Cass Scenic Railroad State Park operates along the same rails brought to the area in 1901 to service West Virginia Pulp and Paper’s company town to haul lumber, product, and services to and from the mill at Cass. Today, the same steam-powered engines that have run the line for over a century transport delighted passengers up and down scenic Back Allegheny Mountain, across land that has changed very little over time.
The heritage railway at Cass is home to the largest collection of Shay locomotives still extant in the world. Its fleet of legendary turn-of-the-century locomotives includes eight Shays, one Heisler, and one Climax, all of which are property of the West Virginia State Parks Division explicitly for the purpose of public education and enjoyment.
From the vantage point of refurbished logging cars, passengers are transported 11 miles up to the peak of Bald Knob, the third-highest point in West Virginia, a feat unto itself thanks to the old locomotives’ unique gearing. Thick black smoke pours from the locomotive’s stacks, and the train passes a still functioning locomotive repair shop, where the engines continue to be repaired to this day. Back in the town of Cass, visitors find restored company houses and a mill, that while no longer in operation, remains largely unchanged from its days of prime operation.
The cumulative effect is one of taking a ride back in time to a world apart, one where steam locomotives never died, and company towns don’t look half as bad as they probably were.
Know Before You Go
The site is located right on Route 66—you can't miss it. There is ample free parking and full amenities. The train rides take some time, so the trips are essentially only one per day, most leaving in the morning, with the last one departing at 1:30 or 2:00pm, so get there early. There are multiple options for trips, too. Best is to check out their website, which is very helpful. The train trips involve steam engines, so there is ample noise, steam, and smoke.