The Cass Scenic Railroad, the major attraction at the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park in Pocahontas County, offers excursion rides on a historic logging railroad line. The railroad is the last segment of the once vast railroad network built, beginning in 1900, to harvest the red spruce on Cheat and Back Allegheny mountains to supply a pulp mill in Covington, Virginia, and the lumber mill in Cass. Today, restored logging locomotives, Shay and Heisler engines built between 1905 and 1945, pull and push the renovated logging flatcars full of tourists up the steep grades.
The logging railroad was abandoned when the mill closed in 1960. The property, including 11 miles of track, the shop, and other equipment and facilities, was purchased by the state in 1962 to create the new park. The first passenger trip was June 15, 1963, during the Centennial celebration. The railroad was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
The steep ascent is made possible by the specially geared locomotives and two switchbacks in the line. The first stop is at Whittaker Station, where the Mountain State Railroading and Logging Historical Association has re-created a 1940s logging camp and equipment display. At 4,842 feet, Bald Knob, 2,300 feet above Cass, provides tourists with an unobstructed view east across the Greenbrier Valley into Virginia. The railroad and park have been expanded to include the town of Cass, additional locomotives, gift and craft shops, museums, and a new depot and engine shop. Cass Scenic Railroad State Park includes 1,089 acres and offers lodging in historic company houses.
Read the National Register of Historic Places nomination.
This Article was written by Louise Burner Flegel
Last Revised on February 18, 2013
Clarkson, Roy B. On Beyond Leatherbark: The Cass Saga. Parsons: McClain, 1990.