Monday, August 6, 2012

Railroad Town

Hinton, West Virginia, is a small town (~ 3,000 population) with a big history. Hinton owes its very existence to the C&O Railroad, which in about 1870 decided to follow the New River in laying track that would become an integral part of the transcontinental railroad. The town was founded in 1871 and subsequently became a C&O division headquarters, where both east and west bound crews would be made up, which also made it the logical spot for these crews and their families to live. It was subsequently incorporated  in 1880.

Hinton sits on the slopes overlooking the New River, the oldest river in North America and the third oldest in the world (behind the Meuse in Europe and the Yangtze in China). The New River arises in North Carolina and flows north to the Ohio. At Hinton it flows through the New River Gorge and is managed by the National Park Service.

Here the river is wide and shallow, as can be seen by the men fishing from the middle of the river. That, and the naming of the New River Gorge National River, have made the Hinton area a recreation and tourism destination.

But initially and through WWII, Hinton was a railroad town. The C&O Railroad served Hinton with freight, passenger service, coal, and timber. Although thrice weekly passenger service survives, coal is the main commodity hauled today by the CSX Railroad, the successor to the C&O.

Here unit trains pass each other in Hinton, one carrying coal to a power plant, the other returning empties to the mines.

These unit trains, trains of dedicated composition that shuttle between the coal mines and coal-burning power plants, no longer contain hoppers that empty through doors on the bottom. The modern hoppers have rounded bottoms that do not open. Rather, the cars are emptied by turning them upside down at the power plant, all without the cars having to be uncoupled from the engine

There's a lot to see and do in Hinton, including a railroad museum and the city's National Register architecture, much of which dates from the time of its great growth in the 1890s and shortly thereafter. Perched on a hillside, there are obvious comparisons to San Francisco, minus the size, cost, and cable cars.


  1. A lovely series of photographs (and words) which gives me a real feel of the place although I have never been anywhere close to it.

  2. I just love kayaking that river.

  3. A place of great historic value. I wonder about the people who lived there, particularly the early settlers who came before the railroad.

  4. What a lovely feature on the town closest to our farm. We do live in a beautiful region. Actually, Hinton is at the confluence of three rivers: The New, The Bluestone and The Greenbrier. Makes for scenic splendor!

    Thanks for the post. I'll forward the link to friends.