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Bluegrass Railroad Museum takes passengers back in time

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VERSAILLES-- Every weekend in the summer and fall, people travel to Versailles to travel back in time. They climb aboard passenger cars at the Bluegrass Railroad Museum and ride on a line that has been in place since the late 1800s.

"In 1889 when the track was built there were two ways to get to Lexington.--on the train or on a horse," said executive director John Penfield. "People don't realize there weren't cars, trucks, buses or highways, so we try to teach as well as entertain."

Penfield came here to help out 12 years ago and got hooked. He and about 25 other active volunteers often work on the railroad, all the livelong day as engineers, mechanics and conductors. Very few of them have a railroading background. Every penny they take in goes back into the operation.

Penfield said, "The good news is we own the track (and) the bad news is we own the track because we have to maintain it."

The trains run on five and a half miles of track, rumbling past horse farms and rock walls before coming to a scenic dead end at Young's High Bridge, 283 feet above the Kentucky River. Tourists love the view from the overlook, right across from the Wild Turkey Distillery.

The volunteers are also tour guides and historians.

On a recent day 95 people came with a tour group from the Cincinnati area. The same company had organized a trip here earlier this summer.

"We loved it," said tour director Joyce Wingham of Joy Tours. "We had 104 here last month. People like the train ride. They like Kentucky. We come down to Kentucky more than anywhere else."

There's also a museum at the depot with artifacts from the days when railroads helped build the nation.

" I think it puts us back in yesteryear," said passenger Hugh Walker. "You see a lot of things that I haven't seen for a good many years. It's really neat."

It's hard work, keeping this operation on track, but John Penfield says the payoff came quickly for him, the first time he saw the reactions of passengers.

"Watching the kids come off with smiles and parents being happy, I realized right away this was something special."

Something special that keeps on rolling because 30 years ago a group of dreamers said " I think I can, I think I can, I think I can."

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The train runs every Saturday and Sunday afternoon through October and there will be some nighttime Halloween Ghost Rides, plus a Santa Claus Train in December. Click here for more information.

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Spirit of the Bluegrass is sponsored by Regency Memory Care

If you have ideas for a segment, send an email to Marvin at news@foxlexington.com

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