If you listen closely, you can almost hear the whistle of the Morehead & North Fork as it rumbles by the old freight station in Morehead.
You’ve just stepped outside the Morehead History & Railroad Museum on First Street, formerly known as Railroad Street.
Inside you’ll find a vast assortment of artifacts related to people, places and events from local and area history.
There’s also an area dedicated to railroads and model railroading.
“We want the museum to be a true reflection of the early life in Rowan and surrounding counties in Eastern Kentucky,” said Steve Young, member of the board of directors of the Morehead & North Fork Railroad, the parent organization of the museum.
It’s also becoming an attraction for families who want fun activities to do with their family and friends.
Kids can enjoy the three operating model railroad layouts where they can ring the bell and blow the whistle to start the trains on their way, as well as the other railroad artifacts and displays.
Rowan County’s old freight station was built in 1881 by the Elizabethtown, Lexington and Big Sandy Railroad. It was the first of the railroads to run in Rowan County, opening the county and city to the outside world.
The building is the oldest structure in Rowan County and is one of only two existing Chesapeake & Ohio two-story freight stations still in existence.
The C&O bought out the EL&BS in 1892 and operated the line until 1985 when all rail traffic ceased through Morehead. The building originally served both as passenger and freight station.
When the railroad line closed, the building was purchased by local businessman “Curly” Barker who used it to store furniture and appliances for “The Big Store” which stood across the street where the Conference Center now sits.
Later, it was rented to a liquor store and after that a swimming pool supply company.
The nonprofit “Morehead & North Fork Railroad” rented the building in 2014 and when renovation was complete, opened the Morehead & History Railroad Museum in 2016.
The name was changed just over a year ago to the Morehead History & Railroad Museum. It will celebrate its third year of operation in May 2019.
The building is on the National Registry of Historic Places not only for its railroad history but also because it was briefly involved in the last gunfight of the infamous Rowan County Feud.
Since its opening, the museum has hosted more than 6,000 guests from 43 states, the District of Columbia and 17 foreign countries.
Among the artifacts, visitors can see:
• Pictures and newspaper articles from the 1939 flood;
• Miniature trains;
• A cultivating plow;
• A 1947 Model H tractor;
• A handmade rug loom;
• Rocks and minerals of the area.
Families will want to check out the many activities planned for this year.
Game night with trivia and name that tune; a bus tour of the six historic railroads of Rowan County; a checkers tournament; Great Paper Airplane Contest, Second Annual Model Train Show, Trick or Treat Night with pumpkin carving and open houses are just some of the events.
The museum is a nonprofit project funded solely by the generous donations of visitors, citizens, organizations and businesses in the area.
All museum members are volunteers and every cent donated goes directly into maintaining the museum.
Volunteers hope to expand the museum this year with the restoration of a 1924 C&O caboose, a one-eighth scale model railroad, which will encircle the museum to offer free rides, and the creation of new and exciting exhibits to attract young and old. The spring schedule for the museum is Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (606) 780-8791 or (606) 784-5122 for information.