The Durbin Rocket and Tygart Flyer

Located in the tiny West Virginia town of Durbin with barely a Main Street is this historic depot and a steam train called the Durbin Rocket.    I mentioned in my previous blog that for three days in a row we rode a different train each day.   In this post I wanted to write about two of those days beginning with our trip out of Durbin.  Like our trip on the Cass Scenic Railroad, this railroad also has a logging history in the area.   For our ride on the train at Cass we only had the choice of sitting in restored flat cars with benches and could not move from car to car.   We had a much different experience on the Durbin trip where we could either ride in an authentic 1920 era enclosed coach, an open air car, mail car or vintage wooden caboose.   During the trip we could also move between the different cars.   Below is a photo of the coal fired Heisler steam engine built in 1929 and the depot in the background.

I got on the train a few minutes after Mark and found him in the caboose sitting up in the cupola.   From here he had the same view as an old time conductor keeping an eye out on the train.

I sat up there for a few minutes but during train trips I like to be outside where better views can be found.   Although called the “Durbin Rocket,” we inched along slowly following the Greenbrier River for a total of 10.5 miles round trip which took two hours.   It was a rainy day and a little cool.  Below was my view as I stood on the back platform of the caboose.

Although I was a little disappointed at first that we had a rainy day for our trip, it actually turned out okay because an old time coal burning stove in the caboose emitted nice, warm heat.   It  was fun to sit next to and provided more atmosphere as we rode along.   Below, our conductor checks the stove and adds more coal.

Our train ride was loosely organized as we did not have assigned seating and there was no programmed commentary while aboard.   Our conductor located himself in one of the cars where most people sat and gave some history on the train and area we were passing through.   Mark sat in the Cupola much of the time and I wandered into a few of the other cars.  We had a lot of great conversations with the people onboard.   This was the case with all three trains that we took while in West Virginia – people were friendly and enjoyed visiting, perhaps train travel inspires this?    Below, I took a picture of Mark in the caboose doorway while I was in the other car.

The company that operates this train offers a unique stay in a “Castaway Caboose” at the end of the train line.   The caboose is dropped off and guests remain for a designated period of time in a remote area along the river.    The train then picks up the caboose when they are making one of their runs.   On this trip we met up with a caboose where a family had been staying for five days.  As they were hooking up I talked to one of the ladies who said it was like staying in a camper with beds, a small kitchen, bathroom and sitting area.   She said that since the weather had been bad they spent most of their time inside playing games, watching DVD’s, resting and cooking meals.   Our conductor said that he has seen people stay for two weeks in a caboose and if they need supplies they can take the train in when it comes out, pick up what they need in town and catch the next train back.   What a unique way to get away from it all!   I took the picture below from the back of the caboose as we were making our way to hook up with the Castaway Caboose.

So now I move on to write about our trip on the Tygart Flyer, the only train trip we took powered by a Diesel engine.   It left from the town of Elkins near where we were staying, so we didn’t have to drive far to catch it.

For this trip, we had assigned seats at tables in fully enclosed cars.   We lucked out because often the seats are all taken, but this time there were only eight of us with 54 seats.   Lots of room to spread out and if we wanted, we could wander from window to window looking for the best views, like I am doing in the picture below.   I also stood outside in a small platform area between two cars much of the trip back.

Our train followed a course through the mountains and along the fast flowing Shavers River with beautiful views like the one below.

We passed through a very narrow mountain tunnel and were surprised how there only seemed to be a few inches between us and the tunnel wall.

Of the three train trips we traveled the farthest on this one, 46 miles round trip which took four hours.   Along the way we were served a cold sandwich buffet which Mark really enjoyed, but I usually avoid white rolls and lunch meat.   Mark joked that I ate a few slices of tomato and a slice of cheese.    The potato chips were good, I am never one to pass up potato chips.   The highlight of the trip was our destination, the High Falls of Cheat which was our turn around before heading back.   It appears that the only way to these falls is to hike significant mileage and elevation gain or take the train as there are no roads here in this isolated part of the Alleghany Mountains.   Our train stopped near to the falls and we had time to check them out at different viewpoints, including the bottom of the falls and the river.   Although the falls are not very tall at 20 feet, they are 150 feet wide and quite impressive.   They were roaring with water, especially since we had so much rain prior to our trip.   I was delighted!   Although we had light rain while on the train, we were fortunate to have none while at the falls.

I love seeing waterfalls and riding trains, so a train trip to a beautiful waterfall was a win, win situation!

Do you notice the brown or amber color of the water?   This was a common sight as we traveled through parts of the Eastern U.S. and is caused by the tannic acid of fallen spruce and hemlock tree needles.    In the photo below Mark looks out the window as the engine runs around the train for the return trip.

On the way back we had more great views of the river, mountains and forests – overall a wonderful trip!

In the next blog I write about more West Virginia adventures!

2 thoughts on “The Durbin Rocket and Tygart Flyer”

    1. I love train travel and so does dad. Riding the trains in West Virginia is one of my fondest memories of this trip. At first when we booked these train trips, three days in a row I wondered if it would be too much train riding at one time, but nope, I could have happily ridden even a few more days. I have always wanted to do a long distance train trip across the U.S., like the one from Sacramento to Chicago or New York City.

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