Closed for track repairs, Big South Fork Scenic will return to operation

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KTtrackCapwell
Workers repair the tracks of Kentucky's Big South Fork Scenic Railroad.
BSFS: Louis Capwell
STEARNS, Ky. — Big South Fork Scenic Railway, which operates one of the most storied short lines in the South as a preservation railroad, has temporarily halted trains to repair track defects and lay new ballast in preparation of more work to be done in the 2018 off-season.

Executive Director Louis Capwell says the railroad canceled about two week's worth of trains for track work related to gauge and cross-level as pointed out by FRA inspectors.

“What the FRA was concerned about were basically paperwork violations," Capwell tells Trains Newswire. “They were the least sexy things you can get. None of them carried civil penalties. Our main reason for not running is that we wanted to make sure the track is in decent shape. This is a slow time of year; it's a million degrees outside; no one spends a lot of time in Kentucky this time of year, so we wanted to shut ourselves down and get some work done in preparation for the fall season."

Capwell says that the railroad brought in outside contractors to assist with replacing ties, putting down new ballast, and leveling the rails. Performing this work now, he says, also lays the groundwork for replacing about six miles of aging 90- pound rail with 130 pound rail later this fall.

"We don't want to put ballast down in the winter, because it won't settle when the ground is frozen," Capwell says, "If we put more rock down now, our track guys will be happier in the off-season."

Capwell says that as of Thursday, the track work is nearing completion and the railroad should resume operations next week.

The Big South Fork Scenic Railroad is about 70 miles north-west of Knoxville, Tennessee. The trips last about an hour and a half and are headed up by a former Atlantic Coast Line EMD-SW9. Before it was a preservation railroad it was the coal-hauling Kentucky & Tennessee short line, which once rostered excursion favorite Southern Railway 2-8-2 No. 4501.


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