Partnership between EKU, Corbin Puts Railroad Museum on Fast Track

Like the moonbow that occasionally graces nearby Cumberland Falls, officials believe a state-of-the-art railroad museum in downtown Corbin will illuminate the region’s ties to the railroad industry, draw additional tourists and boost the local economy.

Now, thanks to a recently announced partnership between the Corbin Tourism and Convention Commission and Eastern Kentucky University, the railroad museum, in the Corbin Depot, is back on the fast track. A $10,000 grant from EKU’s Center for Appalachian Regional Engagement Stewardship (one of five distributed in the University’s service region) will enable an EKU intern, senior sociology major Jeff Cawood, to work closely with the CTCC toward a goal of opening the museum on a daily basis by the summer of 2015.

“The Corbin Tourism and Convention Commission (CTCC) envisions the museum to be a premier, state-of-the-art facility containing highly specialized visual and audio components that promote interactivity while preserving and interpreting the history and heritage of the Kentucky railroad legacy,” said Maggy Kriebel, associate director of the CTCC. “We want the museum to be a total package experience, something that will be enjoyed by young and old worldwide and that will showcase Kentucky’s railroads and the people who built them.”

Coupled with some of the other projects slated by the CTCC and the City of Corbin around the same time, Kriebel anticipates a significant increase in tourism traffic in Corbin. “The museum will aid Corbin in becoming a viable destination and a hub that will allow for motorcoach visits and multi-day stays where tourists visit additional regional attractions by day, and sleep, eat and shop in Corbin by night,” she said.

Cawood, a 2001 graduate of North Laurel High School who has taken courses at EKU’s Corbin Campus, has vivid childhood memories of trains and always bustling rail yards in Corbin. He said he was “thrilled to have the opportunity to assist in the preservation of the heritage and legacy associated with rail transportation in the Appalachian region. This opportunity provides practical applications that are unparalleled.”

Over the next year, Cawood, under Kriebel’s supervision, will:

·         Archive and catalogue railroad artifacts that are current warehoused at the depot and in other municipal buildings.

·         Establish partnerships with CSX Transportation and other groups, such as Norfolk Southern, the R.J. Corman Group, the Kentucky Railway Museum, the Bluegrass Railroad Museum, the Historic Rail Park and Museum, the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, the National Park Service and L & N Historical Society, among others.

·         Record and transcribe oral history that documents Corbin as a railroad boom town. The recordings will be preserved to educate museum visitors on Corbin’s railroad history and its place in the economic development of the region and nation.

·         Identify possible grants and write proposals to acquire external support.

·         Work to develop a series of potential tourism rail packages with other “rail towns” and other recreational and tourism opportunities throughout the region.

·         Assist with the development of five- and 10-year plans.

“We’re reaching for the stars and pulling out all the bells and whistles,” Cawood said. “We hope to create a one-of-a-kind experience.”

Kriebel said the CTCC is “elated” with the partnership with EKU and views the project as “the start of many wonderful things to come.”

Dr. Stephanie McSpirit, professor of sociology at EKU, called Corbin “a vibrant community that is in transition” and added that the transition will provide additional opportunities for EKU students to intern with city planners and others involved with commercial, agricultural, recreational and tourism development.

“This is a win-win situation for all involved,” McSpirit said. “Future EKU students will benefit from these internship opportunities by gaining practical and applied experiences within their own fields of study, and the City of Corbin will have a stock of talent, expertise and enthusiasm from which to draw further inspiration.”

Anyone interested in donating money or items for the museum should contact the CTCC at 606-528-8860. 

Published on June 11, 2014