Big South Fork Scenic Railway negotiations stalled.
Amid speculation, rumors, and Facebook chatter, negotiations between the McCreary County Heritage Foundation (MCHF) and Diana Bybee and Sam Carpenter with DSRR, LLC (Diana and Sam Railroad) for the sale of the Big South Fork Scenic Railway appear to have stalled due to wording of the contracts/leases and other technical issues. Negotiations between the two parties for the sale of the Big South Fork Scenic Railway have been ongoing since October 2016.
According to MCHF Chairperson Buddy Wilson, the railway and Stearns Depot are still, as of now, owned by the Heritage Foundation. In addition, the Foundation owns most of the other historic buildings in Stearns.
Despite sale of the railway not being finalized, Bybee and Carpenter have moved ahead with paying work crews, developing a new website and brochure, and adding 24/7/365 telephone operators to assist visitors obtain information about the railway and choose between a variety of on-line ticket-purchasing options. However, both Bybee and Carpenter concur tickets cannot be sold and the train cannot run until the deal is done.
“We have had many requests for tickets, but we can’t sell any until the deal is done,” Bybee commented. “It’s profoundly frustrating for us as we have invested nearly $200,000 in the venture based on a Letter of Understanding with the McCreary County Heritage Foundation, and we can’t seem to get the deal done.”
However, MCHF Chairperson Wilson is adamant the Foundation must act in the best interest of all concerned.
“As Chairperson of the Heritage Foundation, I can assure everyone that the members of the Foundation are determined to do what is best for McCreary County’s economy and in preserving its rich heritage,” Wilson stated. “There are serious problems in the negotiations. DSRR has walked away from the table several times while blaming the Heritage Foundation. Every day going forward with the contracts not signed lessens the likelihood that they will be signed. While the traditional April 1st opening date for the train season may be delayed, we do intend for the railway to open and run this summer-either under the ownership of the Foundation or DSRR. We have a plan B for running the railway this season if negotiations with DSRR are terminated. As an added bonus for this season, we are very hopeful the steam locomotive will be on the tracks by mid-summer.”
The McCreary County Heritage Foundation was established on January 6, 1988 by a group of citizens from throughout McCreary County who wanted to help preserve and protect the rich heritage of Stearns and McCreary County. The Heritage Foundation employs ten to twenty-five employees. During the past twenty-nine years, MCHF has been responsible for the preservation of the Stearns School Building (replacing it with a senior apartment building that replicated the original school architecture), revitalizing the Stearns Golf Course and overseeing its addition to the Historic Register, running the Scenic Railway, maintaining the McCreary County Museum, developing the Heritage Hall with seating for about 300 people, and maintaining the traditional Stearns Homecoming Fireworks.