Thu, February 20, 2003

Where’d that railroad go?

I just realized I haven’t mentioned the Kentucky Abandoned Railbed Inventory, which I expect will help us identify other potential railtrails like the one I mentioned yesterday. Sadly, their website has essentially no information about this fascinating project.

The project began with the creation of the Railtrail Development Office within the Department of Local Government by the 2000 Kentucky General Assembly. (See KRS 147A.250) The office is focused on preserving abandoned railroad right-of-ways in Kentucky and helping utilize them for public recreation. To that end, by June 2003 it will complete a study that inventories all abandoned rail corridors in the state and evaluate their suitability for railtrail conversion.

Last March, I had the opportunity to hear a presentation about this project by Lisa Rainey, a graduate student at the University of Kentucky who is working on it. She apparently also presented a paper at the 2002 Association of American Geographers conference about challenges of designing useful critera for the railbed inventory. Her description of the process of creating the inventory made me suspect that she had my dream job: it’s a mixture of historical research and first-hand field inspections to verify that there is indeed something there. She said that many of the early maps had been significantly inaccurate, making it even more rewarding to finally find that suspected tunnel, old station foundation, or railroad debris.

I’m looking forward to seeing the inventory. Based on the pictures and information she conveyed in her brief presentations, it should be fabulous.