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The Durbin Rocket operates out of Durbin, WV, from May to October. During July and August, there are two daily services Thurs-Sun, one leaving at 10.00am and one at 2.30pm. The rides are very popular, particularly on weekends and during Fall runs.
The train is hauled by Moore Keppel 3, one of only three surviving Climax geared locomotives still operating in the world today. The five and a half mile Durbin Railroad, on which the Rocket runs, is owned by the West Virginia State Rail Authority and operated by the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad under contract.
The D&GVR was incorporated in 1996 to bring rail excursions back to Durbin and, since then, has become one of the great American heritage railroad success stories. As well as the Rocket, the D&GVR runs other passenger and freight services in West Virginia, including the West Virginia Central Railroad and Shenandoah Valley Railroad. It operates three excursion trains out of the railroad's base in Elkins.Our Visit
We drove through Durbin to get a feel for this place then started taking pictures of railroad equipment.
The rear of our train. The train consisted of Cass Heisler3tr 6, Open Air Car DGVR 204, DGVR 710 US Postal Car, DGVR 203 Covered Open Air Car and a Durbin and Greenbrier Railroad caboose. Our conductor and his handle was known to Chris from Trainorders and his handle is Appalachianrails. Chris asked if we could ride with him on the back platform on the caboose and he said yes!
This is a replica train station building. After the city tore down their original train station by mistake, it was then built.Brief History of the Virginian Railway
Known as the "Richest Little Railroad in the World," the Virginian Railway was formed in 1907 through the marriage of the Deepwater Railway in West Virginia and the Tidewater Railway in Virginia.
Financed by Henry H. Rogers, one of the wealthiest men in the world, the Virginian proved itself as a modern well engineered railroad that could operate more efficiently than its larger competitors.
The Virginian Railway extended from Sewells Point, on Hampton Roads, Norfolk, Virginia, to Deepwater, West Virginia, a distance of 443 miles. It existed from 1909 until 1959, when it wasbought out by Norfolk and Western.Deepwater
Directness of route was the primary goal of the engineers who planned the path of the Virginian. To achieve this objective, the mountainous terrain had to be overcome by the construction of a series of tunnels, bridges, and cuts. More attention was paid to grades and alignment than had ever been done in the building of a railroad. Cost was of no consideration. "Nothing is too good for my railroad," said the founder, Henry Huttleston Rogers.
Plans were for this railroad to be a scientifically constructed and equipped railroad. Revolutionary concepts and ideas were put into action. Unlike the practice of the more established rail systems in routing their lines expressly to reach populated locations, with passenger traffic the primary goal of their service; constructing them a piece at a time as money was available, the Virginian was built with the resources of one man - H.H. Rogers- who planned his railroad to utilize the fastest route for coal hauling. The building of the Virginian became the model for railway improvements for some of the oldest and largest systems in the country.Owners-on-Train
The work of building the Virginian Railway began in West Virginia in the name of the Deepwater Railway Company. Rogers named William N. Page president of the newly formed organization. When Rogers took a hand in directing the affairs of the Deepwater, his first act was to have its charter amended to extend to the West Virginia boundary line. The company's charter was revised in September, 1902. In approximately a year and five months, the Tidewater Railway was chartered in the state of Virginia with its boundary extended to the line of the two Virginias that would connect the two Railways.
W. N. Page became president of both railways. Rogers' ownership of the two projects did not become known until 1907 when the Virginian Railway was incorporated.
Sixty four percent of the excavation in West Virginia consisted of solid rock. The majority of the excavation was done by hand labor, mules and carts.
Upwards of 50 steam shovels, 1,200 dump cars, and 124 locomotives were used in the excavation of the cuts and tunnels. At the height of the construction more than 10,000 laborers were employed.
At the time the Virginian began construction, there was not a single mine development on the main line. By 1933, 91 mines were developed by the Virginian. It shared in the development of 47 mines on connecting lines which it acquired or built for a total of 138 working mines.Our visit
We arrived right before 4:00 PM and started taking pictures
of the building and other things around here.
At the top of the hill between Iager and Welch we found this caboose. We headed to Kimball where we heard a train whistle from both ways down the tracks. The eastbound train rumbled louder and louder and then came into view
The historic "Coal Heritage Trail" building that is now the Elkhorn Inn was built by Empire Coal & Coke Company as their "Miner's Clubhouse" in 1922. It was designed by the renowned architect Alex B. Mahood. Our brick and concrete building replaced two wooden buildings which had burned down, and it survived the devastating floods of 2001 and 2002 which destroyed 30 houses next to the Inn and killed 8 people. Dan and Elisse bought and saved the building from demolition in 2002, Dan restored it, and we opened our new home as the Elkhorn Inn in May of 2003. Over the years the building changed hands many times and was used for a variety of purposes; from many of our guests who lived or worked in this building throughout its history, we have learned that in the 1940s it was a rooming house for coal miner's families, it was privately owned in the 1950s, in 1957 it was the office and residence of mining company supervisor and his family, and was later a State Police barracks. In the 1960s-1970s it was the offices of Hawley Coal, in 1988 it was Data Services, Inc., and in the 1990s it was briefly owned by Billie Cherry.
Restoring, living in, and maintaining this "Coal Heritage Trail" building is a wonderful, continuing adventure! HGTV's two programs on us, "Building Character" & "ReZONED", highlighted some of the interesting architectural details Dan "uncovered" in the process of restoring this building, including the original tile floor in the two-tub bathroom, transom windows on guest room doors, the original hemlock banister, & pay-window where the miners went to get their pay. Built to withstand fire, the only wood in the building is the trim- all 66 original 1922 windows! In 2008, Dan Clark was awarded the Coal Heritage Trail Preservation Award for his restoration of the Elkhorn Inn, which is the only surviving historic building in our area. The "Restoration of the Elkhorn Inn" page has "before and after" photos of our restoration of the building.
The Inn's "Museum Room" has a growing collection of items from this building's past and our area's illustrious history in railroading and coal mining, including coal core samples, mine maps, scrip, photos, post cards, books, "Pocahontas" railroad china and menus, artwork, and mining memorabilia. West Virginia authors Nick Christodoulou, Raymond Daugherty, Homer Hicklam, and others have given us their books & memoirs on growing up in this area, which we have for our guests to read.Our stay
We arrived and were greeted by
the proprietress (Elisse) and then showed our room, Cats and
Dogs, with twin beds and the near by balcony with deck chairs
and a table which I immediately took a liking to. I invited
Chris to join me for outdoor dining while overlooking the
mainline. The hostess offered us a glass of wine. I asked for a
sweet white to go with my roast beef. It was great experience
with a pair of Norfolk Southern trains for dessert. It was a
beautiful clear mountain evening and Chris and I planned to come
back here for at least two nights next year. After dinner, it
was time to go inside and get ready to turn in for the day.