The Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad, Home Of The Durbin Rocket

The Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad is a tourist railroad based in Durbin, West Virginia operating over five miles of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway's former Greenbrier Division, most of which today is a state-owned rail/trail (the Greenbrier River Trail). And, like the trail, the D&GV is owned by the State Rail Authority. While the railroad does not offer a long train ride like some other tourist lines, or even a nice dinner with its trip, it does allow for spectacular scenic views of West Virginia's Appalachian Mountains along the banks of the Greenbrier River. And for those interested in rail history, the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley features an operating Climax geared steamed locomotive, originally built in 1910 for the Moore-Keppel Lumber Company in Randolph County.

A rare BL2, Western Maryland #82, is seen here in Hagerstown, Maryland between switching chores during late December of 1970.

The Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad is actually one arm of an increasingly popular tourist line, the West Virginia Central. The trackage operated by both the WVC and D&GV are owned by the State Rail Authority of West Virginia. However, their operations are under contract to the owners of the D&GV (the company also provides all freight services along the Elkins portion of the line). Today, along with the D&GV's popular train, The Durbin Rocket, the WVC operates climate-controlled tourist trains along parts of the old Western Maryland Railway around Elkins (complete with locomotives painted in WM livery), which include the New Tygart Flyer, Cheat Salamander, and Mountain Explorer Dinner Train.

The WVC itself came to life in 1998 when the State of West Virginia won a long legal battle with CSX to keep the rails in place between Tygart Junction and Bergoo, West Virginia (some 140+ miles of railroad) with a right to purchase them, which it quickly did. After finding an operator in the way of John and Kathy Smith, owners of the nearby little Durbin & Greenbrier Valley and a real knack for running a railroad, the West Virginia Central has really taken off over the past ten years.

Wild Mary, chop-nose GP9 #39 catches the last rays of a setting December sun at the Hagerstown Yard during 1970.

The railroad’s latest milestone includes moving its headquarters to the former WM two-story brick station in Elkins, once home to the “Wild Mary’s" large freight yard which served as both its western terminus as well as staging operations for the numerous coal branches that once fanned out around the Elkins area. In the early 1990s CSX, with the loss of coal mines and traffic in the region moved to close the yard, ripping up the tracks and removing the bridge that was used to access the yard.

Overall, the management side of the operation can be a bit confusing although what was originally known as the "Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad" began along a small stretch of former C&O trackage in Durbin, West Virginia. It did not expand into its present day operation of running the West Virginia Central until the late 1990s. The little operation is unassuming, as you might actually miss it driving through Durbin along route 250 although the original C&O depot (painted in a cheerful light yellow with white trim) does help to catch one's eye!

Today, what is now known as The Durbin Rocket still remains isolated from the rest of the West Virginia Central system. The line once reached Cass where the popular Cass Scenic Railroad now operates (and now too has a connection with the WVC at Spruce) but a massive flood in 1985 destroyed much of the right-of-way south of Durbin. The operation still hopes to slowly rebuild the several miles to Cass although with very limited funds available the best hope of that actually happening is still several years away.

In any event, if you are interested in riding The Durbin Rocket, Durbin is located about 40 miles to the south of Elkins along route 250 and their schedule mostly operates on the weekends from May through October. You may also purchase reserved seating in advance although to do so you will need to either visit their website or call ahead. And on that note, please click here to visit their website and learn more about all of they have to offer (tickets can also be picked up directly in the depot).


Western Maryland SD40 #7472 and other power lay over between assignments in Hagerstown on December 29, 1970.

For more information about excursion trains like the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad you might want to consider the book Tourist Trains Guidebook, which is put together by the editors of Kalmbach Publishing's Trains magazine. The guide below is the latest, released in just April, 2011 that now includes more than 470 museums and tourist trains. In any event, if you're interested in perhaps purchasing this book please visit the link below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com, the trusted online shopping network.

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