The popular Mountain Rail Adventure, “Great West Virginia Train Race,” will be held at the old logging town site of Spruce on the weekend of July 18-19. Here, the Elkins-based Cheat Mountain Salamander train will meet with the Cass Scenic Railroad to compete in the race of the year!
The unique event, hosted by the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad (DGVR), highlights the horsepower of West Virginia’s historic railroad locomotives. A mid-20th century diesel locomotive will battle with a more than a century old coal-fired Cass Scenic Shay for the title of “Most Powerful Mountain Climbing” train. These vintage locomotives have logged countless hours transporting coal and timber throughout some of the state’s most remote terrain, now transport visitors from both in-state and out-of-state to the more remote Mountain State regions accessible only by rail.
Trains depart Elkins at 8:15 a.m., Cheat Bridge at 11:25 a.m., and Cass Depot at 10:30 a.m.
Both the Cheat Mountain Salamander and the Cass Scenic Railroad will reach their destination between 12 noon and 12:30 p.m. Ticket price includes the round-trip excursion and an extended two-hour layover that features live entertainment, a picnic and a train race on both days.
The excursion from Elkins to Spruce is an approximate 8.5-hour round trip, a perfect ride for rail enthusiasts and couples who want to relax to enjoy the change of the scenery as the Cheat Mountain Salamander climbs from the mountain valley elevation of 1,984 feet in Elkins, through the canyons of the Shaver’s Fork of the Cheat River and up into the Spruce-covered headwaters of Shaver’s Fork. The Cheat Bridge departure point is a shorter ride (3-hour round trip) and accommodates families with young children, especially during Wild Heart events. The vintage 1940s diesel-powered Cheat Mountain Salamander offers comfortable coach cars and a refurbished RPO (Railroad Post Office) car that serves as the center for buffet lunches and snacks, depending upon type of excursion.
Cass Scenic Railroad, now operated by the DGVR, offers an entirely different excursion. The mighty coal-fired Shays pull refurbished cars that comfortably accommodate up to 30-35 persons per car. A new online reservations system allows for guaranteed seating on this historic and unique railroad. The excursion to Spruce is a 3.5 hour round trip, again, making it a good choice for families with younger children who especially want to ride on an authentic steam train. Boarding at the Cass Depot, passengers experience two switchbacks, a view of Whittaker Station, a replication of an original logging camp, and a climb up the mountain to Spruce.
All these departure locations, Elkins, Cheat Bridge and Cass, culminate at Spruce, the historic location of one of the highest elevated logging towns in the east (3,868 feet in elevation) that disappeared with the railroad logging days.
“Wild Heart of West Virginia” Adventure Package
“The Great West Virginia Train Race” is one in a series of events that compliment the new “Wild Heart of West Virginia” Adventure Package, a multi-day vacation option that combines excursions on two different trains through the remote and scenic portions of West Virginia’s high mountain country. Passengers can choose their boarding location and destination location, all the while experiencing two very different types of preserved passenger trains.
“The Wild Heart connector package started in May and the momentum keeps growing,” DGVR Reservation Specialist Matt Scott said. “Folks are intrigued by the option of getting to take a train journey that allows them to ride both a vintage diesel and steam engine as well as have a train destination where they can stay overnight in either Cass or Elkins,” Scott added. “It’s really great to see people sitting outside the train depot with suitcases and luggage in hand – just another detail that gives passengers the nostalgic feeling of the days when train travel was part of the norm.”
The “Wild Heart of West Virginia” can either begin with a departure in Elkins aboard the Cheat Mountain Salamander or at Cass on a Cass Scenic Railroad Shay. Vacationers ride to Old Spruce, transfer to either the Cass Scenic Railroad for an ascent to Bald Knob before descending to downtown Cass for an overnight stay in a restored company house, or transfer to the Cheat Mountain Salamander for a journey into Elkins to enjoy the theater attractions in this mountain town. After spending a day or two at the destination of choice, overnight visitors board again on the same ticket to return to their point of origin.
For more information on the Wild Heart of West Virginia Adventure Package and the other special events, visit http://mountainrailwv.com/special-trains/wild-heart-of-west-virginia-events.