West Virginia-Virginia Grand Tour

Beckley in West Virginia-The boys worked hard all summer in the busy season, and they passed the time talking about places Troy has been which inspired us to visit one place again. One story caught Steven's interest, it was the coal mines in Beckley West Virginia. Troy and I visited there when we are first married. We camped in a two man tent, took crazy road trips where we saw what we think were the folks who helped make the movie Deliverance, and toured the Beckley Coal Mine, so we took Steven back to the scene of the crime, ditched the tent for a hotel, and headed out for the long Labor Day weekend. Boy had it changed.

It more than doubled in size in the number buildings as well as the museum. We toured old school houses and learned that teachers were fired if they started courting, went out after certain hours, or hung out at the ice cream parlor. Children were punished if they spoke to a child of the opposite gender, climbed trees...Troy would have been expelled. Steven was ready to move into the bachelor house even though it was the size of small shed. We explored the coal miners house with a tour guide who grew up in the coal mining camps. She had stories to tell, and so did the coal mining tour guide.

The museum featured story after story and countless pictures of the soot covered faces that endured such labor day after day. It was amazing the conditions these people worked in long ago, and the inventions they came up with to make things better. 

Thurmond Train Station in West Virginia- Troy, who we affectionately call the cruise director, planned one interesting destination after another for the Labor Day weekend Virgina/West Virgina Extravaganza. Our next stop was the Thurmond Train Station, an abandoned old train town which was the busiest rail road line in its day, now vacant except for an occasional passenger train and a few tourists in the old train depot. Troy enjoyed taking countless photos of the dilapidated old town while Steven and I explored, posed, and climbed to new heights.

Thurmond Train Station was built in 1905 by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, also houses a railroad museum and a visitor center for the New River Gorge National River. Thurmond incorporated in 1903, and became a chief railroad center for the C&O, one of only two shipping points in the New River Gorge, a major coal-producing region in the 20th century. Thurmond produced more freight revenue for C&O than any of the cities of Cincinnati, Richmond or Charleston. In 1910, its heyday, about 76,000 passengers boarded trains in Thurmond and about four million tons of freight were shipped—almost one-fifth of the C&O's revenue for that year.

As always, Troy finds these out of the way places that at times are a little difficult to find. After our GPS lead us a stray down a dead end road with 2 shady black guys who appeared to be doing a drug deal. Troy drove right up to them an asked for directions. Who would have thought that drug dealers gave such good directions...memories of our family vacation.

Nuttallburg Coal Mine in West Virginia was our next stop. It was a mining camp built around 1880 by John Nuttall. The Nuttall family sold the mine and town to Henry Ford in 1920, who then ran the operation under the name Fordson Coal Company, in effort to modernize the plant to supply fuel for his car manufacturing business. The mine was closed around 1950.

We took an up close and self guided tour of the tipple conveyor as the boys climbed into the monstrous structure that overlooked the railroad(which might have been a little illegal). I opted to take a less up close view of the aging structure. It featured a 1,385-foot conveyor that stretched two-thirds down the gorge and carried coal to the rail lines at the bottom. The conveyor was self-powered due to the weight of the coal and moved 400 tons of coal a day. It’s the only example of a rope-and-button conveyor in Appalachia. We also explored remnants of the old store and the coke ovens along the foot path, rumaged through to button conveyor belts.

New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia- We made a pit stop at the visitor center that was pretty amazing as well an interesting perspective of the sheer awesomeness of the bridge from a refurbished bridge below. We managed to keep Troy from the thrill of leaping 90 feet to swim below. Lunatic!

The New River Gorge Bridge is a steel arch bridge 3,030 feet long over the New River Gorge near Fayetteville. With an arch 1,700 feet long, the New River Gorge Bridge was for many years the world's longest steel single-span arch bridge; It is now the third longest.

The roadway of the New River Gorge Bridge is 876 feet above the New River, the fifth highest vehicular bridge in the world, and the third highest in USA. When it opened in 1977, the New River Gorge Bridge was the highest vehicular bridge in the world, a record it kept until the 2004.

Glade Creek Grist Mill in West Virginia- we visited one rainy afternoon this mill was built as a re-creation of one which once ground grain on Glade Creek long before Babcock became a state park. Known as Cooper's Mill, it stood on the present location of the park's administration building parking lot.

A living monument to the over 500 mills which thrived in West Virginia at the turn of the century, the Glade Creek Grist Mill provides freshly ground cornmeal for purchase. It was neat to journey back to the time when grinding grain by a rushing stream was a way of life, and the groaning mill wheel was music to the miller's ear.

Cass Scenic Railroad in West Virginia-we braved a 3 hour journey through hairpin turns and misleading GPS directions to Cass Scenic Railroad in WVA, but it was definitely worth it. It was one of the highlights of our trip.

Nestled in the mountains of West Virginia, Cass Scenic Railroad State Park transported us back in time to relive an era when steam-driven locomotives were an essential part of everyday life. The Cass Scenic Railroad is the same line built in 1901 to haul lumber to the mill in Cass. The locomotives are the same Shay locomotives used in Cass for more than a half-century. Many of the passenger cars are old logging flat-cars that have been refurbished.

We marveled at the steep inclines that the train chugged out with ease billowing sooty smoke and the manufacturing genius in creating such a machine, the historic sites that told the story, and the characters, train fanatics not by trade but by pure of the love of the engines, in the train shop that volunteered from states away to refurbish these trains with a little mechanical know how, a few blue prints from the early 1900s, determination, and experimentation

Luray Caverns & Natural Bridge in Virginia-our last stop was Luray Caverns and the Natural Bridge. The caverns were awesome and beautiful with waterways and amazing creations. It amazing there is still so much too see after it's been toured commercially for so long.

Luray Caverns was discovered on August 13, 1878 by five local men, including Andrew J. Campbell (a local tinsmith), his 13-year-old nephew Quint, and local photographer Benton Stebbins after noticing a limestone outcrop and a nearby sinkhole with cool air spewing from it. Seeking an underground cavern, the men started to dig and, about 4 hours later, a hole was created for Andrew and Quint to squeeze through, slide down a rope and explore by candlelight. Check out Troy's pics. They are truly amazing SEE MORE PICTURES of Luray Caverns

Our final stop was the mamouth Natural Bridge, a natural arch 215 ft high with a span of 90 ft. It was quick tour in heavy rains followed by a pit stop unexpected wax museum of history. It was an awesome trip. Every detail planned by an awesome husband. Thank you, first mate of fun!