C&O 2716 group partners with CSX on Kentucky rail heritage site

Property purchase is the first step in a multi-phased rail heritage destination
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An overview of the Ravenna car shops and rail yard facilities that will become the future site of the Kentucky rail heritage center and home to Chesapeake & Ohio 2-8-4 No. 2716.
Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp.
IRVINE, Ky. — Chesapeake & Ohio 2-8-4 No. 2716 will be the centerpiece of a new rail heritage partnership with CSX Transportation in Ravenna, Ky. Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp., the No. 2716’s non-profit arm, is purchasing nearly 50 acres of former CSX rail yard and property to build a rail-based tourist and community development center.

The non-profit group plans to establish a multi-use facility on the site of CSX’s retired Ravenna car shops. The railroad’s yard office building, yard tracks, and modern railcar facility are included in the purchase. Kentucky Steam Heritage officials say the infrastructure will be used to showcase the rehabilitation and operation of C&O Kanawha-type No. 2716 and other rail equipment.

The group says the property purchase is the first of many steps to achieve the organization’s long-term vision for a Kentucky rail heritage center. The group’s top priority will be to raise money for improvements to the property and to stow funds that can later be used for matching grant programs. They hope to raise $300,000 in the first three months of the project and $500,000 by years’ end.

Trains News Wire interviewed Chris Campbell, president of the Lexington, Ky.,-based group, to learn more about the facility purchase and future plans for No. 2716.

Campbell says some of the initial funds raised will be used to transition the Ravenna car shop into a working shop facility. He says the facility needs little structural work, but will need electric upgrades, rail, and other improvements.

“We need about 800 feet of rail to tie it back into the wye at the end of the property. And we’d also like to rehab it so it’s secure and ready for No. 2716 to be moved.”

When asked about plans to relocate No. 2716, Campbell says the group’s main focus right now is to concentrate on the new property.

“2716 goes on the back burner because we want to make sure that we have everything in place for it to be ready to move to the facility that’s ready for it. The engine will still get some TLC in the interim, but the next step is getting her ready to move to Ravenna.”

“We aren’t on a time crunch to move [the locomotive] as long as we’re making progress. The idea is to make sure that there’s money in place and the facility is ready before we move it,” Campbell explains.

As part of the purchase agreement, the group will have access to the yard’s wye tracks, which they will share with CSX in case the railroad needs to move locomotives.

“[CSX] has been very generous to guarantee us first right of refusal of the rest of the yard,” Campbell says, adding that this is “step one in a multi-phase project to acquire the entire area. The railroad has been extremely good work with,” he says.

CSX says the partnership with the rail preservation group will benefit the railroad and local area.

“This is a win-win transaction that allows CSX to focus on our core business, while bringing new economic opportunities to eastern Kentucky through CSX’s retired Ravenna car shops,” Shantel Davis says, who is vice president of CSX’s real estate and facilities.

Moving forward, Campbell anticipates their group will take ownership of the property later this summer and will immediately begin work. At the same time, the group is already seeking federal grant opportunities that are aimed toward economic development in rural areas.

State, local, and regional lawmakers have also rallied support for the project as the group looks for those funding opportunities, including U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who praised the hard work of the Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp., CSX, and others.

“Visitors to this facility will have the chance to learn about the vital rail lines that have helped Kentucky fuel American prosperity for generations,” McConnell said, highlighting the importance of future tourism and economic opportunities in the area.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to attract federal grant dollars to eastern Kentucky, and it’s all because of CSX’s generosity to get us in this position," Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp. Vice President Chad Harpole says. “This is just the beginning of what we hope will be a long and fruitful relationship with CSX."

The Ravenna yard is a former Louisville & Nashville facility built to serve the coalfields of rural eastern Kentucky. The rail line has gradually seen less rail service in recent years due to fluctuations in CSX’s coal business. Ravenna is about 50 miles southeast of Lexington.
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