I might have said before that I love trains and the railroad... At least I think I have a time or two...
I also love to explore old, out of service and abandoned rights-of-way like the one pictured above. There are several thousand miles of old right-of-way in the continental US alone just begging to be explored. You never know what you're going to find or see along the old roadbed.
It's also like taking a trip back in time, at least it is for me. Walking along the old rotted crossties and rusted steel rails sometimes I can hear the whistle of an old Baldwin locomotive chugging along with it's load behind, smell the smoke and cinders... Imagine the steam belching from it's cylinders and it works it's way to it's destination...
A few weeks ago I got to do that again. The Friday before last the weather here in West Virginia was almost balmy and that Friday it reached up into the upper 60's for a while so I decided to take a look at some rails near me. Norfolk & Southern railroad had 'retired' a spur line that runs from Bluefield to Matoaka back in 1985. The line served several coal mines that had closed, and no longer needing that line, N&S decided to put the line out of service instead of just abandoning it. The tracks, crossing and block signals are all still in place yet overgrown with vegetation, just waiting to feel the steel wheels of the locomotive pulling their loads of coal again.
I decided to start at Matoaka and work my way south along the tracks and I found myself transported again to a different time. I walked several miles of track and saw some very interesting things... A block signal completely overgrown with kudzu, an old manual hand car off in the weeds... I ended my trek at the foot of what's claimed to be the highest railroad trestle east of the Mississippi river. I stood at the footers of the bridge and drank in the sight. A hawk screeched and farewell as I turned and walked back to my truck, knowing somehow I'd be back someday. Maybe on foot, maybe at the controls of a locomotive.
My only regret from that day is I forgot my camera at home so my souvenirs of that day are my memories and a few small lumps of coal picked out of the ballast... When the weather turns warmer in the spring I plan on returning with my camera to get some pictures, so you can all see how beautiful this area is.
Go here for more info on exploring abandoned rights-of-way:
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden