Across the river from Thurmond, West Virginia, we continue our journey eastward along McKendree Road. After about two miles the road crosses the river at Stone Cliff. After crossing the river the road turns to dirt and gravel. At Stone Cliff camping is permitted and there are rest rooms but no shower facilities or electricity. A footpath from Stone Cliff up along the river is a nice area for spring wildflowers and after about one mile you come to Big Stony Creek which has some nice waterfalls when water flow is up (best time is in spring). I’ve never ventured beyond Big Stony Creek so I don’t know how far the path goes.
A word of caution about McKendree Road. Google maps correctly shows that it goes all the way east to Prince, WV but east of Thayer, WV the road quickly becomes almost impassable. Landslides, fallen trees and other such obstacles often block the way. It should be avoided unless you have a vehicle suitable for off-road. However, between Stone Cliff and Thayer the road isn’t too bad.
As you leave Claremont the road soon goes up along the sides of the hills. Access to the rails would require a considerable walk through the woods. At Thayer, however, a side road heads down to the tracks and a grade crossing leading to a parking area where river access is available. There is little in Thayer to see. Only about 10 or so people still live there and there are a number of abandoned houses and other structures. A few of the houses have seasonal occupancy due to the ease of river access.
As we continue east from Quinnemont we come to the ghost town of Glade, located about half-way between Quinnemont and Meadow Creek (MP 374). Glade had a population of about 70. Those pillars are all that is left of the bridge which once connected Glade to the town of Hamlet. Hamlet is also now a ghost town. Not much remains in either town except for a few scattered items and foundations of long gone structures. Across the river is Glade Creek canyon and the former location of the narrow gauge Glade Creek and Raleigh Railroad. It was strictly a logging operation. The former rail bed is now a fine hiking trail taking you over five miles into the beautiful canyon. The access to Glade Creek is by a five mile long dirt road which begins across the river from Prince, WV. Camping is available in multiple places.
The Richmond family has been in this area since at least the 1700’s. Before the railroad came (1873) merchandise came to this area by boat on the New River. Sandstone Falls (once called Richmond Falls) was a major obstacle. Boats were off-loaded above the falls, then the Richmond family moved the goods by road to below the falls where they were again loaded onto boats. Boats continued down river to Terry (just below Prince) where they were off-loaded and the goods then taken by wagon up Batoff Mountain to the plateau. Eventually the Richmonds built a race around the falls on the south side, the remains of which are still there. Water no longer flows through it but it contains standing water.
The north side view of Sandstone Falls is accessible only by boat or along the rails. It’s an easy walk and there are plenty of places to explore and just enjoy the view.
We have reached the eastern terminus of the New River Sub and the end of our journey. Here at Hinton the Allegheny Sub begins. Some real mountain railroading begins here and there are some really great ran fan locations between here and Clifton Forge, Virginia.
Even though this journey took six installments I still feel as though what I’ve given is a brief summary. The history of the Gorge is filled with far more stories than I’ve related and there are many great rail fan opportunities. Still, it’s been fun.
If you plan to explore the Gorge, or are just interested in its history I highly recommend you purchase a copy of the New River Atlas, by W.E. Trout. (Amazon lists this title as out of print, but it appears that copies are available on the Virginia Canals & Navigation Society’s website-ed.)
Hope to see you in the Gorge!
One day this spring,through a Facebook group, I was apprised that the local short line, Forty Mile Railway, had received empty grain hoppers from Canadian Pacific (CP) at their transfer track just east of Stirling on the former CP Stirling subdivision, and that Forty Mile would be moving the cars sometime the next day. After some text messages to my contacts in Foremost, it was confirmed around 8:00 am on Sunday (which was Mother’s Day) that the Forty Mile train would be heading east towards Foremost. After talking with my wife Becky, we agreed that I would get the morning to chase the train and then the afternoon I’d take her and our daughter Kayla out west to the Crowsnest Pass for a relaxing drive.
Heading back home in October, 2014 after three days in Ontario, Canada, I decided to drop off the interstate in Hamburg, New York to see if I could scare up an Alco or two. I knew only two things about Hamburg; first, the Buffalo Southern Railroad had a shop there and second, that shop was home to my favorite diesel locomotives—Alco. It isn’t a big town, so finding the tracks wasn’t hard and they led to a small station, behind which sat a beautifully restored Alco High Hood switcher and an old friend from the Pittsburgh area, a Pennsylvania Railroad decapod (2-10-0), now sitting on display. A few derelict (likely parts sources) 539 powered Alco switchers were there also, slowly rusting away. The Buffalo Southern shop wasn’t here, that was for sure, but there was a hobby shop sign on the station door, so in I went, finding a large “O” scale layout occupying most of the space. Three old guys sat in a corner swapping stories and I asked them if they could point me to the Buffalo Southern shop complex. “Yeah, they’re down behind the Carmeuse plant, but don’t go in there cause they’ll arrest you or throw ya out.” There were nods all around in agreement to that statement, so I thanked them and headed off to find me some Alco’s—I’ve been escorted out of a few places after simply wandering in like a bumpkin, so it was no big deal to take a chance.
This past summer, while on a family vacation in Colorado, we visited the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. As a lifelong train buff, this had been on my bucket list for a long time, and it did not disappoint! The Cumbres and Toltec is really a museum, but it’s a living museum. On the morning we were there, we felt as if we had stepped back to a time when the narrow gauge railroad was a thriving business. If you get to the rail yard early, you can watch the crews getting the locomotives ready, and hooking up the trains for the day. These are the very same preparations that would have been made almost 100 years ago.
Any time I visit the New River Gorge I almost always spend some time in Thurmond. For rail fans visiting southern West Virginia, Thurmond is certainly a must see place. Almost all of the railroad structures which crowded this narrow strip of flat land are gone. Still, there is much about this place which carries you back a hundred years to the boom times of the New River coal fields. A great deal has been written about Thurmond, much of it available on-line, and I’ll not do a history summary here. But I will touch on some of the highlights. Read more
As the days grew closer, the more excited I became for my Colorado photo-cation. June 15, 2017 couldn’t come soon enough. After 9 months of waiting and trip planning, the day finally arrived!
There was a group of six of us, plus one lucky friend who lives in Colorado, ready to seek out creative photographic opportunities. I, for one, was looking for anything railroad related, plus inspirational and beautiful snow capped mountain vistas. When your mind is set to look for the subject matter at hand, it seems as though the subject matter ends up finding you. Other times, it’s all in the planning. Read more