Northern Virginia Magazine – Family Travel: West Virginia Mountain Rail Adventures
By Micaela Williamson
The Potomac Highlands of West Virginia are a testament to the state’s wild heart. With diverse forests, rushing streams and huge rock formations, the area is an unparalleled destination for scenic adventures. There is perhaps no better way to take in the scenery than a unique trip with West Virginia Mountain Rail Adventures.
Step back in time and leave your GPS at home—it honestly won’t work in much of the region and may take you way off course through a dense national forest. West Virginia Mountain Rail Adventures offers a variety of trips from daylong excursions to shorter sightseeing tours. From April through December, pistons pump and steam hisses as the iconic trains leave from the historic depots of Elkins, Durbin and Cass, West Virginia. Train options include:
- The Tygart Flyer: Experience vintage luxury in this climate-controlled passenger train and take a relaxing ride through the wilderness to view the breathtaking High Falls of Cheat. The ride includes a complimentary cold lunch buffet and cash wine bar served in a plush 1922-era Pullman parlor car.
- The Cheat Mountain Salamander: Rides on this train vary in length and take you through the untamed wilderness of Cheat Mountain. The Cheat Mountain Salamander travels through a long S-curve tunnel along many mountain vistas and is a great option for spotting wildlife such as bald eagles and black bears.
- The Durbin Rocket: Built in 1910 for a local lumber company, the Durbin Rocket is pulled by one of three surviving Climax geared logging trains. With the combination of open and closed cars and short two-hour trip, the train is a great choice for families with young children.
- Cass Scenic Railroad: From Cass, rail fans can choose between the two-hour Whittaker trip to a recreated authentic logging camp or take a powerful steam train ride on steep tracks to the top of Bald Knob, one of West Virginia’s highest peaks.
Although the rides are extraordinary enough, the company boasts multiple special events and seasonal trains suited to a variety of interests. The railroad is also one of only a few in the U.S. that holds the rights to offer THE POLAR EXPRESS™ train during the holiday season. Plus, new for 2015, the Wild Heart of West Virginia Adventure Package offers visitors trips on both the Cass Scenic Railroad and Cheat Mountain Salamander with overnight accommodation options.
Micaela Williamson is a coauthor of local travel guide Kid Trips Northern Virginia, an extraordinary resource that provides descriptions, useful information and insider tips for hundreds of local destinations. Micaela is also an award-winning blogger who enjoys supporting area businesses and scouting out family-friendly venues with her two young sons.