North of Beckley, WV. Follow US 19 past the
shopping center. Watch for a road sign for Thurmond and
Glen Jean. Heading north, you will turn right at a
flashing yellow light. The road to Thurmond is well
signed, but you will have to make several more turns, and travel
several miles on a one-lane paved road (very curvy). Watch
for oncoming traffic, and be prepared to quickly pull onto the
National Park Service map will help orient you. It
also provides a guide to the hiking and mountain biking trails
in the area.
According to the 2000 census, Thurmond has 7
Back in Thurmond's heyday, 500 people lived here,
and the rail lines carried out more than 97 thousand passengers
a year, along with 3.5 million tons of freight (most of which
A 2004 article in the Huntington, WV Herald Dispatch has
Thurmond's downtown buildings were used as a
backdrop in the 1987 movie
Matewan, starring James Earl Jones. Matewan
tells the story of the outbreaks of violence in West Virginia's
coal mining communities during the early 1920's.
West Virginia's Rails
If you want to experience the isolation of
life deep inside the Appalachians, just as it was in the early 20th
century, there's probably no better place than Thurmond. This
railroad ghost town is still easier to access by rail than by paved
road. You'll need to leave the four-lane freeways behind, and wind
for miles down a single lane†, in order to reach this long-forgotten
You arrive in Thurmond by crossing the New
River over a narrow bridge that doubles as a railroad bridge. It
may appear old and rickety, but it's strong enough to get you to the
other side. Just hold your breath.
At the end of the bridge is an old railroad
station that now serves as a visitor's center. Depending on the
season, you may find a park ranger inside (this section of the New River
is managed by the National Park Service). The entire area has been
restored and is maintained quite well by the government.
A short walk down from the station, you'll
find Thurmond's old downtown, built right along the railroad tracks.
Several old buildings, including a bank with an impressive facade, make
up the old downtown.
On a normal day, all of these buildings are
locked. But during my visit, park rangers had been working inside,
and a couple of doors were left open. I took advantage of the
opportunity and slipped inside for a moment.
While the buildings have been restored on
the outside, not much has been done inside. For the most part, the
buildings were being used for storage.
Across the tracks you'll find a photogenic
old railroad building, with pulleys still attached to the side. If
you feel adventurous, and aren't too concerned for your own safety, you
could easily climb up inside this structure.
(More Info Below)
There are plenty of opportunities for hiking and mountain biking beyond
Thurmond's main street. This
National Park Service map
may help you plan an adventure.
you wind your way back to civilization, watch for a wide spot at the
side of the one-lane† road. You can't see it from the pavement, but
if you take just a few steps from the road, you'll find a small
waterfall. This relaxing spot is worthy of a short break.
Next Stop: Talcott, WV
<< Go Back
Return to West Virginia Map
Return to USA Map
WV's Rails > Thurmond
<< Previous |
Share your thoughts!
In order to better manage your comments,
TakeMyTrip now uses Facebook to allow you to leave comments
for other visitors to this page, and your friends.
Please use the form above (you might need to log into your Facebook account first). If you have a message
specifically meant for the website creator, send an email to
forget to LIKE TakeMyTrip.com's Facebook page!
Fred Wolfe writes:
"The road down to Thurmond is NOT one lane...and, for a mountain
road it's not particularly winding. It's wide, smooth and well
I recalled it being one
lane, but I could be wrong. Unless you're experienced on mountain
roads, I think most people will still find it to be somewhat winding and
challenging, but still well worth the challenge. --Daniel
In reference to the building with the
pulleys on the side, Gene Moser writes: "This structure is
the remains of a concrete coaling tower used to replenish the
coal bunker of the steam locomotives that went through
Thurmond. It was probably built in the 1920s and contained,
when full, between 200 and 300 tons of coal."
Patty Shepley writes: My
husband and I ventured down the 6 miles of winding road to see
what Thurmond was all about and must say it was well worth it! A
refreshing alternative to the commercialization of American
history. Too bad the old hotel isn't still there!
Nancy Miller writes: I went for a long
walk down the tracks at Thurmand around 1970, befor the
advertising. Facing the town, i walked to the left a good
distance down the tracks with my father. There was an elderly
black woman living in an old stone house in bad condition (
broken windows etc) She hid behind what was once a window and
would not speak. She had a few clothes hanging outside and a pig
in the yard. I asked about her once we got to a store and was
told that when the miners all left she stayed in this old house
all alone, walking out once a month to get her gro. and mail. I
have never forgot seeing this elderly thin woman with a bandana
tied around her head living so far from anyone all alone. If
anyone remembers her i am sure it would be very interesting to
know her story. Please respond with a reply.
Debra Nelson writes: In response to
Nancy Miller: My father and grandparents lived in Thurmond and I
would visit mostly in the 60's and 70's. I know a little about
this woman, a very interesting figure, I agree. Her name was Mel
Seenee (spelling is wrong, I'm sure, but pronounced C-Knee.) She
lived in Fire Creek, down the tracks from Thurmond. She would
come into town once in awhile with a long pole (I was told to
kill snakes) and some dogs. My grandmother always left food for
her on her back porch. They didn't talk, just had an
understanding. Mel would come and get the food and go on her
way. I would see her sometimes, but, as you say, would never
speak. This is all I know of her.
John Dominic writes: To Nancy Miller...
I lived in Charleston in the early 1970's and read about that
old woman who lived in a ramshackle house next to the tracks. My
friends and I walked those tracks and we found that old brick
house. The most of the roof fell in to the first floor, most of
the windows had shattered, and there was a fire inside because
we could see the smoke from the chimney. It was cold that day.
We couldn't see her, so we continued walking away from town.
Coming back we did see her. She was hanging olds rags on a
clothesline, and her wore old tattered clothes. We said hello,
but the only thing she was "I know why you are here." Most of
the people in Thurmond had rarely seen her, if at all, and the
railroad employees came by to stop and give her food and hand
outs. To this day, I can still see her face and hear her