Cradled by the green-carpeted, wave-resembling ridges forming the Tygart Valley, Elkins, positioned in the West Virginia Highlands, represents down-home America. From the historic, crimson brick railroad depot, two barely visible, gravel-imbedded tracks extend out of town, their course indicated by the girder-resembling bridge in advance, and to the ideal, of them.
Proudly and powerfully led by the black Western Maryland range 82 and darkish-blue Baltimore and Ohio range 6641 diesel engines, the six-motor vehicle complement comprising the late-May possibly New Tygart Flyer stood poised atop the slender rails subsequent to the 1908 depot, the locomotives humming with deep, throaty, journey-anticipatory vibration on the incredibly hot, energy blue early morning. The travellers, most of whom consisted of school bus-deposited teams, progressively crowded the crimson-brick, track-level platform as the sun and temperature inched higher. The steel Pullman coaches, internally air conditioned, enticed the throng within throughout the 1045 boarding, the travellers recollecting into scaled-down teams as they gravitated toward their assigned automobiles.
Even though the railroad’s actual physical journey experienced been scheduled to depart at 1100, its historic just one experienced started additional than a century in the past, in 1880, and the “Western Maryland” and “Baltimore and Ohio” railroads, the names exhibited by the present engines, experienced played crucial roles in it.
Principally hauling freight and coal, together with restricted passenger company, the Western Maryland Railway by itself, whose line entailed a six-calendar year development period of time beginning in 1906, experienced served the three states of Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, with two main track subdivisions: the Connellsville Subdivision, generally partaking in easterly and westerly freight site visitors flows, linked Cumberland, Maryland, with Connellsville, Pennsylvania, while the Thomas Subdivision, also originating in Cumberland, threaded its way via densely-forested, coal- and timber-prosperous West Virginia to Elkins.
The latter subdivision, having said that, experienced truly started in 1880 when the West Virginia Central and Pittsburgh Railway experienced contemplated laying narrow-gauge track, but pretty much right away elected to make use of the additional extensively used conventional gauge, for the intent of delivering obtain to the Allegheny Highlands’ plentiful, hitherto untapped sources, by itself sparking the establishment of many towns, inclusive of Davis, Thomas, Parsons, and Elkins.
The Coal and Iron Railway, proven in 1899 to aid logging operations, originated in Elkins, tedious via the Cheat Mountain Tunnel and subsequent the Shavers Fork of the Cheat River and the West Fork of the Greenbrier River into Durbin, where it linked with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad’s Greenbrier Division. Even though development experienced been concluded in 1903, the Western Maryland’s acquisition of the West Virginia Central and Pittsburgh only two several years later resulted in the Coal and Iron Railway’s redesignation as the “Durbin Subdivision.”
Elkins, positioned at the mouth of the Foremost Creek and Tygart Valley rivers, was named right after investor and Senator Stephen B. Elkins, who, together with Senator Henry Gassaway Davis, experienced been instrumental in both the railroad’s and the town’s progress. Originating to provide the workforce wanted to sustain and operate the line, the expanding town experienced after showcased routine maintenance shops and “Wild Mary’s” freight property, the staging place and western terminus of the numerous coal operations which experienced fanned out from the Elkins place, supported by a 900-powerful staff.
Threshold to some of the world’s richest timber and pure sources, and the transportation hub of the Appalachian Mountains, it became home of the Davis and Elkins University and Davis’s Graceland Inn summer months residence, where invited visitors would escape the Washington heat and humidity in buy to delight in its higher-elevation, cooler-local weather location. Elkins became the Western Maryland Railway’s southwestern hub, its Thomas Subdivision connecting with its principal line at Maryland Junction, south of Cumberland.
Even though its company experienced been constantly ranked as quick, effective, and of considerable top quality, it drastically competed with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, but was fraught with many obstacles, which include a proliferation of high-priced, superior-routine maintenance tunnels and bridges use of a one, as opposed to the B & O’s double, principal line track and company to only two main cities—namely, Baltimore and Cumberland.
The Baltimore and Ohio, acquiring already proven an affiliation with the Chesapeake and Ohio in 1962, petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to attain command of the Western Maryland two several years later, which it granted, but the line experienced continued to operate independently right up until 1972, at which time all three rail providers were merged into the Chessie Program.
