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Cass, West Virginia: Steaming Back in Time to the Top of Bald Knob

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Cass, West Virginia: Steaming Back in Time to the Top of Bald Knob

The Cass Scenic Railroad, part of the West Virginia State Park System, offers a nostalgic and educational train ride back in time. It’s fun for the whole family, not just rail enthusiasts.

Cass is an authentic logging town, not an amusement park ride. The town is situated in the mountains, on the Greenbrier River. It is largely intact and looks a lot like it did in its logging era heyday, complete with an operating train station, company store, quaint shops, a couple of restaurants, company houses and a working steam railroad shop.

The station and ticket office at Cass. Credit: Jeff Orenstein

The railroad line that is presently operating was built around the turn of the 20th century to haul logs down from the mountain. It connected with the branch that the C & O Railroad built in1901 to reach logging country.

A large lumber mill flourished in Cass until 1960 and its ruins are visible today. Even though the mill is gone and the C & O Railroad (now part of CSX) abandoned its branch to Cass, the town and its steam-powered logging railroad still flourish. The logging railroad operates as it once did except its geared steam engines haul tourists instead of logs up and down the mountain. The line’s features include meticulously-maintained historic rolling stock, steep grades, sharp curves, switchbacks, gorgeous views and a ride in open cars through the dense woods.

Deep in the West Virginia mountains, Cass is way off the beaten path and not near any major urban areas. But despite its remote setting, it is a worthwhile destination that offers a rare glimpse into history and a memorable train ride.

Passengers transferring from the Cass Scenic Railroad to the Cheat Mountain Salamander (right) as the tracks meet on the side of the mountain. Credit: Jeff Orenstein

 

Before You Go, Do some pre-trip research at:

 

Getting There:

 

Cass is best reached by highway or train. 

·       By highway, Cass is in eastern West Virginia, roughly between I-79 and I-81. Once you leave the interstate, the driving is over twisty two lane mountain roads.  Cass is accessible by State Route 28/92N between Dunmore and Green Bank in Pocahontas County. An 11-mile connector route, WV 66, links the town of Cass to U.S. 219 which connects to Slaty Fork. The driving distance from Cass, West Virginia to Charleston, West Virginia is 158 miles and Roanoke is 141 miles away.

  • By train, the Cheat Mountain Salamander offers service from Elkins.
  • By air, The closest major airport to Cass, West Virginia is Greenbrier Valley Airport (LWB) in Lewisburg, W.W., 68 miles away. It is served by United and Silver. The nearest airports with extensive service are Roanoke Regional Airport (ROA) at 121 miles and Washington Dulles International (IAD at 198 miles distant.

 

Whittaker Station, 3.8 rail miles from Cass, is a stop on the way to Bald Knob. It has restrooms, shanties, a kitchen/dining car, a log loader, a skidder and a fire tower. Credit: Jeff Orenstein

Must Sees For a Short Trip:

  • Take a ride on the Cass Scenic Railroad to Whittaker Station or all the way to Bald Knob
  • Walk through the logging town of Cass and explore history, with or without a guide.
  • Visit the Cass Company Store.
  • Take a ranger-led interpretive tour.

If You Have Several Days:

  • Explore the Snowshoe ski area.
  • Visit nearby Green Bank and see the Green Bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory
  • Take a combined ride on two trains with one ticket. The Cass Scenic Railroad connects with the diesel-drawn Cheat Mountain Salamander half way up the mountain and offers overnight package options in Elkins or Cass. Stops include Elkins, Cheat Bridge and Cass, WV.
  • Ride the train and stay overnight in the caboose at Bald Knob, elevation 4,700 ft. Reservations required.

The observation tower at Bald Knob overlooks Green Bank, W.V.. The mountains in the distance are in Virginia.


Ginny O’s  Tips For Dressing The Simply Smart Travel Way For Cass:

Casual and comfortable are the operative words. There is no reason or place to dress up. Be comfortable and be warm. Layers help. It can be as much as 10 to 15 degrees colder at Bald Knob than Cass. Also. Wear dark clothing and a hat because steam locomotives produce prodigious amounts of soot which can land back on the passenger cars.

 

Destination At A Glance

Mobility Level: Fairly high. The town of Cass have hills and company houses can have steep steps.

When To Go: Avoid winter unless you are a skier. Late Spring, summer and fall are best.

Where to Stay. The 22 Cass Company Houses can be rented. They range from accommodating two to 12. The rustic Bear Creek Lodge is right across the river bridge from the train station.

Close by are Seneca State Forest cabins and rustic campground, private campgrounds, smallish motels and other accommodations, especially near Snowshoe.

Getting Around:. There is no public transportation except for the trains, Walking or a car is necessary.

Special Travel Interests: Scenic train rides, mountain scenery, history.

Profile photo of Orenstein

Jeffrey Orenstein, Ph.D. and Virginia Orenstein are husband and wife travel writers from Sarasota, Florida. Their Simply Smart Travel column appears in newspapers and magazines in nine states and online.

Reach them at jorenstein@Simplysmarttravel.com. They publish travel ideas, articles, photos and blog at www.SimplySmartTravel.com and at www.facebook.com/SimplySmartTravel/.

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