WILLIAMSON - All aboard!!
These will be the welcome words that will greet numerous Norfolk Southern Railway employees today and Sunday, as themselves and their families are treated to a series of excursions along the Tug River.
Steam Locomotive No. 765, which is owned and maintained by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society and that appeared in the opening scene of the movie “Matewan,” returned to WV on Tuesday and will be in the Williamson Yard through tomorrow.
Railfans from across the country are flocking to Mingo County in hopes of photographing and videoing the steam locomotive as it transports NS employees on a 2-3 hour excursion.
According to information provided to the Daily News by Mingo County Emergency Services Director Jerrod Fletcher, who has been working closely with NS officials and the excursion administrators, the passengers will board and depart from the Williamson Yard (109 East 4th Avenue), near the location of the Williamson City Hall. The first ride is slated to begin at 9 a.m. this morning, heading east toward Beech Creek and will return back to Williamson at noon.
The second trip today is scheduled to pull out of the station at 1 p.m., heading west toward the Kermit area. Passengers are reminded to have their boarding passes in their possession along with their NS Railroad identification badge, and to be at the departure site no later than 1 hour prior to your scheduled trip.
No alcohol, tobacco products, glass containers or pets of any kind are allowed on the train. Passengers are also requested to not wear open toed shoes or heels. The excursions will take place regardless of weather conditions. Soft-sided coolers are permitted for the trips.
NS employees were provided the opportunity to request up to 4 tickets for their family to ride on the steam excursion, and many took advantage of the chance to ride. This is the first time Engine No. 765 has been in the state since 1993.
Members of the public have contacted NS officials as well as those within Mingo County to see if additional tickets were available for the excursions for those who are not an employee or a family member, but were informed that due limited space, they were not able to accommodate individuals other than employees and their chosen guests/family members.
Tomorrow’s train excursion schedule will mimic today’s, with departure and return times following the same schedule.
“If you’re wanting to grab a picture or shoot some video footage of the steam locomotive, the best locations would be in Williamson where the passengers will be boarding, along Rt. 52 and U.S. 119, Matewan, Kermit, Maher, Naugatuck, Millers Creek, Nolan, Borderland – you will have plenty of photo opportunities,” stated Fletcher. “Of course, we can’t emphasize enough the importance of safety while you’re trying to get your pictures. Stay a safe distance back from the track, don’t stop on the roadway to get your photos and be aware of an increase in pedestrian traffic near railroad crossings.”
Fletcher also encourages everyone spend some time in downtown Williamson where craft and food vendors will be peddling their wares. Inflatables will also be set up for the younger generation to enjoy, as well as other activities. Don’t forget to take a few moments to visit the historical Coal House to see all of the Hatfield and McCoy feud items and artifacts on display.
“We hope that everyone enjoys their train rides and their trip to Mingo County, and plan to come back and spend time here in the future,” concluded Fletcher.