A TOUR AROUND THURMOND, WV

Thurmond wasn't a coal camp. It was a coal town, though. It was a small, incorporated commercial center in the New River Gorge serving the surrounding coal mining towns. Thurmond was also a railroading center. The mainline of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad ran through the town, and the railroad maintained a busy rail yard, as well as a locomotive maintenance shop that wasn't closed until 1985.

Thurmond was a busy town, with coal trains being assembled from mines up and down the New River. Also, the junction of the C&O main line and the Loup Creek branch of the railroad was in Thurmond. From the 1910s to the 1980s coal gushed out of this rail branch from mines at Oswald, Tamroy, Price Hill, Kilsyth, Sugar Creek, Turkey Knob, Derryhale, Sun, Glen Jean, Harvey, Prudence, Red Star, Newlyn, Minden, Wingrove, Scarbro, Whipple, Carlisle, Lochgelly, Summerlee, Garden Ground, and the Siltex Mine at Mt. Hope. After the Siltex Mine closed in the 1980s the Loup Creek line became derilict, and trees grew up between the rails. In the 1990s the railroad up Loup Creek was rehabilitated to serve the new Georgia Pacific plant, as well as the occasional car to Austin Powder at Packs Branch. But in 2006 coal trains began rolling down Loup Creek into Thurmond for the first time in years when a new loadout was constructed near Pax, WV. R.J. Corman Railroad, LLC is the new operator of the branch line that was once a main source of prosperity for Thurmond, which currently has a population of 7 (yes, seven) and is more or less administered by the National Park Service.


Visitors enter Thurmond by coming across the single lane for automobiles on this bridge across the New River.


The first thing a person sees after crossing the bridge over the New River and entering Thurmond is the old C&O depot. This is how it looked in 1988, before the Park Service restored. It was featured on NBC's "Fleecing of America", but I believe the park service actually needed a visitors center here, and the public seems to enjoy it. (Public Domain photo by Jet Lowe, Historic American Engineering Record [HAER])


And this is how the depot looks now that it has been restored. The Park Service visitor's center is inside.


CSX coal trains (loaded and empty) still rumble past the depot every day.


In this photo from October 2000 a special passenger train from the Greenbrier resort stops at the Thurmond depot.


This large tower remains where the rail yard was once located.


Looking past the now defunct Thurmond post office toward the remains of the commercial district of Thurmond


In front of the Thurmond post office at twilight


This photo could be titled "Things that are no longer at Thurmond." The two water tanks, a reminder of the steam locomotive era, have been removed. The water column, the spout on the right, was another vestige of steam railroading. It, too, has been removed. The post office is in the center background, and it is still in existence. Note that the railroad kept a thin layer of ballast down as a walking surface in the yard. It is a mudhole now. (Public Domain photo by Jet Lowe, Historic American Engineering Record [HAER])


A clearer view of the water tanks that have unfortunately been removed from Thurmond (Public Domain photo by Jet Lowe, Historic American Engineering Record [HAER])


As this view of the remnants of the commercial district of Thurmond shows, during warm, sunny days many tourists can be found walking around Thurmond.


This is probably the best preserved storefront in Thurmond.


One can almost feel the hot, sticky humidity and hear the insects buzzing around in this summer photograph taken in "Downtown" Thurmond.


The tourists are mostly gone in the middle of winter, and then Thurmond feels more like the ghost town that it is rather than a "tourist trap."


This water pump station has survived. The sign reads, "City Water - Thurmond - No Loafing."


Pass the commercial district and the coaling tower(center) that used to serve the steam locomotives and you will move into the north end of the town.


Looking back from the north side of Thurmond to the heart of the town.


Some of the residential structures, of which none are inhabited, in the north end of Thurmond. In the foreground are various elements of the railroad system from past and present.


Yet another picture of the north end of Thurmond.


This large home along the railroad in Thurmond just might be the nicest house in the entire town, even if it has no inhabitants.


At the north end of town the road veers up the mountain to the seldom photographed and primarily residential upper level of the town. Here is a view of the coaling tower from the upper level. The repair shop and rail sidings would have filled the area around the tower 25 years ago.


A few of the homes on the upper level of Thurmond.


This home is practically built into the mountainside, and to have any kind of yard at all means terracing with retaining walls.


These houses, with cliffs for backyards, are still called home by Thurmond's few remaining residents.


Garages and homes on the upper level of Thurmond.


A church still exists on the upper level of town, but it is unclear whether services are still being held or not.


Storage sheds for the residents of Thurmond. This is where the road on the upper level of town starts to descend back down the mountain, where travelers will end up where they started.


This is the view visitors to Thurmond will have as they exit the town.


David writes, "I am a former resident of thurmond WV. I stumbled on to your site one day and it was like a trip back in time. I lived in Thurmond until I was 18 years old. The red house with the front porch torn off is my old home. It now belongs to the dragons. I remeber the night the old round house burnt down. At the time it didn't seem like much, but now I know that a valuable piece of history is gone. My grandfafther was the postmaster of Thurmond for many years. I have only been back there few times since moving out of state. The last time we visited I took some pictures ... one of the pictures is of the face on the mountain. It is on the opposite side of the river from tThurmond. My family told me that when the coal companies were blasting there was a rock slide and what looks like a face appeared. They also said that president mckinnley was assinated at the same time and that it resembles him."


SOUTHERN WEST VIRGINIA COALFIELDS


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