The U.S. state of West Virginia is known for its mountains and for its coal mines. The state is seldom known for its cities. Among them is the city of Beckley in the south central part of the state. Named for Alfred Beckley, it is a simple city although it is the largest city in the southern part of the state. It is the home of the University of West Virginia Institute of Technology and the Raleigh County Veterans Museum. The city’s biggest attraction is the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine. It is also in driving distance of the New River Gorge State Park and the world famous New River Gorge Bridge. Then you have the Lewis McManus Memorial Honor Trail. Only a little over four miles long, it is a trail that weaves itself through the city, and you can see a little artwork along the way. If you are ever in Beckley, West Virginia, you must take a stroll along the Lewis McManus Memorial Honor Trail.
Some of you are saying, “It is really nice that they have a trail that honors somebody. The problem is that Beckley is not much of a railroad city. You will not see me hiking on this trail.”
You do have a point. Beckley, West Virginia does not have much in the way of railroad history, and there is only one railroad line that passes south of the downtown area. The nearest Amtrak stop is in the suburb of Prince which is eight miles from downtown. It can make you think that visiting this trail is a waste of your time.
So what is special about the Lewis McManus Memorial Honor Trail? Well, most locals commonly know it as the Beckley Rail Trail. Yes, you read rail trail. How are rail trails formed? They are formed on old railroad lines.
In 1905, the Piney River and Paint Creek Railroad was built to bring freight and passenger service to Beckley, and it served the coal mines north of the city. (One of those mines is now the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine.) The line was later taken over by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. As the coal mines closed and passenger service declined, so did this stretch of the railroad. The line was given to the city of Beckley and made into a rail trail. The passenger station was demolished. Today, you can hike, bike, or jog on what was once a rail line to include the spur that served the Exhibition Coal Mine. You can read more at https://wvrailtrails.org/rail-trail/lewis-mcmanus-memorial-honor-trail/.