Except for the popular and long-running Cass Scenic Railroad in Pocahontas County, most folks do not realize what a gold mine of West Virginia train rides are available to enjoy today. Cass is certainly the most popular, offering the largest collection of operating geared steam locomotives in the world and fabulous views of West Virginia's Appalachian Mountains. However, you now have the option of enjoying meals in climate-controlled cars along the West Virginia Central and experiencing the scenic views of the state's Eastern Panhandle in an open-air setting aboard the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad. Finally, the sometimes forgotten Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad in the tiny hamlet of Durbin offers the chance to see even more geared steam in action. If you have the time, desire, and budget you can truly have a nice vacation by visiting all of the state's tourist railroads (which are all located within an hour or two of each other).
West Virginia's history with tourist railroads began in the early 1960s when the Cass Scenic Railroad began over tracks once part of a local logging line. The operation began more or less as a novelty but as its popularity grew the state realized the railroad's tourism potential. Today, the state is home to four excursions altogether and all offer something a little bit different. In terms of excursion options and available packages the West Virginia Central has the most to offer, providing guests with a variety of trains and on-board amenities, including meals both on the train as well as at the Elkins station. In any event, to learn more about all West Virginia train rides please read more about each railroad listed below. Finally, if you are interested in excursions that pertain to specific events, such as "The Polar Express," Halloween, Thomas the Tank Engine excursions, or fall foliage events please visit the main tourist trains section of this website.
Cass Scenic Railroad
Without question, Cass Scenic is the most popular of all West Virginia train rides. It officially debuted on June 15, 1963 on a few miles of track originally owned by the Mower Lumber Company in Pocahontas County, which for decades had been exploiting the region's vast timber reserves. Today, the railroad operates a fleet of five geared steam locomotives and has rebuilt more than a dozen miles of track reaching Bald Knob and the former town of Spruce where it connects with the West Virginia Central.
Harpers Ferry Toy Train Museum & Joy Line Railroad
Located in the historic town of Harpers Ferry this museum is located at 937 Bakerton Road. It is well-known for its large collection of classic toy trains that date to the 1930s or earlier. They also offer a popular miniature train ride on the grounds which is popular with the kids. While there be sure and check out the live railroad action of passing CSX, Amtrak, and MARC commuter trains.
Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad
The little Durbin & Greenbrier Valley, sometimes forgotten because of its small size and out-of-the-way location, uses a short section of the Chesapeake & Ohio's former Greenbrier Branch to host train rides south of Durbin (where the railroad once connected with the Western Maryland). From the town's restored depot the D&GV operates a restored Climax geared steam locomotive. The operation is working to reestablish a connection with the nearby Cass Scenic Railroad.
Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum
This toy train museum is based in another historic West Virginia city, Wheeling, once an important railroad terminal for the B&O. They house a large collection of different gauges from O and G to HO, as well as operating layouts. To learn more please visit their website.
New River Train Excursions
This train ride has been hosted each fall by the Collis P. Huntington Historical Society for many years, once pulled by steam locomotives but now Amtrak diesels normally host the train. The trip runs through the state's beautiful New River Gorge. To learn more please visit the train's website.
Oglebay Good Zoo
This zoo is located at Wheeling's Oglebay Park & Resort. On the grounds they have an impressive, 1,200 square-foot O-gauge layout to peruse. Be sure and check it out if you're there!
Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad
Among the handful of West Virginia train rides available, the Potomac Eagle Scenic is the only located within the state's Eastern Panhandle. It utilizes a branch line originally owned by the Baltimore & Ohio. It meanders along the South Branch Potomac River with surprisingly incredible scenery along the flatter region of the state. The tourist line is best known for its regular sightings of Bald Eagles.
West Virginia Central Railroad
The WVC has established itself as one of the premier West Virginia train rides one can enjoy. While its official name is often unknown by the general public it operates former branch lines once owned by the historic Western Maryland Railway which radiated south, east, and west of Elkins into the surrounding rugged hills of the Mountain State. The company is located in the town's restored WM depot now offers a wide range of trips ranging from short excusions to dinner trains lasting several hours. One can now also even reach Cass Scenic by rail!
To learn more about West Virginia train rides and railroad museums, Kalmbach Publishing/Trains Magazine releases their Tourist Trains Guidebook each year, which highlights most such destinations throughout the U.S. and Canada.