BGRR celebrates 40th year
Special to The Sun The Bluegrass Railroad Museum in Versailles is celebrating 40 years serving Central Kentucky. Founded in 1976 by a group of dedicated railroad enthusiasts, the museum has evolved into an important living history experience and tourist attraction. More than 10,000 people each year now take a nostalgic train ride in antique passenger coaches from the Woodford County park just outside Versailles to the Kentucky River. Along the way passengers may see Thoroughbred horses, cattle, corn, and tobacco in the fields, and travel through deep limestone cuts and over wooden trestles to a stop at the palisades of the Kentucky River. At the river, Young’s High bridge towers 285 feet above the water and spans over 1,600 feet to the Anderson County shore. Built 127 years ago in 1889 at Tyrone, it was a marvel of its day. To help the museum and its patrons celebrate the 40th year, the museum has contracted with the Gramling Locomotive works to bring an operating steam engine to Versailles to pull the museum’s passenger train on two weekends in August. This engine, built in 1931, once worked coal mines but now has been restored and travels the eastern U.S., treating passengers to the sights, sounds, and smells of a real coal fired locomotive. Bringing the locomotive to the Bluegrass Railroad is an expensive effort for the museum. Organizers hope to see large attendance on those weekends to help offset the cost. At the outset in the 1970s, the antique railroad equipment was first temporarily housed on a siding in Lexington then moved to the Bluegrass Army Depot. The museum finally relocated to a permanent home in Versailles in 1987, with the first passenger train running in May of 1988. The railroad right-of-way was purchased from the Southern Railroad and the necessary passenger cars were acquired to provide tourist passenger service. In recent years, two air-conditioned first class coaches have been added to complement the existing open window coach accommodations. Each year, the museum hosts multiple special events, including a season opening Easter Bunny train and special pricing for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Grandparents’ Day. Also on tap are two Civil War trains, where volunteers ride the train dressed in the uniforms of the Blue and the Gray. Each fall weekend, special pumpkin patch trains take passengers to purchase their holiday pumpkins. In late October, the museum hosts the Halloween Haunted Trains, which run at night. Then in December, Santa Claus rides the train to talk with each child and listen to their wish lists. Additional information is available and tickets may be purchased through the website at www.BluegrassRailroad.com.