The world's foremost roster of working Shay locomotives is faithfully chugging toward a golden anniversary in 2013. The train line, originally built in 1901, hauled timber to the mill in the town of Cass for almost 60 years.
The rail-haul logging operation and bandsaw mill ceased operations on July 1, 1960. Over the course of three years that followed, rail fans, local businessmen, legislators, various state agencies, along with funding from various sources, began to retool a once-thriving logging rail system and town with a vision for a tourist destination. Shay #4 and four coaches departed the Cass depot on Saturday, June 15, 1963, loaded with tourists for its maiden run to the Whittaker Station destination.
Cass Scenic Railroad turns 50 on June 15, 2013. Shay #4 will again do the honors exactly 50 years to the day.
The history of Cass in its early years is well told in the book "Tumult on the Mountain" by Roy Clarkson. A brief history of Cass is posted on the state park's website, www.cassrailroad.com, which includes pages of information about the eight locomotives associated with the railroad. Shay #5 was built by Lima for Greenbrier and Elk River in November 1905. This turn-of-the-century class C-80 Shay has been toiling up Cheat Mountain for over 100 years, making it one of the oldest engines in continuous service on its original line, and the second-oldest Shay in existence.
The town of Cass today remains relatively unchanged. Twenty-two of the two-story company houses are restored for use and may be rented year-round. The state park is located in Pocahontas County. The train trips offered at Cass go to Whittaker Station; Bald Knob, West Virginia's second-highest natural elevation; and to the former town of Spruce; and are scheduled through the last Sunday in October. The schedule is posted online and available in print format by mid-November each year by calling 304-456-4300.
Train trips at Cass Scenic Railroad up Cheat Mountain are almost over for the 2012 tourist season. Trips to Whittaker Station continue through Oct. 28 at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. The cost is $26 for adults and $20 for children ages 5-12 on weekends; fares are reduced mid-week. Bald Knob runs are noon only on Tuesday through Sunday; adults: $32, children 5-12, $24. The last trip in 2012 until the train season resumes on Memorial Day weekend of 2013 will depart for Whittaker Station at 3 p.m. Oct. 28.
Passengers have seen fabulous fall foliage color and occasionally even a dusting of snow. Snow has already occurred in the higher elevations in West Virginia. Check the state park website for temperatures in the area.
The Halloween Train is one of the most popular evening runs the state park offers as a special trip. Scheduled to depart the depot at 6 p.m., passengers are encouraged to wear costumes and enjoy the activities, surprises and fun planned. The cost is $32 for adults, $25 for children ages 5-12 and $16 for children under 5. Descent on the mountain after dark is special. Reservations are required for planning purposes. For details, call Cass Scenic Railroad State Park at 304-456-4300.
For information about Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, visit www.cassrailroad.com or call 304-456-4300.