[N&W] Railfanning the Virginian

nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Tue May 4 22:20:55 EDT 2004

Rick Bloxom corrects me with:

    The DeLorme West Virginia Atlas and Gazetteer has been out since at
least last August. I have used it for a couple of trips to railfan the
'Pokey'. It has excellent topo features and track locations. You can also
find it at a lot of Barnes and Noble book store locations.

                             Hope this helps,
                             Rick Bloxom
I had at least a half dozen others reply that the West Virginia version IS 
out. Thanks everyone! Now I'll have to go get my own copy.

FYI, DeLorme came out with a WV map last year.  They also have a software
package, TOPO USA that essentially duplicates all US topographic maps (at
least for the lower 48).  I got it for around $90 last year.  You don't have
to buy very many topo maps for it to be a cost-effective alternative.

Jay Van Nostrand

Bill Mosteller adds:

1) There's a new, regional railroad map series that just added
Appalachia/Piedmont to its list, available from the Commissary. (Also Ken's
Trains, in Roanoke, I presume.) That map would be very valuable.

Ron Gentry recommends:

There is an excellent Comfort Inn just outside Bluefield,
Va.  Go to their web site and make your reservations or to
check out others.  The road from Bluefield, Va. to
Pocahontas, Va. follows the railroad and there are many
places to stop and take pictures because they haul coal on
that line constantly.  There is a railyard at Yards, Va.
too.  Pocahontas is my hometown and the exhibition mine and
museum is an excellent place to visit.

After mentioning the WV edition of DeLorme, Bob Loehne writes:

Enjoy yourself chasing the Virginian. I have been up there many times (always
dreading what will be scrapped or otherwise missing anew on each trip). When I
go to an area that is new to me, I take the DeLorme and make blown up copies
of the appropriate DeLorme pages. Then, when I get there, I purchase local
county maps ($2-$3) which often add insight or new local road names.

Tho the main Virginian plant at Princeton is virtually all gone, the area is
still chasable. As you wind toward Elmore and Mullins, you'll drive thru some
great RR venues (eg., Rock, Matoka) and then as you approach Elmore you begin
heading under and seeing other double wide, high trestles — all great for
photos. The Mullins terminal has been hit pretty hard by the scrapper, too,
but you can follow Winding Gulf to the mines or take the north route to
Deepwater. Out of Elmore you can head west toward Gilbert (connects with the
NS Pocy mainline). Just out of Elmore on the right is a huge mine and loadout
which is very shootable.

There's tons more ... don't let anybody tell you the Virginian is dead.

BTW ... Elmore is the freight/stage/class/coal yard and on the north end is
Mullins, the old terminal and station.

Later ... Bob

 From Ross Hunter:


1) I've had good luck with county highway maps from the West Virginia
Department of Transporation-Division of Highways in Charleston. 1900
Kanawha Blvd E, Bldg 5 25305.
Phone 304-558-3505. They can send you an order form. These are invaluable
in finding your way around.

2) Don't miss the town of Bramwell off US 52.

3) There are a handful of motels and places to eat at Princeton (jct of
I-[77] and US 460): Days Inn, Comfort Inn and others. I've stayed in a couple
of them and they are fine. Charleston has all the national chains. Check
the internet. Try Cagney's (Washington Street) restaurant in Charleston.
It's near the Marriott if that's where you stay. Steak and Ale (South Side
Expressway) is good also. You'll also find Red Lobster and Bennigans.

Ross Hunter
Orange, Virginia

M R Patrick adds:

much of the bluefield area (all the way to iaeger) is covered in the
virginia issue.  delorme's cd-rom has outstanding detail of even the
smallest areas.  for example, both of the side streets under cooper bridge
are named, and the town of davy is accurately mapped.

 >There are some places in Bluefield as well. The last convention there was
at the Bluefield Holiday Inn on the US460 bypass.

the econo-travel across the main road from the holiday inn is clean, quiet
and inexpensive.  i have used it the last 8 years or so and never had a
complaint to make.  most all types of fast and semi-fast food are available
on this same road.  both are about 3 minutes from the bluefield yard, which
has good sun angles all day.

charleston has virtually all types of accomodation and restaurants.  not to
mention good railroading.

Judy Riffe writes (uh types?):

