Sunday, October 17, 2021

Back to the New River: Thurmond, WV

48 this morning, chilly and clear after a rainy start to the day yesterday. Cool temps predicted all week.

We delivered a set of Fire-King tulip bowls to a buyer in Charleston yesterday--it was much better than shipping those expensive bowls (250.00+), and we got to visit ReStore at the same time, so a win-win for us and the really nice guy who bought the bowls.

Since we were an hour south of home, we decided to take another road trip, back to the New River Gorge and to a place I have wanted to see for years, the abandoned railroad town of Thurmond.

Well, Thurmond isn't exactly abandoned: there are 5 permanent residents there, and several privately owned but unoccupied homes. Still, the area that used to be the main business area is vacant. The state park service took over the area some years back, slowly developing it into a tourist attraction. Then last year the federal government added the New River Gorge as the newest national park, which encompasses Thurmond.

I had thought that since it was cool, cloudy and rainy, there wouldn't be many people in Thurmond, but even so there were quite a few visitors. There were kayakers, bikers, hikers, and we even saw one man fly-fishing. The ranger on duty seemed to think that every visitor knew nothing about the state, which was kind of funny as he tried to tell Larry about mining, since Larry grew up in a coal camp. The ranger had a few details wrong; mining was the reason for the railroad to have been built in the rugged gorge, and when it died out, so did the need for the town.

To say the area is beautiful doesn't begin to do it justice. Here's a partial photo journal of our day; I will probably be posting more, as I took about 300 pictures.

The road follows the tracks. I'd love to be on this section when a train comes.

The road narrows and narrows as it snakes its way to the town. There are plenty of lay-bys for cars to pass each other, fortunately.

The road is also bordered most of the way by the prettiest stream. Rocks and water, so beautiful.

And then the bridge into town. One lane, side-by-side with the railroad trestle.

Below, the New River, home of probably the wildest Class VI rapids on the East Coast.

Once across the bridge and parked, we immediately ventured onto the trestle. I have been having some dizziness due to sinus and allergy  issues, but I held the cables and occasionally Larry so I could get out there.

Far below, the river.

The ranger came out and ran everyone off the trestle, since a coal train was on the way.

Waiting for the train.

And here it comes. This one was at least 200 cars, with two engines in the center to help push and pull the heavy load.

The large concrete tower in the above photos held coal and water for refueling trains back in the steam days.

These pulley wheels on the outside of the coal tower fascinated me. What were they for? Pulling up loads of coal, maybe?

This little one was too cute. Alissa, her name was, and she kept grinning at me until I had to hide behind her parents so they could take a photo of her looking at them. Then she thought I was playing peek-a-boo. There was no danger at this point, of course, the train was long gone.

One of the empty buildings in the town.

And yet another.

It must have been a prosperous place, to merit such a nice bank building.

The whole of the commercial block, all empty these days.

We finally walked back to the big hotel building, which I forgot to photograph, of course. 

I hated to leave but the day was waning, and we had a long drive ahead. These falls were along the road to the town too; I waited for the homeward journey to stop and take photos. 

Dunloup Falls

We stopped in Fayetteville for a late lunch/early dinner. Both of us were starving, and we'd heard good things about the Cathedral Cafe and Book Store, so that's where we went. I have to admit, I was underwhelmed. It was quite noisy, not the quaint environment I envisioned. It was also very busy, which I am always glad to see for small businesses like this, but the cost of two sandwiches, a hard cider and one glass of wine was over 40.00. That's a bit much for our budget; it was good but not superb, and I doubt we'll return. Although...the coffee I got to go was absolutely delicious. But not included in that 40.00 tab. 

We took the slow road home, winding across central West Virginia. The black line in the center shows roughly the route we took, all two-lane or smaller, except for the trip down to Charleston.

It was just about dark by the time we got home, and I have to admit our own road looked pretty good to us.

We will certainly go back to Thurmond, and spend a much longer day. Perhaps in the spring? The ranger said about 12 trains come through every day, and you know that would keep me quite happy. In spring there will be wildflowers to photograph, and Larry wants to fish...and I want to sit on one of those old porches and write. It's a place to inspire imagination, and words.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


  1. Great to hear about your short trip to Thurmond...and seeing the bridge - I wonder if that's the one that's now a park. Since the town is included, I guess it is. Sad to see all the buildings closed down.

  2. Abandoned towns are fascinating. It is certainly a pretty setting in amongst the hills. -Jenn

  3. I've heard of Thurmond, but never been there. It's sad to see abandoned towns and houses. They must have been beautiful in their time. You took some lovely pictures.

  4. I enjoyed your post, I did see a video of the town not long ago and only the tail end of a train passing by. I am surprised you didn't come upon an October ghost story or two around there to tell.
    Wow! Those dishes! It has been awhile since I've seen even one of those. Shipping costs! A buyers and sellers downfall.for sure.


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