19-mile route between Waterbury and Torrington, Connecticut.

RMNE Passenger Ops
Passenger Operations on the RMNE pass through beautiful Connecticut scenery

The engine’s visit to Thomaston is the first and longest stop on an ambitious year-long sojourn from the locomotive’s home in Irvine, Kentucky. Several other stops will be announced at a later date. Howard Pincus, Chairman of RMNE, said he is thrilled to be the first operation to host the mammoth piece of rolling history. “We’re pleased to be hosting C&O 2716 on our railroad, as it will be the first large steam locomotive to operate in New England since 1976,” Mr. Pincus said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to partner with a capable and visionary group like KSHC. Moving operational steam locomotives between heritage groups is quite common in Great Britain, but has only been done a few times in the United States.” Though the engine is currently undergoing an extensive restoration process in Kentucky Steam’s own shop facility in Irvine, Kentucky, there have not been any clearly-defined opportunities for the engine to stretch its legs. Chris Campbell, president of the Kentucky-based 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, says that solidifying a goal of operations gives a new breath of life into the restoration effort which has been partially stymied by challenges introduced by the Covid-19 pandemic. “Our goal is to restore and run this giant marvel of engineering, bringing about and promoting tourism for our region,” said Campbell. “The 2716 residency program can be an opportunity to both let new generations of people experience the sensory overload that locomotives like this provide, as well as to promote our own tourism endeavors here in Irvine to others that may not know about us. We are thrilled to be kicking it off with a first class institution like the RMNE.” Founded in 1968 to preserve the railroad history and culture of the region, The Railroad Museum of New England has operated its Naugatuck Railroad since 1995 for both heritage tourism and commercial freight trains. RMNE has an extensive collection of regional rail artifacts, including freight and passenger railcars, locomotives, and the restored 1881 Thomaston Station, centerpiece of Naugatuck excursion operations. More than 30,000 passengers ride “Naugy” trains annually. “We plan to feature 2716 on regular and special passenger excursions throughout the engine’s residency,” Mr. Pincus said. “Our 1920s open-window coaches will allow riders to experience the sounds and sights of steam power in the Litchfield Hills of Northwestern Connecticut. There will also be opportunities for special photo events, featuring our collection of 1920s-1950s vintage freight cars, making a historically-appropriate freight train for 2716.” Mr. Pincus added that, “We aren’t counting out any operational opportunity for the engine while it’s here. There are bound to be some surprises, and we have a lot of imagination. Think about seeing 2716 steaming through a New England winter snowfall!”

Thomaston Station
Historic Thomaston Station has been painstakingly restored

Founded in 2015, The Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation has a long-term lease on the 2716 from its owner, the Kentucky Railway Museum. The engine is the centerpiece of the organization’s ambitious rail-based tourism project based in Estill County, Kentucky. Kentucky Steam purchased a 40-acre former CSX rail yard in 2018 and has been steadily renovating the space into a railroad-centered campus which will house the already-refurbished locomotive repair facility, as well as a concert venue, restaurant and museum. While trains are the theme, the complex will be the hallmark of Appalachian revitalization, providing a springboard for experience-based tourism. Campbell says that the locomotive will be both an attraction at their Irvine facility, but will also go on the road often, acting as a rolling marketing tool for Appalachian Kentucky’s own tourist endeavors. “Our hope is that the locomotive will captivate a new audience wherever it goes,” he said. “2716 will bring people to whoever is hosting us as well as eventually draw them to visit us in Kentucky.” While the engine will clearly be a new and exciting draw for The Railroad Museum of New England’s own operations, their Board Chairman has a bit of a personal interest in bringing the engine to Thomaston. “Personally, I’ve been following the progress of KSHC for years as they have achieved their goals, and I’m a believer in their project,” Mr. Pincus said. “Being able to host their locomotive at our railroad in Connecticut is great for both KSHC and RMNE; they will have an engine ready to operate, and we have a railroad to use it on! The excitement and drama of a large, operating steam locomotive is something that should be seen as often as possible.” Dates and times for the multi-month event will be announced sometime in 2022. As Campbell explains, the locomotive will need to hit several key fundraising and restoration progress goals before the events can be finalized and tickets can be offered for pre-sale. “We are several years off from making our way up east,” he said. “But with announcements like this, we hope people who have considered contributing to the restoration can see an end goal in sight. We are excited to get the engine fully operational and bring people to us in Kentucky. But we are equally as excited to get out on the road.” While en-route to and from Connecticut, there will be additional venues for 2716 to operate in excursion passenger service over regional and shortline railroads. These possibilities are being explored and will bring the excitement of 2716’s operation to some regions that have not seen major steam excursions in over 30 years. In tandem with this announcement, KSHC is spearheading a fund drive to raise $10,000 for the locomotive’s restoration by the end of 2021. To make a project-dedicated tax-deductible donation to the locomotive’s rehab, visit THIS LINK HERE or by mail to Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation, 499 Kirkland Ave, Irvine KY 40336. For more information, visit www.kentuckysteam.org and www.rmne.org.


