West Virginia
Riding the Rails: Step Aboard Vintage Trains in the West Virginia Mountains
Explore West Virginia aboard classic trains, including the historic Shay and Heisler steam engines, and stop at a steam-engine repair shop.
Rating (4.88)
Program No. 5230RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
14 meals
5 B 4 L 5 D
Getting There
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Check-in, Registration, Dinner, Orientation
Elkins WV
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Elkins

Activity note: We will walk one block to a neighborhood restaurant for dinner at 6:00 PM.

Afternoon: After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the conference room to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, other important information, and to learn when and where the Orientation session will take place. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check-in. A get acquainted reception will be held from 5:00 to 6:00 in the hotel conference room.

Dinner: In a neighborhood restaurant about 1 block from the hotel, enjoy a 3-course dinner buffet including a salad, choice of entrée, and dessert of the day, plus coffee, tea or water.

Evening: Orientation: In the hotel conference room at 7:30 PM, the Group Leader will greet everyone. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Program activities, schedules, personnel and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. thanks for your understanding. Periods offered as free time offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable while going out to explore on your own, engaging in available activities independently, making new friends among fellow Road Scholars, or simply relaxing. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions.

Steam Engines; Railroads & the Civil War; Train Songs
Elkins WV
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Elkins

Activity note: We will walk a short distance to a neighborhood restaurant for lunch. Getting on and off motor coach and ride a short distance to a museum and then to an historic mansion for dinner. Standing up to an hour while touring museum.

Breakfast: In the hotel lobby, our daily breakfast buffet offers a rotating variety of choices such as an egg dish, breakfast meat, hot/cold cereals, fruit, yogurt. assorted breads and pastries, milk, juices, coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: In the hotel conference room, local experts will present background lectures on distinctive features of the railroad engines, their historic uses, and the train excursion routes. Representatives from Cass Scenic Railroad will present an overview of the history of the Cass Scenic Railroad and the conversion from hauling timber to becoming an excursion train for visitors. Discussion will include unique features of Shay, Heisler and Climax steam engines. A representative from the Durbin and Greenbrier Railroad will discuss unique features of the Durbin Rocket, Cheat Mountain Salamander, and Mountain Explorer trains.

Lunch: At a popular neighborhood restaurant a short walk from the hotel, enjoy a buffet lunch including salads, choice of locally favorite entrées, bread, and dessert, plus coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: In the afternoon, a local historian will discuss pivotal roles played by West Virginia in the Civil War, from the first shots fired at Harpers Ferry, to the first land battle at Philippi, to Federal forces rushing to secure the vital transportation network of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and leading eventually to West Virginia statehood itself. After the lecture you will have approximately 90 minutes of free time to explore the local area on your own. At 4:30, we will board a motorcoach for a ten minute drive to Stirrup Gallery on the campus of Davis and Elkins College where we can view authentic powder horns and firearms form the Civil War. This gallery is the home to nine collections including Senator Davis'. In addition to the Civil War items, we will be able to explore over 3,500 years of history as we view a wide variety of exhibits including coins from the Roman Emperor Trajan's reign, firearms, pottery, glassware, Americana items and even a collection featuring materials from the headwaters of the Amazon River. The museum curator will accompany us and answer questions.

Dinner: We will enjoy a 3-course buffet at historic mansion featuring salad, choice of two entrées, and dessert, plus coffee, tea, water. Graceland Mansion is an historic landmark overlooking Elkins and features three floors of period rooms that are open to the public.

Evening: At the hotel conference room, we will enjoy an evening of train songs, "All Aboard the Iron Horse - Songs and Stories about America's Railroads" by Mick Souter. This will include many familiar train songs and some of the stories behind the building of the railroads. Mick, a full-time musician and performer, uses an assortment of musical instruments including the banjo, harmonica, guitar, dulcimer, and auto harp to accompany his songs.

Cass Scenic Railroad: Showcase, Bald Knob Ride, Shop Tour
Elkins WV
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Elkins

Activity note: This is an all day trip with 80 minutes motor coach rides to and from Cass. Must be able to get on/off motor coach and train. We will be standing for up to one hour during shop & sawmill tours. We will walk three blocks from the depot to the community center for dinner (paved, some uphill). Expect cooler temperatures as the train climbs to the top of Bald Knob. Bring a day pack with a jacket, water bottle and don't forget your camera!

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will enjoy a video describing the building America's railroad in story and music as we ride a motorcoach to Cass Scenic Railroad. Upon arrival at Cass, we will tour the working steam engine repair shop where experts discuss engine features up close and answer questions as we watch mechanics as they perform the daily maintenance of their fleet of steam engines. See the steam engines up close, learn how they operate, and what types of maintenance they require. We will also see steam engine restoration projects underway at the railroad. We will complete the tour with an overview of the old saw mill operation presented by park staff. After the tour, you may have time to visit the country store or stroll among the company homes before boarding the Bald Knob train at 11:30.

Lunch: On the Bald Knob excursion train, we will enjoy a hobo lunch including cold sandwich, chips, salad cup, dessert and beverage.

Afternoon: Group Leader will accompany you as you ride behind a geared Shay steam engine that will take you up 11 miles of track. Experience the train using two switchbacks as it climbs the steepest parts of the track. Enjoy panoramic views of pastoral farms, mountain gorges, and the ghost town of Spruce, once one of the highest elevation towns in the east. At an elevation of 4,842 feet at the top of Bald Knob, you will have a stunning view of the Greenback Telescope and two states. A stop at Whittaker Station is frequently included on the trip down the mountain that allows you to investigate exhibits illustrating several pieces of equipment used in railroad logging operations. The train has an on-board commentator.

