Train & Coal History

Whether it's a train ride to a historic mining camp or a tour through a museum, there's a lot of history to enjoy in McCreary County.


BSF Scenic Railway

The Big South Fork Scenic Railway originally served as the backbone of the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company, hauling timber and coal out of company towns throughout the Big South Fork River valley. Travel along the former Kentucky & Tennessee Railway through rugged cliff lines, along roaring streams and through a restored mining town to learn what life was like in the mountains a century ago. Live bluegrass music, cultural exhibits and historical audio recordings document the way it was when Coal was King. Open April – December. Located off KY Hwy 92 at 100 Henderson St. in downtown Stearns, KY. Call 606-376-5330 or 1-800-462-5664 or visit for more info.

McCreary County Museum

Take a step back into McCreary County history at the museum in downtown Stearns which features cultural exhibits based on the lives men and women made for themselves through farming, lumber and mining. Learn how the company town operated and the lifestyle of the people. Located at 1 Henderson St. in Stearns, KY. Call 606-376-5730 or visit for more info.

Barthell Coal Mining Camp

Deep in the river gorge, along roaring Paunch Creek, lies a restored company town, named after E.E. Barthell, and the first to be established within the Stearns mining empire. Abandoned and torn down in 1952, the town has been reconstructed with historically accuracy by the Koger family, just as it was in 1910. Visitors are given guided tours of the mining camp, homes, company stores and even fame Mine No. 1. Historical cabins are available for overnight stays. Located off KY Hwy 742 near Stearns and the Blue Heron Mining Camp. Call 1-888-550-5748 or 606-376-8749 or visit for more info.

Historic Stearns Golf Course

Come play a round and the recently restored Stearns Heritage Golf Course, the second oldest nine-hole course in Kentucky. Visit a historic Works Progress Administration Clubhouse in between rounds for refreshments or to find a partner for the weekly scramble. 131 Clubhouse Dr. Stearns, KY. Call 606-376-5330 for more information.

Blue Heron Mining Camp

Built in 1937, this mining operation and coal tipple was the newest operated by the Stearns Coal & Lumber Company. It was abandoned in 1962 and restored with “ghost structures” and oral history exhibits in 1989 by the National Park Service as part of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. The facility features a visitor’s contact station, outdoor interpretive museum, canoe launch, hiking and horse trails, campground, concession stand and restrooms. Located at the end of KY Hwy 742 9 miles from Stearns. Call 606-376-3787 or visit for more information.