2716 in 1982
C&O 2716 dressed up for the Southern Railway in July of 1982 traveling to Charlottesville, VA


August 20, 2021


Kentucky Steam announces train rides behind live steam locomotive for Ravenna Railroad Festival


RAVENNA, Ky. — Live-steam railroading returns to Estill County this year as, for the first time in its history, Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation will offer train rides and throttle time opportunities along its property behind an operating steam locomotive.

At the 2021 Ravenna Railroad Festival, scheduled for Sept. 11 at Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation’s “The Yard” campus, families and individuals will have the opportunity to ride behind a 90-year-old steam locomotive, the former Lehigh Valley Coal Company No. 126, nicknamed “Sadie.” The 0-6-0ST saddle tank locomotive was built by Vulcan Iron Works for the Lehigh Valley Coal Company and was put into service in May 1931. It is now owned by the Gramling family in Indiana. The coal-fired engine will be under steam and will operate short, half-hour excursions through the Kentucky Steam property, located just across the railroad tracks from Ravenna.


The excursions will take place during the annual Ravenna Railroad Festival, an event centered upon the region’s railroad history, and featuring food, crafts, arts and music. This year is the first time Estill County-based Kentucky Steam has headed up the decade-old event, a yearly celebration of local history and culture with a familiar railroad theme.

“We are thrilled to be able to host the 2021 Ravenna Railroad festival and give the general public the chance to see what we have in store for the region,” said Chris Campbell, Kentucky Steam founder and president. “The addition of public train rides is both exciting and humbling, knowing that this community can trace its origins and early history to the steam locomotive era of American railroading.”


Tickets for the planned excursions will be available to the public beginning at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 22, and will start at just $5 each. Train rides, featuring family-friendly open-air seating, will begin at 10 a.m. on Sept. 11. Those who are not the backseat driver types can choose to be the engineer, as a very limited number of tickets will also be available for riding in the cab as well as to operate the locomotive on Sunday, Sept. 12, beginning at 10 a.m. Engineer opportunities are one hour each and are extremely limited.


Tickets for events with “Sadie,” including train excursions, cab rides, coal-feeding and a lesson in starting up a steam locomotive, can be purchased at www.kentuckysteam.org/events. Corporate outing opportunities will also be available beginning Thursday, Sept. 9.

“This event will set the stage for the aggressive plan Kentucky Steam has to enhance tourism in Appalachian Kentucky,” Campbell said. “This is really just a taste of things to come. The restoration of our centerpiece locomotive, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway No. 2716, is well underway with the goal being to eventually operate that locomotive in Kentucky. The visit from ‘Sadie’ will be a great experience for this community and for our staff and volunteers here at Kentucky Steam.”


This year’s event marks the return of the Ravenna Railroad Festival after the festival was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s festival will open to the public at 9 a.m. on Sept. 11 with a kids parade beginning at 10 a.m. Live music will begin at noon, with performances by Jacob Neal, Troy Estes, Chelsea Nolan, The Jenkins Twins and Eddie Hughes. Kentucky Steam President Chris Campbell will also perform live music before musical headliner and Estill County native Senora May performs at 6 p.m. The full musical lineup and schedule is available at the Ravenna Railroad Festival Facebook page.


The festival will also feature a remembrance ceremony at 11 a.m. marking the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attack upon the United States.


The festival is a reflection upon the community’s past as a hub for steam locomotives and railroad operations that extended throughout Eastern Kentucky and the Appalachian region. The very soil upon which this year’s festival will be held was once nearly the exact location of the former Louisville and Nashville Railroad’s vast locomotive service facility.


