I am jumping ahead from my last posts focusing on Maine to our recent travels through West Virginia. My posts have been a few months behind and I thought I would write on more recent experiences to bring the blog better up to date. As I write this, we have visited all the New England states and had wonderful experiences which I plan to write about in future blogs. We will be spending the Fall in the Appalachian states and so in this post I will write about one of our favorite experiences in West Virginia, riding the trains! When planning our stay in West Virginia, we knew we wanted to ride the Cass Scenic Railroad in the Eastern part of the state. What we didn’t know until we arrived to our campground near the town of Elkins, was that there were other interesting train trips available in the area. We ended up riding three different trains three days in a row and had a great time doing it. I will start with Cass, the last one we rode and perhaps the highlight.
The Cass Railroad is actually a West Virginia State Park. The park showcases not only the trains, but also the company town that began here in 1901. It was built for the loggers who worked in the nearby mountains bringing lumber to the mill in the town of Cass. The mill closed in 1960 when the timber industry declined and in 1961 the town became a state park. Part of the sawmill still stands but is mostly in ruins. The trains now carry passengers on the same tracks that the lumber trains once used. In the photo above, one of the trains takes on water from the tank before heading out on a trip.
Before we hopped on the train we were able to tour the very large machine shop where train engines are serviced and repaired. In the photo above the largest steam engine at the park is being serviced. There was an amazing array of equipment and with so many parts and pieces laying everywhere I couldn’t help but wonder how they found anything or kept up with it all, but there is probably a great system in place. Since we had free rein around the shop, I had to be careful where I walked since it was so easy to trip over things. I wonder what OSHA would think?
This is the first time we have seen so many steam engines in one place. Eight are located here and before our trip they had a few of them running along the tracks at the same time, checking them out or getting ready to leave. It was fun to see so much train energy at one time. There are more of these steam engines here than any where else in the world. In the photo below is the Cass Shop where the trains receive maintenance and the back of Number 5 in front of the shop. Number 5 has been making runs into the mountains for almost 100 years. This engine is also in the first photo above.
We were lucky because we ended up being in the car closest to the engine. The cars have bench seats, a roof and open windows to make it easy to look out. Our seats were right next to the engine as it pushed the cars up the track. I spent much of my time standing and looking at all that wonderful steam and smoke and listening to the engine chug along.
I love riding trains, especially steam trains. I don’t mind the smoke, grit and noise. Although sometimes I had to put my fingers in my ears because it did get loud when the whistle blew as we were so close. Since ash and cinders occasionally fell on us, I had to be careful to not get a piece of of it in my eyes.
The train was so close that Mark could reach out and touch the Builder Plate. He said it was not hot, but definitely warm. Our engine, Number 11 was originally built in 1923 and is from Feather Falls, California. We found it funny that a train from our home state came in 1997 to Cass Railroad State Park to be added to their collection.
The train trip was very scenic the whole way with views of streams, thick forests and plenty of mountains. West Virginia is known as the “Mountain State” and we could certainly agree after visiting. Our objective was Bald Knob, the third highest point in West Virginia, so we were traveling up hill during most of the trip.
Once we reached Bald Knob located at 4,842 feet we were given time to wander the mountain top and soak up the views. A large wooden platform perched on the edge offered a spectacular sight into West Virginia valleys below. We were so fortunate to have perfect weather especially since prior to this trip it had been raining for about four days straight! It was sunny and the clouds were lovely.
From the platform you can also see into two states, Pennsylvania and Virginia. It was interesting to see how the Alleghany Mountains of Eastern West Virginia run parallel for many miles, looking so orderly. To the right in the photo below you can see towards Virginia in the distance where the Alleghenies meet the Blue Ridge Mountains, our next destination after leaving West Virginia.
Our trip lasted almost five hours and was 22 miles round trip with two stops. It was a beautiful historic ride and relaxing. There is something about a train trip that puts you in a relaxed mood.
Mark took the photo below using the panorama mode. The picture looks like there is no barrier between me and the train as it is moving, although that was not the case. Even though the picture is distorted, I thought I would share since I find it funny.
Does anyone have a favorite train trip they have taken? Would love to hear of your experiences! Stay tuned as I share about our other train rides in West Virginia.