North Bend Rail Trail
The State of West Virginia created the North Bend Rail Trail from 150-year-old rail road tracks in 1996 to create “one of the most renowned recreational trails through the Appalachians.” This trail showcases the great historical highlights of the area including old buildings, factories, small Appalachian towns, and ghost tunnels. Today, visitors can hike, bike, or ride horses along this 72 mile trail across the state.
Backstory and Context
The North Bend Rail Trail was created from a former part of the CSX Railroad system. The section of track that North Bend Rail Trail is part of was constructed between 1853 and 1857 before the Civil War began and before West Virginia was even a state. This railroad, owned by the Baltimore and Ohio railroad companies, was state of the art at the time of construction, including even a 337 ft. long tunnel carved through solid rock. However, with the increasing technology and rise of automobiles in America, railroads became much less used as means of travel for civilians, so in 1988, the train running through this area was finally eliminated. The State of West Virginia bought this section of track and created the Rail Trail.
The Rail Trail is part of the 5,500 mile long American Discovery Trail that spans across the United States. The North Bend Portion is about 72 miles long and stretches from Parkersburg, WV to Wolf Summit, WV along Route 50. In this stretch there are many points of interest including thirteen tunnels, thirty-six bridges, hand-blown glass factories, sites of train robbers, and old, historical buildings.
There are many folk legends and stories passed down about the trail. One of the greatest and most popular stories is the story of the Ghost of Silver Run Tunnel, which is located on the trail in Richie County. According to legend, there is a ghost of a woman in a long, flowing white dress that resides in the tunnel. When the train was still running, conductors would see the woman and try to stop the train, but it always turned out that no one was there. Legend says that she was on her way to Parkersburg and was killed somewhere near Silver Run Tunnel along the way. Today, many people visit this tunnel as well as other tunnels with rumored ghosts to try to track paranormal activity.
Today the tunnel can be visited for free by anyone and can be accessed from anywhere, but is best accessed from North Bend State Park located in Cairo, West Virginia. It passes through various state, county, and local parks. The trail is crushed limestone and is great for hiking, biking, or horseback riding.