Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

May 11, 2014

Ridge Runner on track for new season of fun in City Park

BLUEFIELD — All aboard! Conductor Tim Blankenship called out as passengers loaded onto the Ridge Runner for the opening day.

The first day for the Ridge Runner started off with showers but the little red engine was able to pull passengers around the track once the skies cleared.

“We have spent all winter getting the train ready including a completely rebuilt engine and transmission, a new radiator as well as a reworked track and retaining wall to bolster a small section of the railroad line,” Lori Mills, a member of the Save the Ridge Runner Committee, said.

Since 2011, 42,500 people have ridden the train which has taken a toll on the engine, Mills said.

Norfolk Southern Foundation has donated $25,000 to install new grade crossings with signals and operating gates.

 “That project probably won’t be ready until the middle of the year,” Mills said.

Conductor Tim Blankenship said his favorite part of driving the train is seeing the children.

“I love seeing their excitement as we go around the track,” Blankenship said.

Brothers Daniel Green, 4, and Eli Green, 3, of Welch, had a wonderful time on the train and were begging to ride again.

“I had a great time, I love it,” Eli said. “I want to go again and again.”

Daniel said his favorite part is when they blow the whistle and go through the tunnel.

 The train started hauling passengers at the East River Mountain Overlook in the summer of 1964. The opening of I-77 in the late 1970s reduced the traffic over the mountain, and the attraction faded away with little fanfare. In 1984, the city of Bluefield, acquired the train and brought it to Bluefield City Park.

The train runs each Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

The train is also available for private rentals.

— Contact Anne Elgin at aelgin@bdtonline.com

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