Bowling Green has become synonymous with Western Kentucky University and the National Corvette Museum.

But the city, an hour south of Owensboro down I-165, also features three other attractions that revolve around trains, ice cream and a cave tour, making an easy summer day trip.

HISTORIC RAILPARK AND TRAIN MUSEUM

The Historic Railpark and Train Museum, 401 Kentucky St., can be found in downtown Bowling Green.

Jamie Johnson, executive director of the Historic Railpark, said the museum operates out of the former Louisville-Nashville railroad passenger depot.

She said the depot dates back to the Civil War era when the L&N line was originally supposed to run through Glasgow.

"The citizens of Bowling Green actually pulled together to raise $1 million, and back in that day it was a lot of money," Johnson said. "But they raised that money to make sure that the Louisville & Nashville line actually went through Bowling Green. And that has truly made the city what it is today."

According to Johnson, the last passenger train rolled out of the depot on Oct. 1, 1979. It was mothballed until about 1997. A group called Operation Pride purchased the building and restored it. The local library used it for a time for its computer lab.

Sometime later, the Friends of L&N Depot was awarded a contract to manage the property.

"Their dream was to turn it into a tourist attraction and that's exactly what they did," Johnson said. "We have a two-story museum that focuses on the history and the storytelling of passenger travel."

Along with train artifacts, the museum owns eight train cars that have been placed on static tracks.

Johnson said guided tours are offered for five of the eight railcars.

"It lasts about 45 minutes," Johnson said. "... We also have a 20 by 30-foot model train layout."

Coming up this Labor Day weekend, the Historic Railpark will be celebrating its 12th anniversary.

"There's been a lot of evolution of the museum since we opened," Johnson said.

Until Oct. 1, the Historic Railpark's hours run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays. Prices run $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and $8 for children. Ages 4 and under are admitted free.

THE LOST RIVER CAVE

Running underneath Bowling Green is a cave system that's open for viewing year-round.

Rho Lansden, executive director of Lost River Cave, 2818 Nashville Road, said many visitors are unaware that the cave system exists right under them.

"When people drive over Nashville Road, they drive over the cave unknowingly," Lansden said.

The 45-minute tour is part hiking and riding inside a boat, but appropriate for all ages, Lansden said.

"There's no climbing; there're no tough trails," she said. "... But it affords you the opportunity to explore a cave with a completely different perspective," Lansden said. "And that is you'll be on a boat underground. We're the only cave-boat tour in Kentucky. So you're surrounded by this Kentucky natural wonder."

Along with learning about the formation of the cave and the river that runs through it, visitors will also hear its human history, which includes the Native Americans, its use during the Civil War and the night clubs hosed there in the early 20th century.

Approximately 25 acres of the valley that contains the cave is owned by Western Kentucky University. Another 50 acres is owned by the Friends of the Lost River Cave.

"The land we have surrounds the valley and it protects it from future development," Lansden said.

Outside the cave, the grounds feature a zip line, 2 miles of trails and a butterfly habitat.

Currently, the cave-boat tours run at the top of every hour from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Tickets are $19.95 per adult, $16.94 for ages 4-12 and 3 and under are $5.95.

CHANEY'S DAIRY BARN

Many towns have their special eateries that become known beyond the city and county limits. Bowling Green is no exception.

Chaney's Dairy Barn, 9191 Nashville Road, has gained a far-reaching reputation for its ice cream produced on the property.

Owner Carl Chaney, a fourth-generation farmer, said the ice cream business was created in 2003 to offset the struggling dairy side of the operation.

"We worried about being able to continue the cash flow because dairy farming is very tough," said Chaney. "... The average dairy farmer is selling milk for what he sold it 30 years ago. It's very, very difficult to eke out a profit or even make ends meet at those prices."

During the first year the ice cream shop was open, it went through about 3,500 gallons of ice cream.

Now, Chaney's goes through about 23,000 gallons per year.

They offer 32 flavors with chocolate and butter pecan as their biggest ice cream sellers.

Chaney said he never imagined that the family's ice cream dream would take off as well as it did.

"You never know but we felt good about it or we wouldn't have invested $400,000 into a building," Chaney said. "... We've been lucky; we've been successful and God's been with us."

The eatery does offer more than just its ice cream fare. It sells burgers, soup, chicken tenders, salads, wraps and cold sandwiches as well.

The farm also offers a playground, farm tours and "moovie" nights. The next "moovie" night is from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday with a showing of "Incredibles 2."

Chaney said the farm has also started processing its own milk, which also comes from their cows.

On June 14, 2016, Chaney's opened a new milking facility.

He said that has also increased the farm tours, climbing from 3,000 in 2004 to more than 13,000 tours today.

However, the milking is no longer done by human hands.

"We have one robot that will milk about 60 cows," Chaney said. "... It has really increased our tourism. It's state of the art and an amazing piece of equipment."

Chaney's Dairy Barn is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 8 p.m. Sundays.

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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