A recently-announced collaborative effort between railroad companies and preservation groups is getting a historic twist, and the public will have an opportunity to participate in the uncommon event. Clinchfield 800, a streamlined EMD F-7 diesel locomotive built in 1948, has been assigned by CSX Transportation to be the lead engine on an odyssey across the Bluegrass state, a move that will ultimately take steam locomotive Chesapeake & Ohio 2716 from its current home at the Kentucky Railway Museum to the care of the Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation (KSHC) in Ravenna, Ky. Kentucky Steam intends to restore Chesapeake & Ohio 2716 to operation, and make the engine a focal point of their envisioned train-centered venue, the Kentucky Rail Heritage Center.
Clinchfield 800 assisted with the move of C&O 2716 back in March 1979. Charles Buccola photo
Previously, Kentucky Steam announced that CSX Transportation and the RJ Corman Railroad Group have agreed to transport the 75-year old steam engine over the weekend of July 26-28. The move will kick off on Friday, July 26, when the public will be invited to ride a special “Heritage Highball” excursion at the Kentucky Railway Museum as Clinchfield 800 leads the historic move out of New Haven and onto the CSX mainline. Riders will be treated to a leisurely trip across Kentucky bourbon country, and will be able to bid farewell to 2716 as it and the 800 uncouple and continue on toward Ravenna, while the excursion returns back to Kentucky Railway Museum. Tickets range from coach class all the way up to caboose seats and cab rides in both 2716 and 800. Proceeds from the excursion will help offset the costs incurred by both Kentucky Steam and KRM associated with the move.
Clinchfield 800 is operated and maintained by the Southern Appalachian Railroad Museum (SARM), located in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The 70-year-old locomotive was the first diesel purchased by the Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio Railroad, a predecessor company of CSX. The engine was built by the Electro-Motive Division and operated predominately in Appalachia. After the Clinchfield was absorbed into CSX Transportation, the engine was leased for commuter service in the early 1990s and was eventually donated to the C&O Railroad Historical Society and was painted in C&O Livery. In 2017, the Clinchfield 800 was faithfully restored to its as-delivered grey and yellow paint scheme by the dedicated members of the CSX Huntington Locomotive Paint Shop.
The streamlined diesel won’t be the only carefully-refurbished showpiece on the excursion. C&O caboose 3203, which was also recently restored at CSX’s Huntington Shops over the winter, will also join the consist. The stunning rehab was completed in February and the 50-year-old caboose was subsequently released with much fanfare as a donation to Kentucky Steam.
Tickets for the July 26 excursion go on sale Thursday, April 18 at 9 a.m. Tickets start at $43 for coach up to $2,716 for a cab ride in the C&O 2716. For more details and updates, information on membership, donations and for ordering tickets, visit www.kentuckysteam.org
—via press release