Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A small track-trek

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

10 comments:

Courtney said...

Sounds peaceful...

cantellya said...

I love your railroad stories... They really take one's mind away to the place you're talking about...

honkeie2 said...

I love old abandoned tracks and buildings. It is like history coming to life.

Kev said...

Oh, you wouldn't like the abandoned building out in our rail yard, honkeie ... It's got wall-to-wall guano carpeting and is home to the nastiest cats this side of the Mississippi.

Okie said...

The old tracks lead him
To where we do not yet know
But it will be good

Ranger Tom said...

Courtney: It was. Walking railroad tracks has always been extremely peaceful to me...

Cant: Thanks, I try to convey what I'm thinking coherently

Honkeie: Same here

Kev: 30th street railyard isn't a place I'd want to walk around... The warfs on north Deleware avenue are even worse... Rats the size of ponies with attitudes to match.

okie: Like the haiku... Getting on a kick there?

tsduff said...

Tom, have been trying to think of a comment since you posted this - I love the rail pics. My Icelander has the heart of a tumbleweed, and a great stirring in his heart for trains. He has passed this on to me, and now it's a facination for me. I love the promise of adventure given by a mere glance at those railroad tracks. Great post.

Lisa said...

What a cool idea. I've done that before a bit too. (Took the jogging stroller so my little guy could sit and watch new sites go by. We didn't get as far as I wanted.

In the area I moved from a few months ago, they are converting the old tracks into some new walking paths. I can't wait to see them.

Ranger Tom said...

tsduff: I feel the same way, always have.

Lisa: It's called "Rails to Trails"... A good idea, but to tell you the truth I'd rather the rails stay there...

Steve said...

enjoyed that, thanks