© Jerry F. Couch
HERE’S HOW IT ALL STARTED — [From the Clinch Valley News, July 11, 1890] Mr. O’Connor, who has charge of the track-laying force on the C. V. [Clinch Valley Division of the N & W Railway] above St. Paul has been directed to have the track completed to St. Paul by the 15th inst., as the regular passenger train will be ordered to make regular daily trips to that place on and after that date.
For years, N & W provided safe and dependable daily passenger service between Bluefield to Norton. Traveling through a series of curves, grades, tunnels, and trestles, those who rode N & W’s rails were treated to an ever-changing panorama. Farms, coal mines, coke ovens, tipples, factories, towns both large and small, were nestled alongside the tracks. Generations of children waved at the passing trains. I was one of them, just as my father and mother had been.
The final Bluefield to Norton N & W passenger run took place on March 30, 1959. “Number 5” arrived in St. Paul at approximately 1:30 p.m. It was made up of ten coaches carrying 1,000 or more passengers according to an Associated Press article that appeared in newspapers the following day.
The day was sunny though a bit chilly as my father and I boarded the train. Departing St. Paul, the Robinette Trestle seemed impossibly high, and cars on the highway below seemed impossibly small. The drinking fountain in the coach we were riding was puzzling. How could a train have running water without a pipe attached to a spring or a well? For years, I kept one of the little conical paper drinking cups as a souvenir.
If you were aboard Number 5 on March 30, 1959, please consider sharing your memories for others to enjoy. Part 2 of this story will feature pictures of Number 5’s final trip from Norton to Bluefield that took place on April 4, 1959.