West Virginia’s Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is a park that preserves the railroad of yesteryear. At the center of the state park is the Cass Scenic Railroad. Many of West Virginia’s historic railroads were built for coal mining, and today there are many ghost mining towns in West Virginia that you can visit. That said, the Cass Scenic Railroad was built for logging, not coal.
The Cass Scenic Railroad is a historic railroad owned by the West Virginia State Railroad 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 and Shay Steam Engine
The settlement of Cass began in 1901 as a company town for men who worked in the nearby mountains, felling spruce and hemlock. For a time, the Cass sawmill had the largest double-belt sawmill in the world.
The railroad was eventually extended to the top of Bald Knob (the third highest mountain peak in West Virginia). Eventually the lumber business went into decline and the line was closed in 1960. It quickly became a tourist attraction, running its first sightseeing excursion in 1963.
- Built: in 1901
- To size: standard track track
- Length: 11 miles or 18km
Hop aboard a real-life steam locomotive and hear the sound, sound, sound of the bell and CHUG, Chug, chug of the pistons just as it has for over a hundred years. The mighty steam engine can easily carry upgrades averaging 4-5% and even 10% in some places. It is one of the highest cogless railroads east of the Rocky Mountains.
The Shay locomotive was built to withstand the harshest mountainous conditions for the toughest tasks. It was built to haul heavy stopwatch loads up steep rail inclines, around hairpin turns, and overly-rushed road surfaces. 2,761 Shay locomotives were built and five of the few remaining are today at Cass.
Travel Options on the Cass Scenic Railroad
Visitors can choose between two attractions: the Bald Knob
Bald goatee ride:
The Bald Knob trip takes the long 11-mile drive to Bald Knob (a 22-mile round trip). The total trip takes about 4.5 hours and features stunning Appalachian panoramas.
- Length: 11 Miles (22 Round Trip Miles)
- Duration: 4.5 hours
- Cost: $77 Adult (Ages 12-64)
Climb up the mountain and watch the trees change. In total, the train climbs from 2,390 feet at Cass to 4,842 feet at Bald Knob in Back Allegheny Mountain. Keep an eye out for the giant Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope.
Whittaker Station Walk:
The Whittaker Station walk is the shorter of the two walks. It only goes up 4 miles (8 miles back) to the Whittaker station and takes two hours.
- Length: 4 Miles (8 Miles Round Trip)
- Duration: 2 hours
- Cost: $57 Adult (Ages 12-64)
Sit in the train as it zigzags through the curve, with the engines alternately pushing and then pulling the passenger cars due to how steep the incline is.
Whittaker station is stunning and a great place for a family picnic.
If you’re heading west to the Grand Canyon, experience a vintage 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. Visitors not only experience the rich history of the region, but also enjoy the incomparable view of the region. They can see the sights and sounds of the original logging town.
Enter the company store with The Last Run gift shop and restaurant and soda fountain.
- Company history schedule: Daily From 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
See the Cass Historical Theater and Historical Museum: It is one of the only authentic wooden railway museums in the United States.
- Days Open: Wednesday to Sunday
- Opening Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The winter season is from November 1 to March 31, and opening hours vary. The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the weekend.