Elkins Depot area brightens rainy days
ELKINS — Rainy days try to dampen our spirits and do limit opportunities for outdoor activities. Both young and old seek remedies which will not only keep everyone dry, but fill them with new experiences. Learning more about olden times and how their ancestors spent their days might just be the answer.
Fortunately, locals have a marvelous opportunity when inclement weather sets in to visit the downtown Elkins Depot area, which provides some unique places to spend time including the Darden Mill building, the Railroad Gift Shop, the Visitor’s Center and the track area where the old, vintage train engines pull the cars into their stop from far-away mountain destinations.
Located on the far end of the arrival complex is the Darden Mill, a refurbished building that houses downstairs the Appalachian Forest Discovery Center and upstairs the West Virginia Railroad Museum.
Open Thursdays through Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., youth are welcome to participate in a number of interactive games where they are invited to write their memories of forest experiences on index cards and post these on bulletin boards for others to read. Quiz games include questions about edible and medicinal plants. An entire roomful of interesting learning stations draw attention.
When finished with this adventure, they may ascend upstairs to the Railroad Museum that fully occupies the second floor and where an assortment of model trains are available for both young and old to participate as engineers.
An important educational experience is offered for both older and younger children who can begin to realize the significance of railroad travel for not only patron citizens riding, but commercial groups whose businesses needed to get their materials delivered throughout the East.
Being almost completely dependent on rail service in the early 1900s, it can be understood why early Elkins founders such as Henry Gassaway Davis and Stephen B. Elkins sought prominent roles in government because of the influence needed to ensure railroad travel success.
Additionally, youngsters can see first-hand many of the old devices that were used to ensure operational safety and the critical role trains performed before we had cars and trucks.
During a morning visit, no doubt, a whistle will blow as the first engine moves either in or out of the main Depot. It is especially exciting for children to see the train moving and understand the speed with which it usually approaches its destinations.
After watching the engineer manipulate the train into its resting spot, children may enjoy looking at all the Gift Shop items. Covering much of the Depot area, a large assortment of books, engineer caps, other clothing and many other souvenirs are for sale and will remind them of their visit. Their play with these items can fill several additional hours.
While inside the Depot, one can stop by the Welcome Center where pamphlets from many places in West Virginia are available to take for future reference. No doubt, some new adventures may be discovered that can be put on family calendars.
A block away are two businesses offering ice cream cones to complete the day’s outing. This sweet day’s ending will help children have happy impressions of their many experiences which will be discussed during the day’s remainder.
An incredible amount of time and effort has been put into the development of this area of our town. It is good to remember whether going on a train ride or not that these facilities are open most of the week and always have the “Welcome” signs out.
A couple hours at the Depot offers a special way not only to help young people learn history, but, also, glean reasons to have pride in their heritage. Be among those who answer in the affirmative when you hear the words, “All aboard!”