Richard J. "Rick" Corman
, founder and owner of the R.J. Corman Railroad Group
, passed away on Friday, August 23, 2013 in his home in Nicholasville, KY. Since 2001 Mr. Corman has been in slowly declining health due to multiple myeloma, a cancer in blood cells and bone marrow. He was 58 years old.
The company was started in 1973, and mainly focused on maintaining and repairing railroad lines, emergency rescue service for derailed vehicles, and vehicle repair. The company headed up the restoration of rail services in the southern United States after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In 1987, the company started purchasing bankrupt and defunct short-line railroads and restoring their services services. It currently operates eleven short-line services in Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, Mississippi, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, mostly serving mines and industrial parks. These lines ship freight food and goods, coal, aluminum, rock quarry and construction materials. The company operates six switch yards for private corporations including Toyota and Georgia Pacific. The company expanded their services to include warehousing and distribution of freight between rail, road and air. The company also operates their own private airfield at the company headquarters in Nicholasville, and also overs aircraft maintenance and repair. The company frequently donates their time and services to state and federal agencies for wildfire prevention. In 2009 the company purchased Railpower Technologies, which has manufactured computer controlled low pollution, remote control operated yard switching engines since 2000.
The company also operates a small series of passenger trains on its shortline that runs from Nicholasville, KY through Lexington, Bardstown and ends in Louisville. Their most popular service is the "My Old Kentucky Dinner Train"
and "Lexington Dinner Train", which runs eleven restored Pullman dining cars pulled by FP7A engines for lunch and dinner runs, and hosts a monthly Murder Mystery party. The company also operates a Halloween-themed "Wizards Express" and winter holiday-themed "Christmas Express", both of which are pulled by "Old Smokey"
, a restored Chinese 2-10-2 Datong QJ steam engine which had been in use in China until 2005 and brought to the United States in 2008.
Mr. Corman, both privately and through his company, gave generously back to the communities that they operated in. The company hosted many charity events at this corporate headquarters, and Mr. Corman is was the largest private benefactor to the St. Joseph Hospital network in the state of Kentucky. In recent years the company secured lucrative government contracts to repair and restore aging railroad lines across the US, and used nearly all of the money, including $3 million of its own, to hire and train inexperienced, unemployed laborers who would perform the work at $35/hr.
Fortune magazine wrote an article
about Mr. Corman in 2011. It's definitely a great look inside the life of an entrepreneur who literally pulled himself up by the boot straps.