Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tony Rice & Norman Blake: New River Train

In case you were wondering where I’ve been, I took a little time off for the Labor Day holiday. Apparently my notice that I was taking a vacation did not post; however, that is beside the point and I am back in the watershed of the New River and thought I would honor my return a traditional song that celebrates this region.

Tony Rice and Norman Blake perform a duet on an old song that celebrates the Chesapeake and Ohio run from Clifton Forge, VA to Huntington, WV – the New River Train. While only a portion of the original run travels the New River in West Virginia, it also follows the Greenbrier River, Kanawha River, the ancient Teays River Valley, and the Guyandotte River into Huntington, WV. The ride through the New River Gorge is simply breathtaking – especially in the fall.

Amtrack normally does a fall run of the New River Train that starts at Huntington and terminates at Hinton. Travelers can board at Huntington, St. Albans, or Montgomery and will have the opportunity to travel the entire length of the Gorge. Typically, National Park Service personnel will provide insight to the various aspects of the history, geology, flora, and fauna of the New River Gorge.

The trip takes you through the “dries” where the water of the New River has been diverted from the Hawk’s Nest Dam through an underground tunnel to a hydroelectric plant at Gauley Bridge near where the New and Gauley Rivers join to become the Kanawha.

The tour guides will recount the perilous journey of Mary Draper Ingles who escaped from her Shawnee captors in the 1750s and returned home to Draper’s Meadows, Virginia within forty days of her escape. She traversed nearly 600 miles traveling the banks of the Ohio, Kanawha, and New Rivers to make her way home.

Other spots of interest in the Gorge include the New River Gorge Bridge (the world's third longest steel arch span), various abandoned collieries, and makeshift towns such as Thurmond, WV which reportedly had the longest running poker game in history. It is a trip of great historical significance and is somewhat different than the trip I took in 1984 when Amtrack instituted the service.

At that time, the run went from Montgomery, WV and traveled to White Sulphur Springs to the Historic Greenbrier Resort which was still in control of the CSX. It is now in private hands. That trip took you through the Big Bend Tunnel – the sister to the retired Great Bend Tunnel of John Henry fame. It was an interesting trip. If you ever get a chance, take a ride on the “New River Train.”

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