Mo & Terry Smedley


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Smoky Mountain Rail Tour
June, 2009

Part V - Big South Fork Railroad (Kentucky), Cumberland Falls

Today's train trip was on the Big South Fork Scenic RR in Stearns, Kentucky.  This line travels steeply down an old coal mining grade to the Big South Fork (Cumberland) River.    Lunch today was a Coal Miner's Lunch, served up in these red bandanas.  
The train goes as far as Blue Heron, where the National Park Service operates an interpretive center about life in a coal mining town.  This is a view of the Big South Fork from the coal tipple bridge at Blue Heron. You can walk across the Big South Fork on the coal tipple. I wasn't wild about the height, but made it across the tipple bridge. The tipple building, with hopper cars underneath.
The tipple bridge from below. The NPS interpretive exhibits were very imaginative.  This coal town no longer exists, so these skeleton frame buildings have been erected to show what was once here.   This represents the school building that was in this company town. Each skeleton building has life-size photograph cut outs to represent the people who would have lived here.  Interviews with actual residents of the town are played in each building, so you can listen to what life was like here in the voices of those who really experienced it. This is the church building.
Some mountain music was played at the train depot in the Blue Heron visitor's center. Our car and train for the trip, parked at the Blue Heron station. The locomotive pushes the train back up the hill on our return trip. Company town Stearns, Kentucky.  You can see company Store One.  Remember Tennessee Ernie Ford's 'Sixteen Tons' - "... I owe my soul to the company store..."
In the Stearns museum, an advertisement for RC Cola that features Shirley Temple. 40 specific mine safety rules are enumerated on this bulletin board for miners.... ....but look at the last paragraph.   The company rejected responsibility for any injury that occurred as a result of any violation of these rules, by the employee or any of his coworkers!  If there was ever an occupation that needed union protection, it must be coal mining. The museum has a nice display of a homemade whiskey still....
....including a very detailed recipe and operational instructions! On our ride home, we stopped at Cumberland Falls State Park. Some rafters are having fun in the current below the falls. The falls are 125 feet wide, and just under 70 feet tall.
A panoramic view of the area above the falls.