APPALACHIA, Va. - The small town that carries the region's namesake, "Appalachia," calls its annual community-wide celebration Railroad Days. Like so many communities throughout the area, it grew up around the railroad.
The celebration is this weekend and the hidden jewel of the little town lies in the basement of their cultural center -- it's one of the largest model railroad layouts in the region.
The trains still roll through Appalachia, just not as frequently as in years past. "Railroading and coal mining, that's what's been our livelihood for years here," says Larry Jackson with the Lonesome Pine Model Railroad Club.
And it's railroading that's on display at the Lonesome Pine Model Railroaders giant layout in the basement of the cultural center. It's near impossible to see everything that this club has constructed down here and there's always something new. "It's never done, it never will be done. It's a labor of love. Once we finish one area we'll start on another area even if its just re-modifying and redo it, update it, improve it," Jackson said.
All who visit are amazed at what they see from the layouts, to the trains themselves and each Railroad Days celebration it draws hundred to see it.
"It's amazing how many people come in here and are truly amazed at the size of this layout in such a small mining town as Appalachia," Jackson said.
The newest member of the club who retired here from Massachusetts stumbled on it. "It was just by chance I happened to be around the area and I like trains, saw a caboose out back of the club. I didn't realize the club was here, my wife pointed out the sign," said new member Jonathan Morse.
And he was hooked and joined in. He's been helping with one of the newest pieces to the layout a shipyard. "Once the shipyard is finished then we're going to complete an oil refinery create some industry for the people that live in this small town here a place for them to work.,"
Jackson said he wishes he could do that for the area now. "Yeah, I wish I could do that for Appalachia and the Big Stone Gap area," he said.
The layout will be on display Thursday and Friday evenings and all day Saturday for railroad days.