Friday, May 29, 2015

Cruising Through Kentucky…

Wherever we drive, even if we’re on a timetable, we jump off the Interstate to glimpse a bit of the local scenery and history… Of course, if you follow my blog site you know that old railroad depots are a prime focus.

This sad structure is the former Louisville and Nashville Railroad station in Richmond Kentucky.  The file photos of this station must be fairly old as this depot was all white in them… It’s obvious that the blue paint has been on the building for some time now.  The building is owned by CSX Transportation and apparently they’re using it for storage.

CSX Transportation is an amalgamation of a number of railroads that were merged in 1986 by combining the Chessie System and Seaboard System Railroad.  These railroads in turn were made up via mergers and purchases of Atlantic Coast Line Railroad; Louisville and Nashville Railroad; Clinchfield Railroad; Atlanta and West Point Railroad; Monon Railroad; Georgia Railroad; Chesapeake and Ohio Railway; Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and; Western Maryland Railroad.  CSX Transportation owns about 21,000 miles of track…

Curiously, the rail side of the depot has been recently painted and it looks pretty good.  One down, three to go!  However, if the roof isn’t repaired or replaced soon, a little paint won’t be enough to prolong the life of this structure. 

Richmond Kentucky is the county seat of Madison County Kentucky.  It’s named after Richmond Virginia, and it is the home of Eastern Kentucky University and the Blue Grass Army Munitions Depot.  The city was founded in 1798 and the current population is about 32,000.

In August of 1862 during the Civil War, Union and Confederate Armies clashed in the Battle of Richmond.  Troops under Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith routed the soldiers of Union General William Nelson. Out of Nelson's 6,500 men, only 1,200 escaped…the rest were all captured!  To learn more about this battle, you can go to  The battlefield is now occupied by the Blue Grass Army Depot.

A bit later on we rolled through Corbin Kentucky.  We stopped to take a photo of this building…and no, it isn’t a railroad depot!  I’ll give you a clue… Note the KFC sign at the far right of the photo.

In 1930, the Shell Oil Company offered Harlan Sanders a service station in Corbin Kentucky…rent free, in return for paying them a percentage of his sales.  Sanders began to serve chicken dishes and other meals such as country ham and steaks.  His local popularity grew, and, in 1939, food critic Duncan Hines visited Sanders's restaurant and included it in “Adventures in Good Eating”, his guide to restaurants throughout the United States.

This is a rebuilt structure mirroring Colonel Sanders 2nd restaurant in Corbin.  His first restaurant burnt down and he rebuilt it as a motel with a 140 seat restaurant.  He sold this restaurant in 1955 after I-75 bypassed Corbin and his business suffered accordingly. 

Harland Sanders is a true example of the American dream…of that ‘never give up’ drive and persistence.  He had too many different jobs in his life to enumerate in this posting…

The opening of I-75 and the sale of his restaurant left 65 year old Harlan Sanders with his savings and $105 a month from Social Security.  That’s when he kicked it into gear and began traveling the country pushing his chicken concept to potential franchisees…

You could say that he was highly successful!  KFC was one of the first fast food chains to expand internationally, opening outlets in Canada and later in England, Mexico and Jamaica by the mid-1960s.  The company's rapid expansion to more than 600 locations became overwhelming for the aging Sanders.  In 1964, at the age of 74, he sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken Corporation for $2 million and became a paid spokesman for the company.  He retained his operations in Canada as well as the franchising rights in 3 states and England.  He lived to be 90 years old. 

Colonel Sanders’ story is one of myriad twists and turns, definitely worthy of a TV mini-series or perhaps a movie.  To learn more, just go to  FYI…Kentucky Fried Chicken received its name from its first franchisee, and he lived in Utah!

This is the former Louisville and Nashville Railway depot in Corbin Kentucky.  This depot, which was built in 1921, has been maintained fairly well…with fresh paint and a new roof.  The color scheme has changed since the file photo I found on line was taken.  It was previously blue and white.

The history of Corbin is directly tied to the expansion of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.   After the Civil War, the executives of the railroad decided to expand into the Cumberland Valley to gain access to the coal and iron ore of the region.  The railroad reached Livingston, north of Corbin. The railroad bridges the Cumberland River to Williamsburg and reached Pineville by 1888.  Middlesboro was added to the network in 1889.  A connection was made with the Norfolk and Western Railroad to Shawnee, Tennessee in 1890.

Information on the Internet indicates that there is an effort underway to establish a Railroad Museum in Corbin.  It was supposed to open in the spring of this year but, if this is the site, we didn’t see any sign of progress.  Currently the building is occupied by the Corbin Economic Development Agency and the South Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. 

Corbin apparently used to be a tough area… The mix of railroad and timber workers earned Corbin a reputation for violence in the late 1800s.  Both a deputy town Marshall and a town Marshall were shot during that period. The state National Guard was sent to Corbin twice by the governor to reestablish order.  The town also had a troubled racial past, including a race riot in 1919, and a sundown town policy until the late 20th century.

Note: I learned something new…the definition of a ‘sundown town’.  A ‘sundown town’ was a town or city in the United States that was purposely all-white.  The term came from signs that were posted at city limits stating that people of color had to leave town by sundown.

This view down the tracks by the former depot shows the current rail yard in Corbin.  The railroad (presently CSX) continues to play an important role in the town, despite the decline of the rail industry in the latter half of the twentieth century.

While the tracks were being extended in the late 1880s, improvements were being made to the facilities in Corbin.  The Louisville and Nashville Railroad established an important railroad yard, as well as a roundhouse and engine house for equipment maintenance.  Passengers traveling to points east and south from Louisville and Lexington all changed trains at Corbin.

This is the street-side view of Corbin’s former railroad depot.  It is a handsome building…

Corbin has an official population of a little more than 7,200 but the ‘urban cluster’ encompasses over 21,000 people.  It is one of the few cities in Kentucky which lies in two counties…Whitley and Knox.  

For some reason, the state of Kentucky has a law on the books that prohibits cities from being in more than two counties.  Many developed areas in neighboring Laurel County have a Corbin postal address, but lie outside of the city limits.  This has created problems with taxes and also the census.  In addition, the city receives a portion of the occupational tax collected in Whitley County, but Knox County has refused to give Corbin a part of the tax collected there. 

That’s about it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. I've always enjoyed the Harlan Sanders story of success.

  2. I wish KFC would open here in Sicily!!!