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 (4.9)
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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Welcome, Dinner & Orientation
Elkins WV
Holiday Inn Express

Dinner: Dinner will be a buffet at the Railyard Restaurant

Evening: Complete discussion of the program agenda for the week, emergency procedures, and introductions beginning at 7:30 PM in the hotel conference room.

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

Breakfast: Breakfast will be in the hotel lobby

Morning: 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. Discussion will include distinctive features of the engines and the routes for the trips.

Lunch: Lunch will be a buffet at C. J. Maggies. Participants will walk 3 to 4 blocks to this favorite local restaurant.

Afternoon: Discover 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 board a bus to visit Stirrup Gallery on the campus of Davis and Elkins College where you 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, you will be able to explore over 3,500 years of history as you 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.

Dinner: Dine at Graceland, a Victorian mansion that overlooks Elkins and a 24 mile vista of scenic Appalachian Mountains. This beautifully restored mansion was once home to Henry Gassaway Davis, former US Senator and an unsuccessful candidate for Vice President of the US. Named for his daughter Grace, this mansion features a dozen historically restored Bed and Breakfast rooms that are open for viewing by restaurant patrons.

Evening: 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 autoharp to accompany his songs.

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

Activity note: This is an all day trip. 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: Breakfast will be in the hotel lobby.

Morning: Ride a coach bus to Cass Scenic Railroad. A highlight of the week for many participants is a tour of the working steam engine repair shop at Cass. Watch the 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. The guide will also show you steam engine restoration projects underway at the railroad. Currently the Climax steam engine is in the restoration shop where you will be able to see it up close. Complete the tour with an overview of the old saw mill operation. 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: A hobo lunch will be served on the Bald Knob Train.

Afternoon: Your ride behind a geared Shay steam engine 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 on the trip down the mountain allows you to investigate exhibits illustrating several pieces of equipment used in railroad logging operations.

Dinner: Enjoy a buffet dinner at the Last Run Restaurant at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

Evening: Ride the coach bus back to Elkins.

Two Train Rides & Dinner Theatre
Elkins WV
Holiday Inn Express

Breakfast: Breakfast is in the hotel lobby.

Morning: Walk two blocks to the historic Elkins Depot where you will board the Cheat Mountain Salamander at 9:00 AM. 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 reboarding, you will enjoy lunch on the train as 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.

Lunch: Lunch will be served on the train.

Afternoon: Depart the train at Cheat Bridge and ride the bus to the historic railroad town of Durbin. You will have the opportunity to visit the Rail and Trail Store located directly across the street from the depot for those desiring to purchase souvenirs or a big scoop of ice cream. You will have time to explore this vintage railroad town as you stretch your legs before riding the Durbin Rocket, where you will have the opportunity to ride and experience the sights and sounds of the 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. The coach bus will take you back to Elkins.

Dinner: Dinner will be at the Gandy Dancer Dinner Theatre in Elkins.

Evening: Along with dinner, you will experience an elaborate variety show with music, dance, and comedy, a real smorgasbord of entertainment. 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.

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

Breakfast: Breakfast in the hotel lobby.

Morning: Begin the day at 9:00 with a fun presentation by the site coordinators focusing on West Virginia culture, facts and tidbits. Enjoy free time to explore Elkins from 10:00 to 12:30.

Lunch: Lunch will be at the Railyard Restaurant

Afternoon: Relax after lunch as you explore the musical roots of West Virginia culture that grew into traditional Appalachian Music. John Rossbach 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. This program will be held on the second floor of the Railyard Restaurant. After the program you will have time to visit the West Virginia Rail Road Museum before boarding the dinner train.

Dinner: Dinner will be an elegant four course meal cooked and served on the Mountain Explorer Dinner Train.

Evening: 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 Mountain Explorer Dinner Train departs Elkins at 5:30. 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.

Breakfast and program concludes
Elkins WV

Breakfast: Breakfast will be in the hotel lobby area.

Morning: Program concludes immediately after breakfast