As I stood staring out into the woods that were rapidly passing by, I was hypnotized by the steady and rhythmic sound of the steam engine and the wheels chugging along on the steel tracks below. For a few moments I was transported, not back in time, but instead to a place that was timeless. A place where men spent their days above ground logging while their brethren spent long hours underground mining for the coal that fueled the beast that I was currently riding. You see I was riding the Cass Scenic Railroad through West Virginia reliving the life of those that came before me.
Founded in 1901, Cass was a company town that was built to support the logging operations on the nearby Cheat Mountain. At the time, railroads were the most efficient and cost effective way to transport logs, and thus the Cass Railroad was born. Over time though, logging became more difficult and costly, and by 1960 the entire operation was shut down. Amazingly thanks to the efforts of a few forward thinking local business people, the railroad was preserved as a state park in 1963. Shortly thereafter, the Cass Scenic Railroad was born. About a decade later the entire town of Cass, WV was added to the park thus preserving the whole area.
The Cass Scenic Railroad experience begins when you arrive at the town of Cass, WV. The moment you step out of your car you take a step back in time to a world that has been perfectly preserved. Everything from the company store to the company houses are still intact and have been restored for your enjoyment. You can actually even rent out one of the company houses for an overnight stay. Walking through the town and store are a great way to warm up before hopping onto the Cass Railroad and chugging back in time.
Before the ride beings the train pulls into the station engine roaring, surrounded by clouds of billowing black smoke. The engineer and crew disembark, dressed to the period, and help passengers board the train. The fully restored locomotive, 1905 Shay #5 is so majestic.
Once fully loaded, the ride begins and the train starts its ride up to the top of the mountain. The views are filled with a combination of old structures yet to be restored, and incredible landscapes.
The main attraction for us though is the train itself. A marvel of engineering, it plods along unaware of it’s own obsolescence or the passage of time.
Upon arrival to the top of the mountain the Cass Scenic Railroad pulls into Whitaker Station.
Once at the station passengers can explore the old camp where artifacts and equipment were left and preserved.
Sadly the time at Whittaker station is short, and we must quickly re-board the train for the return trip to Cass. Interestingly, even though we are returning on the same tracks, the landscapes and views appear entirely different.
The ride ends as the train returns to Cass stopping by the old water tower to refill her tanks as she prepares for another trip up the ole mountain.
There are several different rides and experiences that can be booked on the Cass Scenic Railroad. You can take the route we did to Whitaker Station or there is a longer route to Bald Knob that lasts about 4.5 hours and covers 11 miles each way. Either way, if you find yourself anywhere near the town of Cass, WV a trip to the Cass Scenic Railroad should definitely not be missed.
Details for the Cass Scenic Railroad
242 Main Street
Cass, WV 24927