Saturday, October 10, 2015

Thurmond, WV, Coal Mining Ghost Town

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Thurmond is located in the heart of the New River. During the heyday of coal mining in the New River Gorge, in the first two decades of the 1900s, Thurmond was a classic boomtown. With the huge amounts of coal brought in from area mines, it had the largest revenue on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. Having many coal barons among its patrons, Thurmond's banks were the richest in the state. Fifteen passenger trains a day came through town-its depot serving as many as 95,000 passengers a year. The town's stores and saloons did a remarkable business, and its hotels and boarding houses were constantly overflowing. With the advent of diesel locomotives, and less coal coming in from local mines, the town began a steady decline.
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With the onset of the Great Depression, several businesses closed, including the National Bank of Thurmond. The town’s economic vitality waned after two large fires wiped out several major businesses.
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By the mid 1930s there were other indications that Thurmond’s heyday was ending. The American public had begun its love affair with the automobile, and good roads made travel by car easy. C & O Railway changed from steam to diesel locomotives in the 1940s. Thurmond had been a steam town, its rail yard and crews geared toward the short service intervals of steam locomotives. The switch to diesels left many of the rail yard structures and jobs obsolete.
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Once the heart of the New River Gorge, Thurmond remains its soul. Memories continue to be made here in the 21st century. The town is still incorporated and hosts an annual reunion for former residents.
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Surprisingly though, the Amtrak station was alive and well in Thurmond- with a nice National Park restoration done to the station- including maps and gifts.
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