Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


September 12, 2012

Rail excursion —  Bluefield omission disappointing

While we can understand the rationale behind their decision to cancel this year’s Roanoke to Bluefield rail excursion, it is our hope that the Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Society will reconsider the Bluefield stop next year. And city officials should be willing to step up and fight for a return of the tourist train in 2013.

Bluefield, a city that was originally built to serve the Norfolk & Western Railway, went for more than 12 years without a railroad excursion. That all changed in 2009 when the city rolled out the red carpet for more than 850 visitors who participated in the first Roanoke to Bluefield rail excursion. Two additional — and very successful — rail excursions followed in 2010 and 2011. But the tourist train won’t be returning to Bluefield this November.

After three years, organizers of the Bluefield Amtrak tourist train thought it was important to try something different.

Dorr Tucker, a spokesperson with the Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Society, said train excursion ticket sales were down in the past year. And while he admits Bluefield has been a very popular train excursion destination for the past three years, Tucker argues officials felt passengers were looking for more variety. In another words, the local chapter felt it was necessary to schedule a different destination for this fall.

“We are doing something different this year,” Tucker said last week. “The trip to Bluefield is still our best trip, but we have run it three years in a row. We felt like the sales slacked off a little bit. We have two other good locations to go to. We love Bluefield because it is a great look at the Pocahontas coalfields and coal mining. We think the sales have slacked off since people have already been there several times and want a little variety.”

Tucker says the tourist train will return to Bluefield “at some point” in the future.

Instead of coming to Bluefield this fall, the tourist train will instead provide excursions from Ronaoke to Abingdon and Shenandoah. Tucker says the Roanoke train excursion has also encountered some competition from larger train excursions.

We can understand the need to try something different, and to provide passengers with diversity. However, we believe interest in the Bluefield trip remains high.

And we can’t think of a better location rich in railroad history than Bluefield for such a rail excursion. That’s why we would urge project organizers to consider a return trip to Bluefield in 2013.

The yearly rail excursions were a huge attraction for downtown Bluefield. That’s why getting the tourist train back in Bluefield should be viewed as imperative. City officials should get to work today in helping to ensure a 2013 return.


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