STEARNS, Ky. — No deal. At least, not yet.
That's the latest in a brief message to Facebook followers from a group of people who are trying to buy and operate the Big South Fork Scenic Railroad in Kentucky.
Late Thursday, the Big South Fork Scenic Railway Facebook group announced to its followers that the McCreary County Heritage Foundation Board ended all negotiations for the sale.
The Kentucky foundation owns the railroad.
"We are disappointed in this development, but we're not giving up. As a result of this development we are postponing the previously scheduled live feed. Stay tuned for more information," the group wrote, in part.
In February, Sam Carpenter, a Bend, Ore., business developer, consultant, and author announced his intention to buy the Big South Fork Scenic Railroad tourist line and the famous Kentucky & Tennessee freight-hauling short line from the foundation.
At the time, Carpenter said he was close to completing the deal and hoped to begin running trains in April.
The railroad dates to 1902 when Justus S. Stearns purchased 30,000 acres in several counties along the Kentucky and Tennessee border. The K&T was home to mainline excursion superstar Southern Railway No. 4501 between 1948 and 1964 as coal-hauling No. 12. After steam ended, the railroad used four Alco S2 diesel locomotives, and one of those, No. 102, is backup for SW900. The railroad stayed privately operated after coal mining ended in 1987, and it began offering 14-mile round trips to the Blue Heron Coal Mining Camp, a National Park Service outdoor interpretive site. It went to the non-profit foundation in 1996.
An infusion of energy and money into the railroad is important in rural McCreary County, where a high unemployment rate has made it among the nation’s poorest counties, observers say.