West Virginia's Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is a park that preserves the railroad of yesteryear. Central to the state park is the Cass Scenic Railroad. Many of the historic railroads of West Virginia were built for coal mining, and today there are many ghost mining towns in West Virginia that one can visit. That being said, the Cass Scenic Railroad was built for logging and not for coal.
The Cass Scenic Railroad is a heritage railway owned by the West Virginia State Rail Authority and operated by the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad. It still uses the original steam locomotives and is a must for any train enthusiast.
Historic Cass & The Steam Shay Locomotive
The settlement of Cass began in 1901 as a company town for the men working in the nearby mountains, cutting down spruce and hemlock. For a while, Cass's sawmill had the largest double-band sawmill in the world.
The railroad was eventually extended up to the top of Bald Knob (the third-highest mountain peak in West Virginia). Finally, the timber business went into decline, and the line was shut in 1960. It quickly became a tourist attraction, with it making its first tourist excursion in 1963.
- Built: In 1901
- Gauge: Standard Gauge Track
- Length: 11 Miles or 18 km
Hop on a real-life steam locomotive and hear the clang, Clang, CLANG of the bell and CHUG, Chug, chug of pistons just as it has done for over a hundred years. The powerful steam engine is able to easily haul upgrades averaging 4-5% and even 10% at places. It is one of the highest non-cog railroads east of the Rocky Mountains.
The Shay Locomotive was built to handle the roughest mountain conditions for the toughest duties. It was built to haul heavy loads of timer on steep rail grades, around sharp curves, and overhastily laid roadbeds. 2,761 of the Shay Locomotives were built, and five of the very few remaining are at Cass today.
Cass Scenic Railroad Ride Options
Visitors can choose between two rides - the Bald Knob
Bald Knob Ride:
The Bald Knob ride takes the long haul of 11 miles to Bald Knob (a 22-mile round trip). The total trip takes around 4.5 hours and boasts stunning panoramas of the Appalachians.
- Length: 11 Miles (22 Miles Round Trip)
- Duration: 4.5 Hours
- Cost: $77 Adult (Aged 12-64)
Climb up the mountain and see the trees change. In all, the train climbs from 2,390 feet at Cass to 4,842 feet at Bald Knob on Back Allegheny Mountain. Keep the eyes on the lookout for the giant Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope.
Whittaker Station Ride:
The Whittaker Station Ride is the shorter of the two rides. It only goes up 4 miles (8-mile return) to the Whittaker Station and takes two hours.
- Length: 4 Miles (8 Miles Round Trip)
- Duration: 2 Hours
- Cost: $57 Adult (Aged 12-64)
Sit back in the train as it zigzags through the switchback, with the engines alternately pushing and then pulling the passenger cars because of how steep the grade is.
Whittaker Station is stunning and a great place for a family picnic.
If going out West to the Grand Canyon, experience an old-timey train robbery on the historic Grand Canyon Railway.
Planning A Visit To Cass Scenic Railroad State Park
Today visitors can take a trip back in time on the Cass Scenic Railroad. Not only do visitors experience the rich history of the region, but they also enjoy the unparalleled view of the region. They get to see the sights and sounds of the original lumbering town.
Pop into the Company Store with the gift shop and The Last Run Restaurant and Soda Fountain.
- Company Story Hours: Daily From 8.00 am to 8.00 pm
See the Cass Historical Theater and Historical Museum - it is one of America's only authentic lumber railroading museums.
- Days Open: Wednesday to Sunday
- Hours Open: 9.00 am to 5.00 pm
The winter season is from November 1 to March 31, and the opening hours vary. The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays through the weekend.