Hello, railfans!!  My husband just read your email, and told me "you
need to respond to this email".  Well, here goes!!!
In Beckley, the exhibition mine is "the Beckley Exhibition Mine".  It
will reopen for the season in April.  You will find much area
information at Tamarack, exit 45.  Tamarack is a pleasant experience in
itself.  It features
WVa's "finest" atrists and their crafts.  Crafts are rather expensive,
in my opinion, but demonstrate unique skills.  Crafts everything from
glass blowing, wood, jewelry, quilts, toys, etc.    I've found it very
just walking through and browsing through the various displays and sales
areas.  Also, the Greenbrier has the food bar. They offer some
"specialty " dishes, and although I'm not a coffee person, I've been
told their coffees
"are to die for."  All of the food I've tried is quite tasty, and
reasonably priced.
     There is a train - mining related exhibit at the north side of the
New River Gorge overlook.  I haven't personally seen it, but have been
told it is interesting.
     Some of the most interesting history in the area is along the New
River, in the national park. (Rt. 19 N out of Beckley to Thurmond, check
at Tamarack for the Gorge and park information).   Talking with a
helpful ranger,
can point you in the direction of some old abandoned mine remains, along
the New River -- if you're the outdoor type.  My husband and I like to
explore those areas.
     Also, I don't know your route, but if you are wanting to follow the
railroads, I would suggest as you leave princeton take 19,to 10, to
Mullens and go to Beckley from Mullens.  This will give you some "rail"
time.  Also after crossing
Herndon Mountain while traveling to Mullens, you will see the railroad
trestle.  I always like to look at that as I travel in that area at
least once a month.  Unless you are just interested in going to
Charleston, I believe
that is out of your way.  The trip up 19 (New River Gorge) is really the
quickest and most direct route.
     Also, in Princeton, there is a very small Virginian museum that is
operated by Kenneth Coleman.
     I will enclose our internet and home phone number if you would llike
additional information.  Bob and I live just outside Princeton and my
office is  in Beckley. We would be glad to provide additional
information.  phone
304-589-5570 home or 304-589-6766
Bob and I were in Charlotte last year for the
southeastern regional convention.  Maybe we talked to you!!  Just leave
a message, if we are out.
Happpy railfanning!!!!!!  Judy Riffe   internet 
address   --  leconte at inetone.net
PS from Bob,  Your best rt. to deepwater is through Oak Hill[rt. 61]
and that is still on your rt. up 19.  You follow the track all of the
way.  There is also a small Model RR display
at the Pocahontas Exibition Mine built by the Pocahontas Chapter of the
NHRS [Bluefield club].

And Marty Swartz gets the final word:

 >1. Where can I get topo maps of this area, especially
 >depicting the elevation of that line?

Ron gave a good answer for "where". Here are the "which ones" to go with it.
Following the line south from Deepwater to Mullens, you will go through the
following 1:24,000 scale maps:

Powelton, Beckwith, Oak Hill, Pax, Eccles, Beckley, Lester, McGraws, and

(FYI, the line west to Gilbert includes the following quads: Pineville,
Baileysville, Gilbert, Oceana, and Matheny. The core of the Winding Gulf
branch comprises the Rhodell, Lester (again), Crab Orchard, and Odd quads.
To round out the west end, you'd be remiss to overlook the Clark's Gap
grade: this is covered by Mullens, Rhodell (again), Crumpler, Matoaka,
Athens, Princeton, and Oakvale.)

 >2. Can you recommend any good natural, railroad, or otherwise interesting
 >areas to visit?

That section of the line is interesting in its own right. It's recently
been upgraded with welded rail, in the hopes that coal traffic now
originating on Conrail territory north of the Kanawha River destined for
the northeast USA will will eventually go that way. (That coal is now at
the very southeast tip of the old Kanawha & Michigan line. It currently has
to go through Charleston and on to Columbus OH before turning eastward.
After the merger, I'm told it will go south to Mullens, east to Roanoke,
then north through Cumberland and Harrisburg. Seems  roundabout, but it's
actually several hundred miles shorter.) I hope to have more on this in the
July/August "Virginian Local".

Also, when in Mullens be sure to visit the Virginian Caboose Museum,
located downtown behind the City Hall / Library building. (Big red VGN C-10
caboose, you can't miss it.) The head curator is Jack Feller, who can
usually be reached in person at the Feller Insurance Agency downtown (304)
294-4004, or at home (304) 294-6220. If you fail to reach him, the folks at
the Library or City Hall can help you to gain access to the exhibits inside
the caboose.

 >3. Can you recommend any motels/hotels in the Mullens/Princeton/Bluefield
 >area for one night's lodging?  And in the Charleston area for the next
 >night? This will relieve some concern on my wife's part. A bonus would be
 >any restaurants that you could recommend.

Here's something that answers items 2 *and* 3. If you enjoy something in a
more natural setting, a little off the beaten path, I -highly- recommend
the lodge at Twin Falls state park, which is in the Mullens area. I always
stay there when I am in that part of the world. It's an intimate little
place in a gorgeous setting. There is a 18-hole golf course available. Last
time I was there, upon returning from dinner just at dusk, I encountered a
herd of 20 or so deer grazing through the woods just outside my room, so
close I could hear them chew. Just astounding.

For info, visit http://www.twinfallsresort.com . This resort is part of the
West Virginia state parks system, more info on all of these can be found at
http://www.wvparks.com .

If you ARE going to stay there, and are coming from Mullens, be advised
that the main route to the park (through Pineville) is very circuitous. A
more direct way to go is to take Route 54 from Mullens north to Lester. At
Lester, turn left (west) onto Route 97. Proceed about two miles, passing
under an ex-VGN trestle, until you reach a Freewill Baptist Church on the
right. Just beyond the church will be a log cabin on the left. Turn left
onto the road beside the cabin. This will take you directly onto the park
grounds. (Alongside the golf course.) It's easier than it sounds, and this
is the route that all of the Mullens folk who work at the park use.


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