While walking towards Thurmond, a ghost town in West Virginia's New River Gorge National Park, I couldn't help but marvel at the picturesque view of the New River across the railroad truss section of the Thurmond Railroad Bridge.
Thurmond was a boomtown in the 1900s and one of the busiest railroad towns along the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. The building of the Thurmond Railroad Bridge formally established Thurmond as a town after the original bridge was constructed in 1888-89. This bridge linked previously inaccessible coal areas to the main railroad line, making Thurmond a coal shipping hub.
The railroad bridge seen today was constructed after the original bridge was swept away by a flood in 1908 and is circa 1910 or 1915. This bridge is unique in its design, featuring a combination of a railroad truss bridge spanning the main channel of the New River and an 840-foot-long deck bridge. Initially, the deck bridge served as a walkway connecting the train station to the Dun Glen Hotel since Thurmond was solely accessible by rail until 1921.
When the road from Glen Jean was finally completed, the pedestrian bridge was strengthened for automobile use. Two of the original piers are still in use. They were quarried on Arbuckle Creek, a quarter mile up the river, while the other seven bridge piers are now concrete. Today, this one-lane, ten-foot-wide deck bridge remains the only way in and out of town by car.
Like a time capsule, Thurmond still possesses all the characteristics of a 1920s Appalachian coal town. The town has been designated a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located along the New River, owned by the National Park Service, and is part of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
Copyright 2023 Susan Rissi Tregoning
September 8th, 2023
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