Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Today's Train of Thought- Turning Over A New (River) Leaf, October 9, 2012,
Today's train of thought takes us to a fairly remote and isloated stretch of the Mountaineer State just as the leaves are beginning to turn color.
Founded at the turn of the last century, the tiny West Virginia village of Thurmond is nestled along the New River and the former Chesapeake & Ohio mainline from Virginia to the Midwest. The town in Fayette County reportedly wasn't accesable by road until the 1920s and to this day, a combined single lane road bridge and single track rail line that accomodated a C&O branchline to one of the coal mines to the west.
Like many other towns throughout Appalachia, Thurmond's fortunes rose and fell with the coal industry and two massive fires tore through downtown Thurmond in 1922 and 1930. Many merchants used the town's one and only road to set up shop elsewhere. By the mid 1950s, the Chesapeaske & Ohio had begun dieselization, phasing out the labor intensive steam locomotives that were serviced in Thrumond and facilities elsewhere along the C&O.
Perhaps the biggest developments in Thurmond since the C&O dieselized were the 1978 establishment of the New River National River by the National Parks Service and the 2005 sale of the CSX (former C&O) branchline between Thurmond and Mt. Hope, WV to shortline operator RJ Corman.
Although technically a 'ghost town', the 2010 census listed 5 full time residents and the isolated village is actually a flag stop on Amtrak's Chicago-Cincinnati-Washington D.C. Cardinal. The little C&O passenger depot is still used as visitor's center by the National Parks Service and occasionally for its intended purpose as the area is popular with campers, hikers, rail enthusiasts and boasts some of the best whitewhater rafting in the country.
Above, railpictures.net contributor JB Lockard caught CSX C44-9W #461 leading a coal drag past downtown Thurmond on October 9, 2011. In the background, one can see a new banner welcoming visitors to town and that the leaves are beginning to change in along the New River.