The area is now part of Kentucky Steam’s campus, dubbed “The Yard,” which is a burgeoning rail-based tourism development in Estill County at the site of the former CSX rail yard dividing Ravenna and Irvine. “The Yard” will act as a fully immersive historical/educational experience where visitors will not only learn the varying aspects of the operation of historical railroad equipment including steam locomotives, but they will also be greeted by an events venue, a brewery and restaurant, and much more. The centerpiece at The Yard will be 400-ton locomotive C&O 2716, which is currently being restored to operational condition by Kentucky Steam volunteers and staff.


“The folks that visit the festival this year may walk in the very footsteps of their ancestors who worked to keep the lifeblood of America flowing for more than a century,” Campbell said. “The spirits of those railroaders are a part of everything we’re working to accomplish here at The Yard, and I believe they will be here when we celebrate them during this year’s railroad festival.”

Only a few Vendor spots remain for booking for the 2021 event. Those interested in space for both standard booths, as well as food and beverage booths may visit www.railroadfestival.com for applications, vendor information, and guidelines. Booth size and pricing varies, with rates available for review on the applications which are due by August 31st.


Sponsorship opportunities for the 2021 event are also available. Information regarding sponsorship and vendor information may be obtained by emailing festival@kentuckysteam.org, by calling 1-833-597-8326 ext. 819, or visiting the festival website at www.railroadfestival.com.


Further information about Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation, including ticketing, donation and membership opportunities may be found by visiting www.kentuckysteam.org .




July 27, 2021

IRVINE, Kentucky — Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation has been named as a recipient of COVID-19 pandemic relief funding from the nonprofit organization Kentucky Humanities, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Kentucky Steam is one of 51 cultural organizations throughout the state named as recipients of the funding through the $1.9 trillion federal American Rescue Plan Act approved this year by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Joseph R. Biden. Kentucky Steam is on track to receive $20,000 in funding after being selected by Kentucky Humanities to benefit from a portion of the $800,382 total available for entities in the Bluegrass State. Kentucky Humanities ARP Grants provide funding to museums, archives, historic sites, and other nonprofit cultural entities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Businesses across the country, including not-for-profit agencies, continue to feel the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bill Goodman, Kentucky Humanities Executive Director. “This money appropriated by Congress will help many cultural organizations throughout the Commonwealth get back on their feet and adapt to the societal changes COVID-19 has brought. Kentucky Humanities is glad to work with the National Endowment for the Humanities to get these much-needed funds in the hands of humanities-based organizations throughout Kentucky.”


Kentucky Steam President Chris Campbell says the funding through the Kentucky Humanities ARP Grants is a welcomed midsummer gift which will help propel the organization’s efforts in rural Estill County, Kentucky, especially in the wake of a year where fundraising was stymied by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We at Kentucky Steam are grateful to Kentucky Humanities for believing in our mission to help promote and educate the rich railroad-based history and tradition in Estill County and all of Appalachian Kentucky,” Campbell said. “From our first conversation with the folks at Kentucky Humanities, we believed Kentucky Steam fit perfectly within their mission of telling Kentucky’s overall story, and we’re excited to be able to add another chapter to that story through our efforts. The support we’ve received from Kentucky Humanities and the efforts of our congressman Andy Barr, and senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to see this nation and this state through these difficult times mean a great deal to our organization.”

Entities eligible to receive the Kentucky Humanities ARP Grants must meet specific guidelines, including being humanities-focused and offer humanities programs that are accessible to Kentuckians and open to the public. Campbell says the educational opportunities both available and in development at Kentucky Steam’s “The Yard” campus situated between the twin cities of Irvine and Ravenna helped the organization meet Kentucky Humanities’ criteria for consideration for the possible $2,000 to $20,000 in grant funding.


“The Yard” is a burgeoning tourism development in Estill County at the site of the former CSX rail yard dividing Ravenna and Irvine. “The Yard” will act as a fully immersive historical/educational experience where visitors will not only learn the varying aspects of the operation of historical railroad equipment including steam locomotives, but they will also be greeted by an events venue, a brewery and restaurant, and much more. The centerpiece at The Yard will be steam locomotive Chesapeake and Ohio No. 2716, which is currently being restored to operational condition by Kentucky Steam volunteers and staff.

“Great things are happening at Kentucky Steam and this generous $20,000 grant from Kentucky Humanities will push those efforts even further,” Campbell said.

For a full list of those receiving Kentucky Humanities American Rescue Plan Grants, visit https://www.kyhumanities.org/programs/minigrants/american-rescue-plan-grant


Further information about Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation, including membership opportunities, may be found by visiting www.kentuckysteam.org.