Kentucky has a network of abandoned common carrier mainlines, narrow gauge logging railroads, and short lived spurs that served coal mines. There are lines that were abandoned over 100 years ago and lines that are undergoing the process of abandonment today. As of 2001, the state had approximately 2,780 miles of track, down from over 4,000 miles at its peak in the 1930's. This means that there are close to 1,200 miles of abandoned railroad beds in Kentucky.
This site provides an inventory of Kentucky's abandoned rail lines and a detailed assessment to highlight the lines that may be the most suitable for future recreational use. A secondary purpose of the site is to inventory historic railroad structures.
Over 125 different abandoned rail lines were identified, mapped using GIS technology, and assessed for their current use and condition. These abandoned rights of way exist in all regions of the state, in urban and rural areas. Less than one percent of Kentucky's abandoned rail lines have been converted into recreational uses and while a few successful rails to trails projects have already been completed, there is still great potential to expand these into an extensive network of trails connecting Kentucky's communities, natural resources, and historic sites. Education, support, and coordination of effort will help ensure future trail success in the Commonwealth.