Kentucky’s official railway museum began in 1948 when some local enthusiasts formed a local chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. With a donation of a steam locomotive from the Lousiville and Nashville Railroad in the early 1950s it was on its way. It chapter leased some land, and it opened to the public on Memorial Day 1958.
It drew more than 200,000 visitors in its first 10 years to
see the steam engine and other donated equipment and artifacts. More space was
soon required and a new lease was signed that expired in 1993. With grant
funding, including a state economic development grant, the museum was able to
find and purchase a permanent home, 17 miles worth, from CSX Transportation in
LaRue and Nelson counties. Two brothers from New Haven, Kentucky donated six
acres of land a building for museum headquarters. This facility opened in 1990.
Other work didn’t stop during these years. Volunteers sought
and received funding to restore the steam engine. It took 13 years and was
completed entirely with volunteer labor. After being in retirement for 30
years, it was moved under its own power in 1985. It is still functioning today.
Meanwhile the museum was able to add several passenger cars and operating
In 1995, a new 5,000-square-foot museum opened. The museum
now has more than 70 pieces of rail equipment. It still gets more than 40,000
visitors a year, including lots of school groups. Today it offers special
exhibits, excursions and events throughout the year.