Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 6, 2013

Back on track — Ridge Runner returns today

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— It’s a sure sign that spring is finally in bloom with the long-awaited return of Bluefield’s beloved Ridge Runner to Lotito Park this afternoon.

If all goes as planned — the little train that could is scheduled to open for the season beginning at noon today and Sunday. Admission to ride the train is only $1. The train will continue to operate through Sept. 30.

Troy Godwin, the new director of parks and recreation for the city of Bluefield, correctly notes that the Ridge Runner is a unique attraction that helps city park stand out.

“We are definitely unique in this region and in the country to have a mini-train of this size that runs through the entire park,” Godwin said last week. “Everyone has fun on the train, so they love having it up and running. There is a lot of excitement when people see the train running. It allows people to just relax and enjoy the park. It’s fun not only for our residents but for visitors from all over.”

The little train has quite a history in Nature’s Air-Conditioned City, and has provided entertainment for more than two generations of families.

The Ridge Runner started its life in 1964 at the East River Mountain Overlook by transporting passengers on a mile-long route through the two Virginias. Ridership dropped after the East River Mountain Tunnel opened in 1974, and north-south travelers used Interstate 77 through East River Mountain and Big Walker Mountain instead of traveling old U.S. Route 52 into Bland County.

The train was later relocated to city park in 1984 where it operated for several years before being grounded due to maintenance and other issues. The city resurrected the old train in 2011, and it resumed operations at Lotito Park in 2012.

“It’s the most popular thing at the park,” Godwin added. “There is a lot of history to the train. For generations people have been bringing their children and grandchildren to ride this train. It’s a legacy at the park, and we want people to come and have fun.”

We are glad to see this proud tradition continuing this weekend.

The children who will enjoy the train this weekend represent a new generation of youngsters who are experiencing the Ridge Runner for the first time.

And these children and their families are not having to travel to a far away city to experience such a welcomed attraction. It’s right here in their own backyard.

We join the city of Bluefield in welcoming the Ridge Runner back to Lotito Park.  

And we encourage all area families — both far and near — to visit Lotito Park this spring and summer and ride the little train. The fun begins today with the launch of the 2013 Ridge Runner season.