Additional amalgamated with the Seaboard Coast Line and The Relatives Line 10 several years later, it briefly operated the Seaboard Program, but was remorphed into the CSX Company, whose railroad division was selected “CSX Transportation,” in 1987.
The town of Elkins, whose progress experienced peaked in 1920, commenced a source depletion-sparked decrease and progressive rail company reduction right up until the tracks witnessed their very last operation in 1959, thereafter lying barren and unused for some 4 a long time.
In 1997, the Interstate Commerce Commission granted CSX Transportation authorization to abandon the track it owned, but no longer used for coal carriage, below Elkins, which was subdivided into the nonetheless-active Elkins-Tygart Junction portion and the inactive Elkins-Bergoo area, supplied that the West Virginia Condition Rail Authority could obtain both for a $six million charge.
The line, encompassing some one hundred forty miles of Elkins Division track and managed by the West Virginia Central Railroad, is now operated by the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad, a short-line company owned by John and Kathy Smith. Originating company on May possibly 16, 1998 throughout the annual Cass Scenic Railroad railfan weekend, it to begin with operated from Durbin right up until the Randolph County Progress Authority reconstructed the aged Western Maryland bridge, allowing for it to re-set up rail obtain to the Elkins prepare depot deserted by CSX in 1992, after the location of its 22-acre, roundhouse-equipped property.
The restored depot, internet site of the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad’s headquarters, is the departure stage for three of its 4 tour trains—the “New Tygart Flyer,” the “Cheat Mountain Salamander,” and the “Mountain Convey Meal Teach”—while the “Durbin Rocket” proceeds to depart from the town of Durbin by itself.
The Elkins depot after yet again serves as a railroad departure stage and the town is after yet again the browsing, dining, hotel, and transportation hub of the east central Appalachian Mountains—but now for travelers.
A piercing whistle warned of the New Tygart Flyer’s imminent departure on that late-May possibly day.
Nudged by the two diesel engines in pusher-manner, the prepare inched rearward as the motor vehicle couplings accordioned into just about every other. Plying the tracks of the previous Cheat Subdivision, which gently curved to the ideal, it trundled more than the rust-coloured, girder-resembling bridge and the green reflective floor of the river, the specific buildings of Elkin’s historic district merging into motion, and paralleled many stationary coal automobiles right up until it briefly suspended its personal vacation.
Threading to the ideal on the switchback, and now pulled by its locomotives, the New Tygart Flyer departed the Elkin’s property boundaries at milepost thirty., plunging via dense vegetation, as if the tracks supplied a parting route via it.
Negotiating the horseshoe-shaped Isner Loop two miles later, the snaking chain commenced its 2.8-p.c graded ascent up Cheat Mountain.
Seemingly brushing the slanted grime and shale rock faces, it subsequent the arching, climbing rails, cradled by a deep ravine.
Achieving the summit at the Cheat Mountain Tunnel, the twin-locomotive, six-motor vehicle chain plunged into the 1,717-foot-prolonged, hand-carved, s-curved passage underneath the mountain’s ridge, the light-weight-outlined portal representing its entrance progressively reducing in dimension right up until it flicked out guiding the very last motor vehicle, and the forest-green sights via the side home windows, as if shades experienced all of a sudden been pulled more than them, reworked into blackness. The narrow rock tunnel supplied as significantly clearance as a hand in a glove.
Immediately after minimizing its momentum to a snail’s speed, the prepare reinitiated established momentum. The levels of phase-resembling shale rock showcased earth’s evolutionary, millennia-carved artistry, expressed in geological design and style.
Redescending into the Cheat River Valley at a two-p.c graded price, it achieved the mountain’s foundation at the tiny neighborhood of Bowden. A short, out-of-company track siding passed by at milepost 38.four.
The automobiles lurched and swayed as they snaked guiding and mimicked the Western Maryland and Baltimore and Ohio locomotives, their whistles cracking open up the light, pre-summer months early morning with each individual street-crossing traverse, momentarily intercepting, and then paralleling, the Shavers Fork of the Cheat River.
