Each year Appalachia, Virginia celebrates its railroad heritage with a four-day festival.
Cities and towns just seemed to grow and flourish if the railroad came through. That's what happened in Bristol where two railroads met at the state line.
That fact was especially true for small towns in the coalfields of Virginia. One of those towns, Appalachia, celebrates its railroad heritage with Railroad Days, which are the first four days in August.
The excitement about railroads is alive and well with a local model railroaders' club. The Lonesome Pine Model Railroaders Club members get almost the same reaction when folks see their layout in the basement of the Appalachia cultural arts building. "Most times their mouths, they're just kind of stunned at what it is, how it looks and everything," founding member Dewey Rowland said.
And no matter when you visit, you'll see something different because it's never constant. "We've always wanted to change it. We always want to look at something different, update it. We see something out when we're traveling that we'd like to incorporate that scene on our layout," member Larry Jackson says.
Most of the huge layout depicts scenes that are familiar to those who grew up in the coalfields. But it's not the big picture that's fascinating, it's all of those details that the club has put into it.
"It's just a passion that we have for building a railroad and not only building a railroad but building the scenery, the scenery is so important. When people come they're always amazed at the detail. The things that we thought about. we put in a terminal for the passengers and put in the fire hydrants, put in street lights," Jackson said.
And how about the detail of a street scene from the town of Appalachia itself, down to even a fire with the fire department on the scene. But the real fun is running the trains as Brock Dishner can tell you. His dad is a member and he helps out with the digital command controllers. "You can have a train right here and a train right here and you can call the number up that's on the side of it and run this one with this one running," he explained.
And they're not done yet. "It's a work in progress. Everybody says what'll you do when you get it finished? It'll never be finished," said Jackson.
Let's sure hope not.