The Dawkins Line Rail Trail is joining many other adventure tourism attractions in the region supported by outdoor enthusiasts as the longest rail trail in Kentucky.
The Dawkins Line Rail Trail was officially opened on June 15, 2013 by Gov. Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear.
The first 18-mile leg of the trail, from Hagerhill in Johnson County to Royalton in Magoffin County, was opened to hikers, cyclists and horseback riders. This 18-mile section features 24 trestles and 662-foot Gun Creek Tunnel.
Management of the trail was placed under the Kentucky Department of Parks. When completed, the Dawkins Line will be 36 miles long and will wind through Johnson, Magoffin and Breathitt counties. The project has support from several trail organizations and is expected to help expand the local tourism economy. The trail name comes from the Dawkins Lumber Company, which developed the rail line in the early 1900s for timber harvesting and transportation.
The Kentucky State Parks received a multi-county coal severance grant of $500,000 to help support the trail development. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is providing the Department of Parks with $2 million in transportation program funding for the first phase, as well as approximately $285,000 in Transportation Enhancement funding for trailheads.
State funding for the property was initially provided by the 2006 General Assembly. The purchase of the property from the R.J. Corman Railroad Group was finalized in the spring of 2011.
The Finance and Administration Cabinet issued a contract to BOCA Enterprises of Hagerhill for construction of the first phase and work was completed in June, 2013.
History about the Dawkins Rail Line from the Kentucky Rails to Trails Council
One would assume that coal was the impetus to create the Dawkins Rail Line. This was not entirely the case for at the turn of the century the cash crop for Eastern Kentucky was timber, not coal. The railroad derived its name from the Dawkins Lumber Company. In 1912, the Dawkins Lumber Company incorporated the Big Sandy & Kentucky River Railroad (BS&KR) to build thirty one miles of line through three watersheds into Breathitt County. The corporate officers of the BS&KR were W. H. Dawkins, vice president; T. N. Fannin of Ashland, and L. N. Davis treasurer.
The BS&KR railroad office was at Riceville from 1913 to 1920. In 1920 as the tracks were extended to Carver, the railroad office was moved to Royalton. The BS&KR never reached Breathitt County. The stock market crash of 1929 terminated the Company. The C&O railroad acquired the entire stock of the BS&KR on September 22, 1930.
The C&O did not construct the tunnel at Carver (or Tiptop) until 1949. Tracks were finally extended from Carver to Evanston in Breathitt County after construction of this tunnel.
The C&O acquired the B&O and the Western Maryland in 1960. The C&O operated these Companies independently until 1972. In 1972 the C&O merged these entities and formed the Chessie system. In 1982 Chessie merged with Seaboard and became CSX.
In 2002 CSX sold the Dawkins Line to R. J. Corman. R.J. Corman filed to abandon and railbank the thirty six miles of the Dawkins line the week of November 6, 2004.