Situated in the japanese Allegheny Mountains, the 88.5-mile-prolonged river by itself, flowing via Monongahela Nationwide Forest and principally draining a 214-sq.-mile basin in rural and forested locations, is part of the mighty Mississippi by implies of the Cheat, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers. Increasing in north-central Pocahontas County at Thorny Flat, by itself located on four,848-foot Cheat Mountain, it flows via the deserted logging town of Spruce, location of its headwaters, ahead of relocating in a north-northeasterly course via Randolph and Tucker Counties. Its valley is formed by Cheat Mountain in the west and Shavers Mountain in the east. Becoming a member of Black Fork at Parsons, the Shavers Fork varieties the Cheat River at a 1,621-foot elevation.
The river’s widespread, white-capped, mini-rapids, indicating their negotiation of the rocks and pebbles numbering in the hundreds of thousands encountered in their paths, represented obstacles the water’s forces painstakingly wore down into smooth, pretty much polished brown opals. Would that power ever be successful in minimizing them to nonexistence? Which entity, or state, could then be viewed as the conqueror—the liquid or the reliable?
The 1922-period, deluxe Pullman Palace parlor motor vehicle in which I rode, the most high-class of the train’s coaches, showcased a wood bar and pantry specific tables and black vinyl chairs wood sidewall paneling laced window curtains ceiling lovers and crimson, floral-patterned carpeting.
A buffet lunch was served in the conventional automobiles, but the parlor motor vehicle presented additional formal, menu and desk company, and bundled a turkey, lettuce, and tomato croissant a tri-shade pasta salad potato chips apple pie a la manner and iced tea. Catering experienced been supplied by the Railyard Restaurant positioned in the historic Elkins Railyard, but entrees were manufactured on board.
Cheat Mountain, draped in a number of shades of green, majestically rose in entrance of the locomotives. Bemis, a camping neighborhood of some 200, was represented by a scatter of farmhouses and mobile households off the left side.
The track, sandwiched between Glady Fork on the left and Cheat Mountain on the ideal, re-elevated and passed more than Large Bridge, underneath which the glistening water appeared a motionless, velvet sheen floor. Curving more than and between sand-coloured boulders, the river descended underneath the trestle in an inverted s-sample.
The screeching, snaking chain of steel automobiles, imitating their life-delivering, parental engines, somehow appeared infinitesimal amidst the mountains, progressing like a thread via the eye of a needle, more than a route veritably swallowed by the tree-carpeted peaks towering earlier mentioned them.
Decelerating to a crawl at 1230 and paralleling the four,200-foot track siding at milepost forty two.six, the New Tygart Flyer arrested its motion, the two diesel engines disconnecting from the parlor motor vehicle and rounding the prepare to reattach on their own as pushers.
The parlor motor vehicle by itself, no longer obstructed by the locomotives, now became the lead coach, negotiating the superior street mattress whose gravel steeply angled downward.
A closing screech, replaced by a thunderous roar only character could ironically have manufactured, indicated arrival at milepost fifty.six and the Large Falls of Cheat, the New Tygart Flyer’s terminus, ahead of it would later recommence its return journey.
Pouring, like a Herculean-sized faucet of white, unharnassed vitality, the 18-foot-superior, 150-foot-huge, horseshoe-shaped waterfall streamed more than the flat phase of rock to the accumulating pool below it and thence into the Shavers Fork of the Cheat River.
The protected, wood platform, which was barely prolonged ample to extend between a couple seat rows of a one coach, somehow represented a backlink with humanity, while the track curving at 33 degrees toward the green confines of the isolating forest served as the route to that backlink. The air carried an inexhaustible spray of scented vegetation and the seem waves of the now-faint dashing water. The gray parlor motor vehicle, now viewed as the very last in the chain, was visible to the left and represented the implies by which that humanity backlink was carried, a lifeline solid after for each day throughout the summer months and only in one’s creativeness throughout the winter season.
The similarities were numerous at this remote, isolated, stop-of-the-globe location. The track formed a route to it. The river formed a route to it. The track carried life. The river carried life. The track paralleled and reflected the river, as if there were two parallel, but quite shut, worlds of different attributes and varieties.
The river continued its journey. And, with a brief lurch as the motor vehicle couplings tightened, so, too, did the prepare. Only just one location could represent both their destinations—their origins…