RADFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) The New River Train Observatory has a fancy name, but it also has a simple mission: to highlight the region's history with a dramatic view of an active rail line.
The observatory is near the Glencoe Museum, on land donated by Norfolk Southern for the Mary Draper Ingles Cultural Heritage Park.
A large crowd gathered there Tuesday morning to celebrate the latest phase of development there.
Bud Jeffries has written a book on the region's rail history.
"I think a lot of people understand that Radford has a rail history," Jeffries told WDBJ7, "but a lot of times it's not really promoted. This helps to promote it, so people can actually come down and witness it."
Making that vision a reality fell to a team of architecture students at Virginia Tech, who designed and built the viewing platform with the guidance of Associate Professor Kay Edge and Assistant Professor Edward Becker.
"It's very beneficial for our architecture students to engage directly with materials and construction," Edge said in an interview, "because we spend so much time in front of our computers, and it brings things home for them."
Radford Mayor David Horton said he expects the new observatory will be a popular attraction for area rail fans.
"I think it's going to be a hit right out of the box," Horton said. "I think people are going to come visit us. As we get the word out, more and more rail fans are going to come down to Radford."
And more displays highlighting the region's rail history are planned, on an abandoned section of track that leads to the new platform, and in the Glencoe Mansion and Museum nearby.
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