Cass Scenic Railroad in West Virginia transports passengers to a historical era where steam powered locomotives ruled the land. Constructed in 1901 to pull timber to the town lumber mill via Shay locomotives, these same trains were once used in Canada’s British Columbia for more than 50 years through lush rainforests. Expansive wilderness areas featuring abundant wildlife, historic houses, museums, and the old train depot are just some of the attractions to see and experience along the journey. The sights and sounds of a steam train excursion are highlighted with plenty more things to do in Cass, situated northeast of Charleston amid two stunning national forests.
Cass Railroad Image: jpmueller99 (flickr)
As train tours begin in Cass, passengers experience the pulsing pressure of the steam-driven cars as thickset, jet-black smoke rises from the stack. Careening past Leatherbark Creek, the trip whisks riders beyond the old service station, called Cass Shop, where all the historic trains are restored and maintained. Scores of timeworn equipment lines the tracks at the Cass Scenic Railroad, providing a glimpse of old trains, fixtures, and other paraphernalia.
The journey through Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is an unforgettable one. Several switchbacks tucked into the mountain host the train’s steep course as gears clank and pistons work overtime. At each crossing, the whistle belts out a fierce screech as the train climbs steadily up steep graduations over the first switchback and on to the second. The adventure continues over the mountain passes, into vast, green fields and ends in a dramatic finale at West Virginia’s Whittaker Station.
The second tour option is a train to Bald Knob, which is at one of the highest points in the state at almost 5,000 feet and only ten miles from the town of Cass. Round-trip, the ride is more than four hours. Once at the top, passengers can head to the lookout for a spectacular panorama of Cass Scenic Railroad State Park and enjoy views that reach into neighboring states. This train stops at Whittaker Station as well, but only for a restroom break and a look at the logging camp recreated on the premises. Each ticket includes admission to the Logging History Museum, the Railroad, the Cass Locomotive Shops, and a tour of the logging camp. At Cass Scenic Railroad, the season opener is during the last week or May.
Cass Railroad lodging is one of the best parts the entire railroad experience. For train lovers, they are an ideal alternative to West Virginia hotels and the perfect accompaniment to a train ride. Owned by the railroad and called Company Houses, twenty two-story, turn-of-the-century cottages once used by residents of the logging town are available for rent. Each of the historic homes are ideal for six to twelve guests. They are completely revamped inside reflecting plenty of modern conveniences like fully stocked kitchens, TVs, full, modern bathrooms, and all linens. Wood stoves are found in each of four cottages while electric heat is featured in the rest. Cass Railroad lodging is possible for up to two weeks during West Virginia vacations and are all pet friendly. Two free train rides are offered for guests staying more than five nights at the cottage inside Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. Cass Railroad lodging is also possible at Caboose cabins and Wilderness cabins available for rent where outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, and rafting are easily accessible.
Top image: jpmueller99 (flickr)