HINTON (WVDN) – The Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society (C&OHS) will hold a special event at the historic McCreery Hotel on Saturday, Feb. 25, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., featuring three retired railroaders from the region whose long careers earned them a prestigious dedication in the popular calendar series, “Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Through the New River Gorge.”
In addition to making public some never-seen historic photographs throughout the New River Gorge from its industrial peak, the C&O Historical Society has dedicated this region-specific calendar, now in its second year of publication, to a total of four human connections to West Virginia history. This weekend’s appearance in Hinton will bring together all living honorees who have been recognized in “Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Through the New River Gorge,” the three retired railroaders Marvin Plumley, Leonard L. Claytor and Eric S. Pack.
The event is free and open to the public.
During their appearance at the McCreery Hotel, all three will be signing autographs on the calendars, which includes a printed dedication to each man’s life and career.
The remaining retired railroader, honored in the 2022 version of the publication, was Dorothy Jean Boley of Hinton, who passed away Dec. 13, 2022, at the age of 99. A wartime hire, Boley was the last known C&O Railway “Rosie.”
The second such meet-and-greet that the C&O Historical Society has organized in West Virginia, this event opens the historic hotel to the public with the opportunity to hear railroading stories from firsthand sources, pose for photographs and take home a unique piece of history. From 11 a.m.-12 p.m., Claytor, Pack and Plumley will address attendees by microphone with an introduction about their lives and careers and share first-hand stories about working in the region for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.
The honorees appearing in Hinton, according to the C&OHS, captained ‘the machine through the garden,’ describing how the railroad brought people into this part of the country who would have never otherwise witnessed the New River Gorge, now the country’s newest national park.
Believed to be two of the last active C&O Railway hires at the time of their retirements, Pack and Claytor added their own pages to history during their illustrious careers, much of which was spent bringing thousands of people through some of the most rugged terrain in North America on board Amtrak’s passenger train The Cardinal. Both men now volunteer with the C&O Historical Society, giving lectures about their careers and sharing their history with audiences firsthand.
The entirety of the event will run from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and follow the below agenda:
- 10 a.m.-11 p.m. – Informal greetings at the McCreery Hotel, early autographs.
- 11 a.m.-12 p.m. – Presenters will address the crowd at the McCreery Hotel and tell first-hand stories.
- 12-2 p.m. – Presenters mingle at the McCreery Hotel, meet and greet attendees, and sign final autographs.
C&O Historical Society President Mark Totten summarized the event’s goal, “There is no better way to learn about our history than through first-hand accounts from those who lived it every day. Our retired railroader volunteers have been generous enough to go ‘on the road’ for the C&O Historical Society, giving very genuine talks about their lives and careers which has been tremendously well received. So far, we have been able to showcase these extraordinary gentlemen in Clifton Forge, Virginia, and St. Albans, West Virginia.”
According to the C&O Historical Society, answers to railroading questions and photos will also be part of the event, as well as a range of stories from the C&O Railway to Amtrak. The nonprofit organization, whose mission is to preserve and share the transportation history of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, noted that these individuals represent just three of many thousands of railroaders who lived and worked within this region of West Virginia for over 100 years, opening a gateway into this otherwise inaccessible region.
The former C&O Railway, now CSX Transportation, still runs through the New River Gorge from Gauley Bridge to Hinton.
Totten concluded, “We are fortunate to have retired engineer Eric Pack, conductor Leonard L. Claytor and station agent Marvin Plumley appearing in Hinton to share their stories and sign autographs on our new calendar that honors the railroading history of the New River Gorge.”
Copies of “Chesapeake & Ohio Through the New River Gorge” will be available onsite for $10. Hinton’s McCreery Hotel is located at 320 2nd Ave, Hinton, WV 25951.
About the guests:
Leonard L. Claytor was hired onto the C&O on November 10, 1969. He began work in St. Albans and worked in the yards at South Charleston, Huntington and Handley. Working through Chessie System and CSX Transportation at places like the Coal River and Cabin Creek Subdivisions, Claytor transitioned to Amtrak in 1985. During these years, he was a well-known fixture on the passenger train, The Cardinal, working the territory the C&OHS’s regional calendar covers and continuing the history and hospitality of the Chesapeake & Ohio into the 21st century, even as twilight fell on the old railroad.
Growing up in a railroad family, his father, Howard Winfred Claytor Sr., retired from the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway as a track supervisor after 32 years of service. In his career, Leonard Claytor guided countless numbers of travelers over the C&O Railway’s former territory, retiring as a conductor on Dec. 19, 2021.
Eric S. Pack is a retired locomotive engineer, retiring June 26, 2020, after 50 years of combined service with C&O, C&O/B&O, CSX and Amtrak. Early in his career, he ran trains from Hinton to Durbin on the Greenbrier Subdivision. After transitioning to Amtrak, Pack piloted The Cardinal on the same route used by the Chesapeake & Ohio in its original east-west connection, through the New River Gorge in all conditions resulting from mountain railroading’s perils and pitfalls.
Pack’s father, Cletis Pack, was a railroad car inspector with 30 years of service. His mother, Betty Jo Pack, was a telegraph operator with 32 years of service. Eric Pack is one of 11 children and the only one who ended up working for the railroad, where on his first day, he worked at the current location of the C&O Railway Heritage Center museum in Clifton Forge, Virginia.
His maternal grandfather was the section foreman at Fire Creek, West Virginia, when his mother was born. His paternal grandfather cut cross ties and sold them to the railroad.
Marvin Plumley of Meadow Bridge was hired onto the C&O Railway in 1967, beginning a decades-long career working various railroading jobs, including years at Thurmond, Meadow Creek, Hinton (HX), Raleigh, Gauley, Rainelle and the White Sulphur Springs depot.
From 1984 to 2007, Plumley worked for Amtrak as the station agent for Prince, West Virginia, serving the public throughout the New River Gorge. Today Plumley is an active C&O Historical Society member and volunteer, working to preserve and teach the history he witnessed, and promoting the Society’s mission, especially by contributing to projects at the C&O Railway Heritage Center in Clifton Forge, Virginia.
Updates and additional information can be found on Facebook @cohs.org or by calling the C&O Historical Society’s Business office and archive at 540-862-2210, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., or by emailing email@example.com.
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