Railfans and romantics alike will be happy to learn that the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad is offering special dinner trains and Saturday "winter runs" beginning on Valentine's Day.
Let's start with the Valentine's Day Dinner Train. On Feb. 14, you can celebrate in style by whisking your "most significant other" away on a romantic four-hour dinner train ride complete with gourmet food and complimentary wine. For those who wish to share the experience with another couple, a table for four is $85 per person. If you wish to share your table with your "most significant other" only, the fare is $100 per person. The train departs the Elkins Depot at 5:30 p.m. What a wonderful way to spend Valentine's Day evening.
A St. Patrick's Day Dinner Train will leave the Elkins Depot at 5:30 p.m. on March 14 for a four-hour "Luck of the Irish" run to Tygart Junction and return. Then bring your family onboard for the special Easter train on April 11 and celebrate with gourmet food and complimentary wine. This train also departs the station at 5:30 p.m. and glides along the scenic Tygart River to Tygart Junction and returns. The fare for these trips is $85 per person. Reservations are required for each of the dinner trains.
Also on April 11 there will be two special excursion trains giving railfans the opportunity to enjoy the scenic river vistas of early spring. These runs will depart the Elkins Depot at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on a two-hour trip. The destination for these runs will be determined at a date closer to the days of departure. The fare for these trips is $30 for adults and $25 for children. Special entertainment will be provided by The Old Brick Playhouse.
Beginning on Feb. 14 and continuing on each Saturday through April 4, there will be special wintertime trips to Tygart Junction and return. These runs will depart the Elkins Depot at 11:30 a.m. The fare will be $40 for adults, $38 for seniors, $30 for children ages 4 to 11, and children ages 3 and younger will be admitted free. These fares include a cold sandwich buffet.
While I'm on the subject of trains, let me mention that there is a big railfan weekend coming up in Cass on May 15-17. It may seem a bit early for this, but having been around railfans for several years now, I feel certain that if they don't already know about this event they will be happy to hear about it. Dubbed "Titans of the Mountain - Steam and Diesel on Cass Hill," the event promises to be an exciting one. It will be the first time in history that steam and diesel power will be represented on The Cass Hill together and the first time for diesel power, period. So, railfans, mark your calendars. The weekend will also include activities in Elkins on May 15. More information will be passed along as I can dig it up.
We have just a little more than a month before we enter the new telephone era of having to dial the 10-digit number for local calls and Verizon is encouraging everyone to begin the practice now. The new requirement goes into effect Feb. 28.
According to Verizon service representatives, the new dialing procedure for local calls requires people to dial the area code plus the seven-digit number. This means that all local calls from the 304 area code that are currently dialed with seven digits will need to be dialed using all 10 digits. The dialing procedure for long distance and operator-assisted calls will not change. If 10-digit dialing is not used beginning on Feb. 28, a recording will remind you that you need to hang up and dial all 10 digits.
This also means that all services and equipment that are programmed with a seven-digit number will need to be reprogrammed with 10-digit numbers. Some examples include life safety systems, fax machines, Internet dial-up numbers, security systems, gates, speed dialers, voice mail services and similar functions.
Telephone numbers, including current area code, will not change. Local calls are still local calls, even though they must be dialed using 10 digits. You can still dial three digits to reach 911 and 411.
The 681 area code will be added to the same geographic area served by the 304 area code, which is the entire state of West Virginia. There will be no change for those who have the 304 area code.
For additional information, call the Verizon service representative at 304-954-6200 for residential service or 800-562-2355 for business services.
Here are the latest data from the state's Bureau of Employment Programs/WorkForce W.Va. It shows that the state experienced both positive and negative job changes over the past 12 months. The state's unemployment rate (seasonally adjusted) remains at 4.9 percent, well below the national average of 7.2 percent.
Since December 2007, total nonfarm payroll employment has declined by a net loss of 3,100 jobs out of nearly 800,000 jobs. Showing gains during the past year are natural resources and mining up by 2,500 jobs; education and health services up by 1,200; government jobs increased by 1,000; and travel/leisure posted a gain of 700 jobs. In the lost column are transportation and utilities, down by 3,000 jobs; construction down by 2,400; manufacturing lost 2,200 jobs; the financial sector lost 500 jobs; information is down by 300; and other services posted a loss of 100 jobs. Professional and business services remained unchanged.
While I try to keep this column business related, at least to some degree, every now and then something comes up that I feel worthy of passing along.
The Randolph County Office of Emergency Management on Jan. 20 sent an e-mail to everyone associated with that office regarding a "Black Plague" alert that is killing al-Qaida terrorists. This is alarming news.
On Jan. 19, the London based newspaper The Sun reported that anti-terrorism leaders said a number of al-Qaida militants in training have been killed by the "Black Death," a plague that ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages. According to the report, at least 40 al-Qaida followers have died since the disease swept through a training camp in Algeria in North Africa. The deaths became known when security forces found a body beside a road.
"This is the deadliest weapon yet in the war against terror. Most of the terrorists do not have the basic medical supplies needed to treat the disease," one security source told the British publication, although it wasn't reported how the deadly outbreak started. "It spreads quickly and kills within hours. This is really worrying al-Qaida."
The victim was associated with al-Qaida in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb, the largest and most powerful al-Qaida group outside the Middle East, The Sun reported. Al-Qaida leaders said they fear the plague has spread to other cells or to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
According to medical sources, infected rat fleas spread bubonic plague, and pneumonic plague is airborne bacteria spread similarly to flu.
Unlike the epidemic in 1665 when 30,000 Londoners died, World Health Officials said plague outbreaks can now be treated with antibiotics and deaths are rare. That is, of course, if the antibiotics are available.
Surfing the Internet to see how the world is responding to this threat revealed a variety of attitudes. Many blogs that I read said that "it couldn't happen to a more deserving body of people." While this may true, and it is admittedly hard to sympathize for the terrorists, this has the possibility of becoming a threat to everyone, not just terrorists. If it should get out of control, it could become a serious threat to entire populations of third-world countries.