The New River Train ~ She Walks In Beauty


Hamburg, United States

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Nickel Plate Berkshire 765 adds sound & fury to the otherwise peaceful New River Gorge near Hawks Nest State Park north of Hinton, West Virginia. This beloved Lima-built 2-8-4 Berk was fashioned in 1944, near the end of the steam era in the USA, & for decades she has been owned & lovingly maintained by the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Railroad Historical Society. She is one of the very few remaining mainline steamers, especially now that Norfolk Southern has retired its fabled streamlined 611 (J Class, 4-8-4), & the massive, articulated 1218 (A Class, 2-6-6-4).

We have ridden behind all three of the aforementioned (at top speed, mind you ~ no creeping country excursions allowed!), here in Western New York as well as in West Virginia. This photo was taken in October of 1985 ~ we rode the New River Train twice in two successive Octobers, with brilliant weather each time. We & my veteran railfan mother Gladys rode in open-window cars, & returned to the Holiday Inn in Huntington in reprehensible condition, encased in cinders & carbon residue & generally pleased as punch. We were not the only grubby train-riders at the hotel… 765’s Fort Wayne crew (& others) were also staying there… but the Holiday Inn graciously overlooked the resulting state of their white towels & didn’t add any surcharge. One of the funniest scenes was in the hotel’s elevator… the three of us, two members of the crew, & two ‘normal’ people were involved. The clean folk had no idea what the rest of us had been up to, & we didn’t let on. The five disreputables burst into laughter as we stepped out of the lift. A great moment.

This locomotive can be seen in John Sayles’s excellent 1987 film ‘Matewan’, which is set in West Virginia & was shot in & around Thurmond & the New River Gorge. More on that can be seen here.

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