THURMOND, WV (WOAY) – Back in the day, 15 passenger trains came through this old town, bringing in droves of several thousands of visitors.
A classic boomtown, its stores, saloons, and hotels overflowed with people. But the town’s prize asset was, of course, coal.
During the first two decades of the 1900s, it drove the economy, fueling the largest revenue on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway and keeping the town prosperous.
This little town, located along the New River and tucked away deep within the hills of Fayette County, is called Thurmond, and it’s where we are heading on this week’s One Tank Trip.
“I think it’s hard to put Thurmond in context today versus what it was then,” says a park ranger for the New River Gorge National Park Service, Leah Perkowski-Sisk. “This was the interstate system for the United States, trains played such an important role in moving people as well as goods and this was the hub for both.”
Thurmond now sits quiet and still, untouched by modern society.
The onset of diesel locomotives and less coal production in the local mines gradually took the town on a steady decline, a historic and remarkably preserved remnant being the end result.
Hundreds to even thousands of visitors still find their way to Thurmond every year with the attraction of the New River Gorge National River keeping it afloat. Along with that, the National Park Service protects the historical landmark and has created a presence there that helps to educate and inform visitors on how the town once functioned.
“Thurmond tells a larger story than just small-town West Virginia, it really tells the story of the United States,” she says. “From the early beginnings with train transportation and small towns to today, and our hopes to help tell those stories.”
The park service uses the Thurmond Depot as a visitor center during the summer.
It’s open from Memorial Day to Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. They offer a self-guided walking tour and lots of information about the town, but the town itself is open to visitors year-round.