TwHP Lessons

Thurmond: A Town Born from Coal Mines and Railroads
[Photo] Thurmond, West Virginia, 1983.
(Photo by R. Eugene Harper, National Park Service)

Deep in the rugged coal fields of West Virginia, the rumble of a steam locomotive mingles with the sound of the New River crashing through its steep rocky gorge. With brakes squealing, the train passes a signal and slows for its approach into the town of Thurmond. The hulking locomotive comes to a stop in front of the train depot as the track supervisor checks the traffic. Simultaneously, the conductor announces the train and workers remove bags of mail and parcels from the baggage car. Arriving passengers get off the train, while those departing stream from the stationís crowded waiting room to take their seats.

Yard workers quickly uncouple the engine, and the engineer takes it to the coaling and water towers to refuel. As the locomotive is re-coupled to the cars, the conductor nods to the engineer and announces the trainís departure. The steam engine sends an explosive puff of smoke upwards, and the deafening whistle blows. As the sound of the train fades to a rumble, a fine dusting of soot settles on the starched white shirts and fashionable hats of the men and women bustling along the crowded sidewalk. From a distance they hear the approaching sound of yet another train coming into the town of Thurmond.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway
 2. The coal mine connection

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. A Railroad Town
 2. Behind the Scenes
 3. A Ballad

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Thurmond, c.1920
 2. Layout of Thurmond
 3. Postcard picture of Thurmond depot
 4. Ticket office at a C&O depot

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Role Play
 2. Recognizing Others
 3. Transportation Then and Now

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New River Gorge National River

This lesson is based on Thurmond Historic District, one of the many historic districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



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