Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

June 3, 2012

Ridge Runner making its rounds in Lotito Park again

BLUEFIELD, Va. — One of the region’s foremost tourist attractions, Bluefield’s Ridge Runner Railroad, was back on track Saturday afternoon, taking carrying carloads of fun to riders of all ages.

“If the seat is open, we love sitting in the very back,” Michael Rebuck of Bluefield said as he and his daughter, Madison Grace Rebuck, 3 and one-half. “We were here to ride it when it started making runs in April and we’ve been counting the days until it re-opened.”

Rebuck, 28, said that he and his daughter rode the Ridge Runner “constantly” last year. “I guess it was something like 20 times. I remember riding it when I was a kid.” Rebuck was born in 1984, the same year that the city moved the Ridge Runner from its original location at the East River Mountain Overlook and brought it to Lotito Park.

“We ran it three weekends in April, but this is the first day that we have been open again since then,” Tim Blankenship, Ridge Runner engineer said. A soggy fall, winter and spring played havoc with the road bed and made it difficult to keep the train on the tracks.

“They’ve done a lot of work taking some of the kinks out of the track and even replacing some of the rails,” Blankenship said. “They put something like 350 tons of gravel ballast on the rails and fixed the bridges with safety rails to prevent derailing.

“I had an old railroader on one of my runs today and he said that he really liked the improvements they made to the tracks,” Blankenship said. “That’s all I needed to know.”

“As soon as the word gets out that we’re running again, we’ll have a lot more people out,” Shirley Blankenship, Tim’s wife, said. Shirley takes tickets and staffs the Ridge Runner gift shop. “Still, we had a pretty good turn-out for today.

Grace Harold from Rhode Island, and Amanda Hill from Charlotte, N.C., were attending a family reunion, but drove to Bluefield to ride the Ridge Runner with other family members including Alexus Pemental, 2, Athenah Callandret, 9, Aliyah Callandret, 5, and Abigail Hill, 4.

“This is our second trip today,” Amanda Hill said.

“I can hardly wait,” Athenah Callandret said.

Isabella Machado, 4, was also eagerly awaiting her trip inside the park with her parents, Stacy and Nelson Machado.

“We bring her all the time,” Stacy Machado said. “She calls the engineer, ‘Mister Conductor.’”

“I just love her smile,” Tim Blankenship said.

— Contact Bill Archer at

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