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Kentucky Railway Museum Preserves Local History

Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photography Provided

Kentucky Railway MuseumIt’s always fun to step back in time, and when you visit the Kentucky Railway Museum, that’s exactly what you get to do. The Kentucky Railway Museum, which originated in Louisville, Kentucky in1954, is one of three tourist railroads in Kentucky. The Kentucky Railway Museum moved to its current home in New Haven, Kentucky in 1990. “So much of our history is being erased from our nation,” says Lynn Kustes, marketing manager. “We’re trying to preserve a small piece of that history.”

Many families visit the museum and take a train excursion – especially grandparents who bring their grandkids to let them see and feel that piece of history they experienced during their youth.

Many don’t realize the museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a small staff that relies primarily on volunteers. In fact, they have approximately 75 active volunteers, some of whom come weekly, others monthly, and others just for special events. Volunteers are so crucial in keeping the wheels moving – literally – they are always in search of more.

Each year they welcome thousands of tourists to the Kentucky Railway Museum in New Haven, Kentucky to enjoy one of the train rides, visit and stroll through the museum or attend a special event. One of their most popular monthly rides is The Great Train Robbery, during which “robbers” on horseback stop the train to collect loot from passengers, which is then donated to the WHAS Crusade for Children. Because this is such a popular event, each year they collect several thousand dollars for the organization. In some years they have donated as much as $7,000 to the cause.

In addition, they offer lots of seasonal rides. For instance, the Autumn Express invites folks to welcome the crisper season with fun activities and pumpkin picking. They also have the Fall Break Express, and the Annual Car, Truck, Motorcycle & Tractor Show, an event that through the years has grown from 20 cars to over 400. A new October event they added last year, called Whistles, Witches and Wine, became wildly popular, selling out every night.

“Ladies come dressed in full costume, some in homemade witches hats and others just looking for a great ladies night out with friends. There’s a costume contest, music and wine tastings from local wineries.

Kentucky Railway MuseumThe train runs throughout the month of December on select dates for the Santa trains. Passengers get to visit with St. Nick, enjoy cookies and hot chocolate and children can participate in themed holiday activities.  It’s a sellout event so purchasing tickets early is highly encouraged.

The Kentucky Railway Museum is raising money to restore L&N 152, a 116-year-old steam engine that was donated to the museum in 1956. Over a 13-year period from 1973-1986 volunteers of the museum through a labor of love and funding from local sources restored the locomotive.  In April of 1986 L&N 152 was back in service pulling several hundred passengers on its inaugural run.  In 2008 L&N 152 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Unfortunately in September of 2011 L&N152 was taken out of service due to boiler issues.  A fundraising campaign began in 2015 to make vital repairs and return the engine to service.  Thus far between grants and monetary donations the museum has raised just over 750,000.00 toward its goal of 1,000.000.00.  For information on how you can help restore this 116-year-old icon please go to www.kyrail.org.

Celebrating 31 years in New Haven, the Kentucky Railway Museum gives visitors a chance to climb aboard a vintage train for a ride through the L&N’s Historic Lebanon Branch.  For information or to reserve your train excursion please hop aboard kyrail.org.

Kentucky Railway Museum is located at 136 South Main Street in New Haven, KY. For more information, call 800-272-0152 or visit them online at kyrail.org.

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