Fall uses a painter’s palette to stroke the West Virginia mountains with brilliant reds, yellows, oranges, and maroons. In fact, autumn has gained legendary status as one of the best times to visit Randolph County because a hue of color awaits around every corner. Whether it’s a quick scenic ride or the beginning of your mountain vacation, we invite you to discover our mountains differently this season. These four Mountain Rail train rides are an epic and unique way to admire (and photograph) our fall foliage.
The New Tygart Flyer departs from the historic downtown Elkins depot and is a 4-hour, 46 mile round trip. The Elkins Depot Welcome Center also shares this building. This wilderness excursion train twist and turns through the Monongahela National Forest. You’ll experience miles of unspoiled mountain views, and during the fall, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever witnessed. The comfort of the vintage diesel-powered locomotive has gained recognition as one of the most relaxing scenic train rides in the state. And, to top that off, your destination culminates at the High Falls of Cheat, an extremely remote and pristine waterfall in the region. The only way to get to the High Falls of Cheat is by train or foot so only few people get to see the cascades. The trip sets aside plenty of time to take photos of the falls and stretch your legs before returning to Elkins.
Historic. Authentic. A ride into yesterday. The Cass Scenic Railroad, located in Pocahontas County, is a thrilling experience for young and old. From the open observation railroad cars, passengers are given the opportunity to soak in the fresh, crisp breeze and sunshine, while watching the scenery unravel before them. Trips to Cass Scenic Railroad State Park are filled with rich history, unparalleled views and the sights and sounds of an original lumbering town. Here, you can choose between two different scenic train rides.
Bald Knob is the longest of the two train rides. Although the 11-miles seem like a short trek up the mountain, this round-trip takes about 4.5 hours. The Shay Locomotive was designed for the roughest trips under the worst possible conditions and considering the mountains of West Virginia are incredibly steep and curvy, it’s only appropriate you get to ride in it to the third-highest point in West Virginia, Bald Knob. It’s also powered solely by steam. Passengers feel as though they enter a different world as the train continually climbs up the mountain. Views of the rolling Appalachians mountains and a variety of habitat and wildlife typically found in the far north await.
The shorter ride of the two train rides takes you to Whittaker Station. This two-hour, eight-mile round trip train ride, passes through the forest, grassy meadows, and picturesque views of the countryside. The locomotive zigzags through two switchbacks where the engines take turns pushing then pulling the passenger cars due to the grade being so steep. When you arrive at Whittaker Station you will feel as though you are transported back in time and reliving an era when stream-drive locomotives were an essential part of everyday life.
In century-old Durbin, the Durbin Rocket excursion train is powered by a coal-fired steam engine. Departing the historic Durbin Depot, you can ride in the authentic 1920-era coaches and vintage wooden cabooses. The ride covers 10.5 miles in 2 hours so it’s the perfect duration for the whole family. Feel the fresh open air as you chug along through the Monongahela National Forest and enjoy the scheme of fall colors dotting the mountains. The color is truly spectacular as it mirrors the Greenbrier River. Catch the final season of the Durbin Rocket before the Cass to Durbin line opens in 2022.
During any season, these trains showcase the beauty of the West Virginia mountains, but they also give you a glimpse on what it was like to live in a different era. It’s a great way to learn about the history of how the railroad shaped these different rural communities. It is HIGHLY recommended to purchase scenic excursion train tickets in advance. To purchase tickets, visit mountainrail.com or call the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad at 304-636-9477.