The Morehead & Northfork Railroad 1905 – 1973

1905 saw the establishment of the Morehead & North Fork (M&NF) Railroad, a creation of the Clearfield Lumber Company. Headquartered in Clearfield, Kentucky, the line had a spur which connected to the C&O in Morehead, but its mainline ran south and east from Clearfield, paralleling what is now Highway KY 519. Passing through the Clack Mountain tunnel it headed south to Paragon where it turned east, ran through the Paragon or “Poppin Rock” tunnel and followed the Morgan County line on the Rowan County side until finally passing into Morgan County where it passed through the Twin Tunnels before terminating at Wrigley. A later addition to the line saw it extend to nearby Redwine. In all the line ran 26 miles.

Created primarily as a standard gauge timbering railroad, the M&NF nevertheless also hauled coal and freight and offered passenger service as well with a self motorized passenger car affectionately known as the “Blue Goose” because of the mournful sound of its whistle.

The line remained profitable until the timber and coal began to play out and in 1933 the railroad requested abandonment of the line with the exception of the first four miles from Clearfield to Clack Mountain. In 1925 Lee Clay Products had established a ceramics company on the site of the now-defunct Clearfield Lumber Company. Clay was mined on Clack Mountain and the M&NF hauled the clay from the mines to the kilns at Clearfield. This enabled the railroad to remain profitable until plastics began to compete with the ceramics industry and in 1970 the Lee Clay Company ceased operation.

The railroad attempted to maintain profitability by hauling local mill waste but operational costs far outdistanced profits and in 1973 the M&NF ceased operation, selling off its equipment and rolling stock.

A local businessman C.L. Armstrong bought the right of way and some engines and rolling stock hoping to establish a tourist railroad, but that dream was never realized. Engines, rails, and equipment were sold off piecemeal until today only one piece of rolling stock remains, a dilapidated boxcar, #500 which still sits on the only length of remaining M&NF rail in the old engine yard in Clearfield, Kentucky. Models of the 15 M&NF locomotives are on display elsewhere in the museum.