Local/Regional News
8:49 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

Kentucky Railroad Entrepreneur R.J. Corman Dies

LEXINGTON, Ky. - R.J. Corman, a Jessamine County entrepreneur who ran a multimillion-dollar railroad and construction company, died on Friday. He was 58.

Company spokesman Noel Rush says Corman died about 11 a.m. at his home in Nicholasville. Corman, who went by "Rick," had been diagnosed in 2001 with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.

Corman was founder and sole owner of R.J. Corman Railroad Group, which became one of only two major companies offering 24-hour emergency derailment cleanup for railways, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

Central Bank president and CEO Luther Deaton said Mr. Corman "was the best friend I had in the world.

"I've never known anybody as determined to do what's right and live a good life and help so many people around him," Deaton said.

Craig King, R.J. Corman Railroad Group president, said Corman "will be remembered for his character, energy, determination, generosity and vision."

University of Kentucky coach John Calipari, another close friend, wrote on his blog Friday that Corman was "an unbelievable supporter of my family and someone I could always go to if I needed help."

"Anytime we got together, very rarely did we talk about basketball," Calipari wrote.

The company Corman built started with a single backhoe and a dumptruck he bought after graduating from high school in 1973.

He started doing work for L&N Railroad, digging out and repairing railroad crossings. When Congress began deregulating the railroad industry in the 1980s, the companies began farming out maintenance, construction and derailment cleanups, giving Corman an opportunity to build his business.

He bought a 20-mile short line in 1987 in the Bardstown area and started My Old Kentucky Dinner Train the next year.

In 1996, R.J. Corman Railroad Group acquired the Allentown and Pennsylvania lines from Conrail.

The company now employs more than 1,100 people in 22 states, and operates more than 600 miles of short-line railroads.