HISTORICAL SITES: BIG SOUTH FORK NATIONAL RIVER & RECREATION AREA, TENNESSEE/KENTUCKY
Another of my favorite places in the Big South Fork region is Historic Rugby; Victorian England nestled in the Tennessee Cumberland’s. This lovely corner of God’s earth was founded in the 1880s by Thomas Hughes, a famous British author, statesman, and social reformer who settled in Rugby. Rugby was to be a cooperative, class-free community, a Utopian experiment. Many of Britain’s younger sons of gentry, artisans, tradesmen, and farming families left Britain to come to America to live in Rugby and follow Thomas Hughes’ ideals of high Christian values and agriculture principles. Rugby today is very much the same, and is a significant heritage treasure of the Southeast. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972. Situated in a rugged river gorge setting, little has changed in historic Rugby which now caters to independent thinkers, artists, and over forty families that have sought out this type of living. Some 18 of the original Victorian buildings remain along wooded lanes, including the amazing Thomas Hughes Library built in 1882, literally unchanged since it opened with over 7,000 volumes of Victorian literature still on the shelves with the original furnishings. Coming back from Europe in 1999, I was able to attend Christ Church Episcopal for several months. After attending Holy Trinity in Brussels for many years, I found it comforting and enjoyed the peacefulness of this original church (built in 1887). The structure is fortunate to still possess the original fleur-de-lis paint, hanging lamps, traditional high church services, and beautiful stained glass. The hymns played by the organist on the 1849 rosewood organ were beautiful. Rugby is a destination that can be enjoyed as a day trip, weekend getaway, or for a week of pleasure exploring the region. Historic Rugby offers many lodging options including the 1880 Newbury House Bed and Breakfast, one of the original buildings authentically restored and furnished in the Victorian style now serving as a bed and breakfast. The Pioneer Cottage, built in 1880 also offers comfortable overnight accommodations with breakfast included at Rugby’s Harrow Road Café which offers delicious meals, including English fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, delectable homemade desserts, and more.
Other overnight accommodations include Grey Gables Bed and Breakfast with luxurious Victorian surroundings and scrumptious food lovingly prepared by innkeeper Linda Brooks Jones. Linda has many events at Grey Gables Bed and Breakfast, including her famous Wednesday afternoon teas, holiday events such as a romantic Valentine’s Dinner, Thanksgiving Harvest Dinner, Christmas at Grey Gables, and more. Visit Grey Gables website for more information, www.rugbytn.com. Lennie Mae’s is the newest overnight lodging facility in Rugby, offering a spacious, renovated old home place in Rugby. It is conveniently located and set back in a serene atmosphere surrounded by woods. Lennie Mae’s offers relaxation in this amazing historic village. The shops at Historic Rugby offer original art by renowned watercolorist, Butch Hodgkin’s, who has captured many of the well known images of the region and will soon unveil the beloved Big South Fork’s Angel Falls Overlook image - a popular destination with hikers and horse riders alike. The Carriage House Gallery offers fine art prints, custom framing, other handmade items and gifts. The Commissary offers a cornucopia of gift items, handcrafts, pottery, and representation of over 100 crafters. RM Brooks General Store is also designated on the National Historic Register and is a community landmark and meeting place offering Tennessee jams, jellies, hoop cheese and a special old timey ambience. The Shoppe at Zenith Cottage offers one-of-a-kind handmade crafts, including jewelry, nature crafts, Victorian hats, wreaths and flower arrangements. Spirit of Red Hill Nature Art & Oddiments if a gallery of original nature art paintings and prints, gourd art, note cards, and jewelry by two local artisans. Spirit of Red Hill also offers beautiful Vintage (pre-1950) quilts, linens, books, and so much more.
The ambience of Historic Rugby is unique and the late Thomas Hughes would be proud to know that his Utopian experiment wasn’t a failed venture but continues in one of the most authentically preserved historic villages in America. This is truly an experience, a destination that offers superb hospitality, history, relaxation, and adventure. Historic Rugby is opened year round and located on Hwy. 52 — minutes from the Big South Fork. Historic Rugby is in the Eastern Time Zone. Remember, up-to-date event information and hours can be viewed on their website: www.historicrugby.org or you can give them a call at
BIG SOUTH FORK SCENIC RAILWAY
CUMBERLAND MOUNTAIN GENERAL STORE
McCREARY COUNTY RECORD
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Big South Fork Scenic Railway
Family Railroad Adventure
The Big South Fork Scenic Railway allows passengers to experience one of the last remaining company towns, with an operational railroad and reconstructed coal camp that was originally built during the early nineteen hundreds. The Scenic Railway is located in the National Historic District of Stearns, Kentucky, located on the northern end of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and west of interstate I-75. Your family will enjoy the 16-mile round trip upon the 100 year old, Kentucky & Tennessee Railway known as the “Route of the Painted Rocks”. This ride is full of spectacular vistas, lush vegetation and free flowing mountain streams as it descends 600 feet into the river gorge. The Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and remnants from the communities that once lined the railway now serve as reminders of days gone by.
Regular departures, April through October, upon the K&T Special take 3 hours and include a new section of track through the mining camp of Worley. Worley was the largest mining community along the K&T. Today, a few foundations are all that remain. The National Park Service has installed interpretive panels that can be viewed from the train. The train makes a stop at Blue Heron Coal Mining Camp, a National Park Service outdoor interpretive site. Blue Heron was built by the Stearns Coal & Lumber Company in 1937 and operated until 1962. The coal camp contains “ghost structures”, which display visual and oral history exhibits. Visitors to Blue Heron can walk into the face of the mine as well as cross over the river on the tipple bridge. The Railway offers additional experiences by taking a Cab Ride, Caboose Rental, a Rivers & Rails Package, and a new Saturday Pass for those folks that would like more time to hike and explore Blue Heron.
Your ticket aboard the K&T Special also includes admission to the McCreary County Museum (www.mccrearymuseum.com) which is located in the Historic District and is within walking distance of the Depot. The Museum focuses on early pioneer life through the boom times of the Stearns Coal & Lumber Company. You should allow 1½ to 2 hours to spend touring the Museum as well as shopping in one of the many unique craft and gift shops in downtown Stearns. The railway has live bluegrass music in the depot half an hour before each train departs.
The Big South Fork Scenic Railway (BSFSR) has special event trains in October and December. During October, adults can enjoy the Haunted Hollow Express the last three Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. The Trick or Treat Train for Tots departs on the last Friday and Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and the kids will also enjoy treating with the Merchants in Historic Stearns. The Santa Express runs the first three Saturdays of December. The new nighttime excursion, Painted Rocks & Twinkle Train, departs the first three Fridays and Saturdays and showcases the natural formations along the railway as visitors have never seen them before.
The BSFSR excursion cars range from enclosed to open air and passengers are seated on a first come, first serve basis. Passengers should dress accordingly for the weather. The Railway operates rain or shine and all trains depart on Eastern Time. For more information or reservations on Big South Fork Scenic Railway, go to www.bsfsry.com or