HINTON, WV (WVNS) — For 53 Years, train enthusiasts filled Hinton’s historic district for Railroad Days. The yearly festival celebrates the history of the C&O railroad that established headquarters in Hinton in the early 1900s. Volunteer, Pat Hanafin, said Hinton would not be the same without the railroad.
,”We’re celebrating that history every year because actually Hinton wouldn’t be here if there hadn’t been a railroad,” Hanafin said.
Every fall, the New River Train would transport more than 1,000 passengers from Huntington to Hinton for the festival. However, budget issues forced the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society to cancel 2019 runs and nearly derailed the long-standing tradition. Marketing manager for Railexco, Lou Capwell, said everything changed when Railexco stepped in with their Autumn Colors Express.
“People were so excited when we announced the train was coming back that ticket sales especially right out of the gate were kind of overwhelming almost,” Capwell explained.
The Autumn Colors Express has 21 cars, eight of which are domes so passengers can view the foliage. Over the course of three days the train will transport about 2,500 passengers.
With the new train, which is made up of privately-owned vintage cars, comes new traditions. For the first time this year, the festival starts on a Friday with an historic walking tour, followed by the usual vendors and live music on Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s a great way to experience the New River Gorge at its peak season of foliage,” said Capwell. “You get to spend the day on a train, you get to experience some vintage rail cars, and spend the day with your friends seeing the beauty of West Virginia.”
The Autumn Colors Express is on track to keep the tradition going well beyond 2020.