New River Train gets ready to roll

August 6, 2013

G. Sam Piatt

PDT Contributor

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society is readying the call of “all aboard” for its four 300-mile rail excursions through the New River Gorge this fall.

The trips, scheduled for consecutive weekends, will run Oct. 19, 20, 25 and 26.

“We’re the only ones east of the Mississippi offering excursions of this length on the CSX line,” said Chris Lockwood, office manager and group sales coordinator in the society’s headquarters on Eighth Avenue in Huntington. “There’s not a lot of these trips anywhere these days.”

The trains pull out of Huntington at about 8:30 a.m. for the 150-mile run to Hinton, W.Va. and arrive back in Huntington about 12 hours later.

Each trip generally carries a sell-out crowd of 800 to 900 riders.

While the locomotive is turned at the roundtable in Hinton, passengers ascend on the mountain town of about 800 population for about a two-hour layover.

“Hinton sponsors an annual street fair – the Railroad Days Festival – to coincide with the train trips. The streets and shops feature arts and crafts exhibits, entertainment, and vendors offering a variety of food,” Lockwood said.

The train is made up of a mixture of vintage railroad cars and Amtrak coaches, including heritage coaches, lounge cars, parlor cars and glass-top dome cars.

Riders enjoy a view through the windows of rafters going down the rapids of the New River on one side and the mountainsides filled with fall colors on the other.

The train passes under the New River Bridge and up along the valley past the remains of old mining towns and coal chutes along some of the steep mountain sides.

Also seen from the coach windows is the deep and wide falls the New River plunges over just downstream from Hinton.

Regular coach tickets are $149 for adults and $99 for children. Deluxe coach tickets are $199, premium $249, dome $279 and business class $450.

Lockwood said dome tickets and business class tickets are already sold out for all four trips, while deluxe tickets for the Oct. 19 trip are also all gone.

Tickets can be purchased by calling the society’s office at 866-639-7487.

G. Sam Piatt is a freelance photo journalist and former news reporter for the Portsmouth Daily Times. He can be reached at 606-932-3619 or gsamwrier@windstream.net.