Big South Fork Scenic Railway to Resume Seasonal Train Schedule to the Blue Heron Mining Community


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News Release Date: April 3, 2014

Contact: Letitia Neal, 423-569-9778

Contact: Dave Carney, 423-569-9778

With the warmer weather and blooming wildflowers comes the reopening of the Blue Heron Historic Mining Community and the Big South Fork Scenic Railway's excursions into the park.  The Scenic Railway resumes its train schedule into the park April 3, 2014, and their schedule can be found on their website at

Blue Heron, also known as Mine 18, is an abandoned coal mining town and was a part of the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company's past operation.  The Blue Heron mines operated from 1937 until December 1962 when operations were no longer profitable.  During that time, hundreds of people lived and worked in this isolated community on the banks of the Big South Fork River.  Their story is the story of Blue Heron.

When the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company abandoned Blue Heron in 1962, the buildings were either removed or lapsed into decay.  As a result, there were no original buildings standing when the community was "re-created" in the 1980s.  Built as an outdoor museum, the new structures are open, metal shells of buildings, referred to as "ghost structures" built on the approximate site of the original buildings and were made as close to the original size and orientation as possible.

Ranger staff are available to answer questions and talk about the history of the Blue Heron community and visitors have the option of either descending to this abandoned coal mining camp by rail or road.  Please contact the Big South Fork Scenic Railway at 800-462-5664, (606) 376-5330, or online at to obtain train tickets.  There is a fee to ride this round-trip excursion and reservations are recommended.  The train departs from Stearns and will venture downward into the gorge to Blue Heron.

Those who prefer to visit the site in their own vehicles may follow the directional signs from Stearns via Kentucky Highways 92W and 1651S to 742W.  The Blue Heron Mining Community is located approximately 12 miles from Stearns, Kentucky, at the end of Highway 742W.  Free parking is available.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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