ETSU’s Carter Railroad Museum to sponsor a fall train excursion


JOHNSON CITY (September 18, 2013) — East Tennessee State University’s George L. Carter Railroad Museum and the George L. Carter Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society will sponsor a train excursion on the Big South Fork Scenic Railway on Saturday, Oct. 26. Ticket requests must be made by Oct. 11.

A fee of $59 for adults and $49 for children includes the round-trip bus ride from Johnson City to Stearns, Ky.; train fare on the Big South Fork Scenic Railway; and admission to the McCreary County Museum.

The Kentucky and Tennessee Railway ride will encompass a 16-mile round-trip into the Daniel Boone National Forest and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, past scenic vistas and mountain streams, and 600 feet into a gorge. The train will stop at Blue Heron Coal Mining Camp, a National Park Service outdoor interpretive site. Time is also allotted for a visit to the McCreary County Museum in Stearns.

The town of Stearns was created by Justus S. Stearns, who bought 30,000 acres of virgin timberland in southern Kentucky in 1902. The town was the hub of a logging and mining empire where the first electric sawmill in the United States was used and 2,200 people were hired to work in 18 coal and lumber camps.

The Kentucky & Tennessee Railway operated 12 steam locomotives over 25 miles into the Big South Fork River valley. By the 1950s, the Stearns Company closed several coal mines and the railway discontinued passenger service. Stearns sold its mining rights in 1976, and by 1987, mining ceased along the railway. The company’s land holding transferred to the Daniel Boone National Forest and the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, as well as to private ownership.

On the day of the excursion, passengers should arrive at ETSU’s parking lot 22a on Go Bucs Trail at 6:15 a.m. for check-in and loading. The bus will leave promptly at 7 a.m. No refunds will be made for late arrivals who miss the bus.

A Hobo Box Lunch comprised of a ham and cheese sandwich, chips, a cookie and drink will be available for $8 and may be purchased along with tickets. Other lunch options include the Coal Bucket concession stand at Blue Heron and a restaurant and snack bars in Stearns. Riders may also take a small carry-on cooler, if it will fit under the seat.

Ticket order forms and liability waivers can be picked up at the Carter Railroad Museum on Saturdays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. or printed off by visiting the Mountain Empire Model Railroaders (MEMRR) club website at, choosing “NRHS News,” then “Ticket Order Form.”

Checks or money orders should be made payable to George L. Carter Chapter, NRHS, and mailed, along with the ticket request and liability waiver forms, to George L. Carter Chapter, NRHS, P.O. box 70697, ETSU, Johnson City, TN 37614.

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