The Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society is celebrating the completion of a multi-city event tour that featured several retired railroaders from the region whose long careers earned them a prestigious dedication in the popular calendar series, “Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Through the New River Gorge.” These events brought the non-profit organization’s mission to preserve and share the history of the C&O Railway to the public with volunteer presenters telling first-hand stories about their varied careers on the C&O Railway and Amtrak, the details from which add their own pages to the history books.
From November to February, the C&O Historical Society held meet and greet events in Clifton Forge, Virginia and St. Albans, West Virginia, concluding with a final event in Hinton, West Virginia on February
The first-hand history tour featured all living honorees who have been recognized in “Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Through the New River Gorge.” The remaining retired railroader, Ms. Dorothy Jean Boley of Hinton, passed away December 13, 2022 at the age of 99. A wartime hire honored in the 2022 version of the publication, Ms. Boley was the last known C&O Railway “Rosie.”
The meet-and-greet events, a first for the C&O Historical Society in its recent history, not only gave the public the opportunity to hear railroading stories from first-hand sources, pose for photographs, and take home a unique piece of history, but also opened several historic venues. In Kanawha County, West Virginia, a February 4 event utilized the 1907-built St. Albans C&O Railway depot. On February 25, the railroaders addressed attendees by microphone in downtown Hinton’s historic McCreery Hotel. In both venues, locals in attendance listened to the retirees share first-hand stories about working in each region for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, Chessie System, and Amtrak.
According to C&O Historical Society President Mark Totten, the “calendar tour” was a great way to put the non-profit organization’s mission on center stage for the public to experience in a new way. “We have been thrilled by this opportunity to bring history to life using first-hand sources.” However, Totten noted, it would not have been possible without their volunteers, “We have known for years that these gentlemen are treasures, and we have been honored by the opportunity to show the public how riveting it is to listen to history through their personal stories from the railroad. We are grateful they lent their time to tell their stories and help promote our organization.”
According to the C&OHS, Leonard Claytor, Eric Pack, and Marvin Plumley helped captain ‘the machine through the garden,’ describing how the railroad brought people into the New River Gorge who would have never otherwise witnessed this part of the country, now the country’s newest national park. Believed to be two of the last active C&O Railway hires at the time of their retirements, Mr. Pack and Mr. Claytor added their own pages to history during their illustrious careers, much of which was spent bringing thousands of people through some of the most rugged terrain in North America on board Amtrak’s passenger train The Cardinal. Marvin Plumley was the long-time Amtrak agent at the Prince, West Virginia railway station.
C&O Historical Society President Totten summarized the events and expressed gratitude to people in two states who made the tour happen, “We were fortunate to have the opportunity to use magnificent venues such as Mountain Gateway Community College, the St. Albans C&O Depot, and the McCreery Hotel.
Each location’s atmosphere added something special to the event while our storytellers captivated audiences with their first-hand accounts of history. We were welcomed with open arms by MGCC’s Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Ben Worth, St. Albans Mayor Scott James, and Stephanie Stiffler and Victoria Brown of MountainPlex Properties. The rest of our team handled logistics large and small to make sure everything ran smoothly for our honored guests and for members of the public who attended.”
A limited number of autographed copies of 2023’s “Chesapeake & Ohio Through the New River Gorge” calendar are available to purchase by contacting the C&O Historical Society’s Business Office by telephone at 540-862-2210, Monday-Friday, 9 AM – 5 PM.