Thurmond Train Day

National Park Service Ranger Ruth Hammes speaks during a Thurmond Train Day tour last Saturday afternoon.

Saturday was all about learning the importance of train safety in the small town of Thurmond.

Despite thunderstorms in the forecast, folks from all over the region attended the fifth annual Train Day Saturday to enjoy live music, concession-style food, tours of the historic town and the chance to become a “Junior Ranger.”

Kaitlyn and Emili Ashmore, two young sisters, stood beside the Thurmond Post Office near a set of burnt orange, rusty train tracks. Emili, the younger of the two, shouted with glee when she said she received all her badges to become a Junior Ranger.

The two sisters stood with their mother, Jennifer Ashmore, with their blue and white-striped train conductor hats perched atop their heads.

“Today has been a good day,” Kaitlyn said. “We’ve seen a lot of really cool stuff.”

For Kaitlyn, the best part of her day was seeing the “old stuff” in the old Thurmond Post Office.

“I didn’t know any of that stuff existed,” she said, talking about old artifacts in the office, including an old cash register, candles and a phone booth.

For Emili, it was her initiation as a new Junior Ranger.

“We even get a badge!” she shouted.

Eve West, district interpreter for the New River Gorge, explained to become a Junior Ranger the children would go to several different stations and take part in an array of activities including learning about railroading history, staying safe near the train tracks and learning about the coal mining history of Thurmond.

After a child hit each station and received a stamp, the child received a badge and became a Junior Ranger.

“Thurmond is part of the history of the New River Gorge, and part of what we’re trying to do is preserve the history of Thurmond, and this event helps showcase that history,” West said.

Thurmond Train Day isn’t just for the kids, though. While exploring the old buildings and the old tracks, residents from near and far were able to reminisce on their childhood, and maybe grab a hot dog and catch some live music throughout the day.

Melissa McCune, a city councilwoman for Thurmond, said the intention of Saturday’s event was to also focus on train safety. She said there are so many railroads in communities in southern West Virginia and people aren’t aware they are often still used, even if they look abandoned.

“Something like this also gets people outside in our beautiful area, and I think that’s what’s most important,” McCune said.

According to her, showcasing the beauty of Thurmond makes for a great event.

“I mean, why would you ever want to go anywhere else?”

Email jnelson@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @jnelsonRH

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