Dinner: At the Cass Community Center, the catered 3-course buffet dinner features a selection of regional foods including salad, choice of two entrées, sides, bread, and dessert plus water. lemonade, tea. by the Last Run Restaurant at the Cass Community Center in Cass Scenic Railroad State Park.

Evening: Ride the motorcoach back to Elkins.

Two Excursion Train Rides & Dinner Theatre
Elkins WV
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Elkins

Activity note: An all day trip with two excursion train rides. There will be two motorcoach rides, one is about 15 minutes and one is 60 minutes. In the morning, we will have the opportunity to depart the train and walk on a somewhat rugged woodland trail to a waterfall. We will walk 1 block from depot to restaurant for lunch. Bring a day pack with a jacket, water bottle and don't forget your camera! In addition, the motor coach will take us a short distance from the hotel to the dinner theatre and back.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will walk two blocks to the historic Elkins Depot where we will board the Cheat Mountain Salamander at 9:00 AM. Accompanied by the Group Leader, experience riding in this 1915 vintage passenger train that will take you over 20 miles of wilderness terrain to the scenic High Falls where the train stops for approximately 45 minutes at the High Falls of the Cheat River. You may remain on the train or exit and hike down the short trail to observe the waterfall. This trail is uneven and somewhat rugged. After re-boarding, you continue your journey along the scenic river valley as the train continues on to Cheat Bridge. This train is named in honor of the endangered Cheat Mountain Salamander that lives exclusively along this route. The train has a commentator. We will de-board the train at Cheat Bridge and ride a motorcoach nine miles to Durbin, WV.

Lunch: At a local restaurant in Durbin WV, enjoy sandwiches (cold & hot selections), coleslaw, chips, fruit cup, and dessert, plus coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: After lunch we will have free time to stretch your legs, explore the historic railroad town of Durbin, or simply relax with your fellow Road Scholars. At 1:30 we will board the Durbin Rocket, where you will have the opportunity to ride and experience the sights and sounds of either a Climax or a Heisler steam engine. You may choose to ride in an authentic 1920s caboose or enjoy the open air passenger cars as the engine puffs and whistles along the free-flowing Greenbrier River. On cold days, you may even find a warm fire in the caboose's potbelly stove. The ride covers 10.5 miles and offers many beautiful river and mountain views in the Monongahela National Forest. On most runs the engineer will allow photographers to de-board for a scenic "run-by" photo opportunity before returning to the station. There is a commentator on this train. Immediately after returning to the depot, we will take a motorcoach back to Elkins.

Dinner: After riding the motorcoach for approximately ten minutes, we will eat a a local dinner theatre and enjoy a 3-course plated meal including salads, choice of two entrées, vegetables, bread, and dessert, plus coffee, tea, water.

Evening: Along with dinner, we will experience an elaborate variety show with music, dance, and comedy. Although the shows are loosely based on the historic railroad work crew, you can expect anything from country to rock to gospel or patriotic as these characters dance and sing through their comedy routines. Enjoy a backstage tour and meet the cast after the show concludes. The motorcoach will return us to the hotel.

WV Program, Appalachian Music & Dinner Train
Elkins WV
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Elkins

Activity note: Walking a short distance to a neighborhood restaurant for lunch, three blocks to the WV Railroad Museum, and two blocks to the train depot. Getting on & off excursion train.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: In the hotel conference room, the Group Leader will lead a fun presentation focusing on West Virginia culture, facts and tidbits beginning at 9:00 AM. This will be followed by a local musician who will present a program on traditional Appalachian music that will lift the audience with the lilt of old time mandolin melodies and then fire you up with driving banjo breakdowns. His competing songs, horrible puns, and outrageous tall tales take his audiences for a ride through the fascinating world of traditional Appalachian folk music.

Lunch: In a neighborhood restaurant a short distance from the hotel, enjoy a buffet including a salad, choice of entrée, and dessert of the day, plus coffee, tea or water.

Afternoon: After lunch we will have free time to visit the West Virginia Railroad Museum and the Appalachian Forest Discovery Center at your leisure as well as to see and do what interests you most. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Dinner: On the Mountain Explorer Dinner Train, we will enjoy an elegant four course plated meal cooked and served on the train. You will select entree and dessert options that will be served along with fruit appetizers and salads, plus coffee, tea, water.

Evening: At 5:00 PM we will board the Mountain Explorer Dinner Train. Train travel and fine dining have been one of the great pleasures enjoyed by previous generations of Americans. Many who remember this romanticized time in history still visualize the unique notions evoked by this unusual combination of dining while gliding effortlessly past towns and rivers, accompanied by the rhythmic melody of the rails. The four-hour journey will highlight a freshly-cooked, four-course meal prepared inside a completely restored dining car and served en-route. The recipes for these unique meals are original menu items offered on the great cross-country trains of the 1930-1960 eras. This is a time that saw some of the finest dining in the US being served as the trains sped across the mountains and plains of our great nation. This climate-controlled vintage passenger train of the 1950s offers one of the most exciting mountain wilderness scenery in the US. The smooth diesel powered train travels 56 miles round trip, passing through the scenic area at Nova Scotia Rocks and through the secluded and rugged boulder-strewn gorge of the Tygart Valley river. The trip features Wilmoth Falls, scenes of the confluence of the Middle Fork River, and some long views with numerous cascades and small waterfalls. There is a commentator on this train.

Breakfast and program concludes
Elkins WV

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Group Leader will be available to discuss program highlights, share favorite experiences, and say farewell to new Road Scholar friends. This concludes our program.

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