THURMOND, WV (LOOTPRESS) – Passenger trains were once a common sight throughout southern West Virginia and it was even the most convenient means of travel at one time. Today, only one east and west passenger train pass through the southern part of the state.
In 1971, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation which operates as Amtrak took over passenger rail in the United States after most railroads could not afford to run passenger trains in most areas as the advent of travel by car and plane became much more convenient for American travelers.
Amtrak’s purpose is to provide rail travel to people in all areas as possible even if it isn’t profitable to do so. Amtrak once operated two passenger routes through the Mountain State, one being the “Hilltopper” which was in service until September 30, 1979. It served the southern part of the state on what was once the Norfolk & Western Railway, now Norfolk Southern.
The other route is the Cardinal, which is still in service today. The Amtrak 50 & 51 Cardinal roll through Huntington, Charleston, Montgomery, Thurmond, Prince, Hinton, Alderson, and White Sulphur Springs on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays twice a day. Cardinal 50 eastbound to New York runs in the morning and Cardinal 51 westbound to Chicago in the evening.
Although the Cardinal may not be at the top of your list to get to points A and B, it can serve as an eventful day or scenic ride through the heart of the state. If catching the train eastbound, one could ride from Huntington to the Greenbrier at White Sulphur Springs and ride back on the same day.
Above are photos from the Amtrak 51 Cardinal stopping in the once-booming railroad town of Thurmond, West Virginia in the New River Gorge National Park & Preserve. The Cardinal is one of the only trains that stop within the boundaries of a U.S. national park.
Amtrak ticket prices vary on demand and how early they are purchased. To learn more, click here.