Ridge Runner set to reopen Memorial Day Weekend


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Bluefield's popular Ridge Runner will be operational at city park this upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

Last year, the miniature train only operated at city park for a single day. Flash flooding in the city washed out a bridge on the Ridge Runner track. The train also has experienced mechanical issues over the years.

This summer the prospects are good for the train, according to Parks and Recreation Director Rick Showalter.

"The train is running better than ever," Showalter said Tuesday. "Working on the train with the mechanic has been great. We are very excited."

Technical issues with the train weren't uncommon, but because of the new repairs, it will operate smoothly this time around, according to Bluefield Program and Special Events Coordinator Justin Hawkins.

Although the train is nearly finished, the bridge has yet to be fixed. Showalter said his team contracted Swope Construction to repair the bridge in the next few weeks.

"The bridge is taking a long time to repair because of the flood damages and insurance," Showalter said. "But bridge repair should start any day now and take a couple of weeks."

The process to reopen the Ridge Runner has been slow, but city officials have already hired staff for the season and remain on schedule to open this Memorial Day, according to Hawkins.

Riding the train will continue to be $2 and it will run on Saturday and Sundays starting Memorial Day just like last year. Though members of the city have discussed opening the train on weeknights, it is still to be determined, according to Hawkins.

The parks and recreation office isn't planning on having a reopening ceremony, but Hawkins is confident that the residents of the city will be just as excited to ride the train as last year.

"It's definitely a big weekend for us, last year we only got to run it one day before the flood, but we had over 350 riders the first day," Hawkins said. "It's got a large following and history. Lots of fond memories with older folk bringing their families here."

The train has been operating at city park since 2011.

It was originally located on East River Mountain where it operated from 1964 to 1976. Following the completion of Interstate 77 in 1976 there was a drastic drop in traffic on U.S. 52 and by the early 1980s, the train's engine was shut down.

— Contact Tara Wyatt at twyatt@bdtonline.com