Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is a
State Park located in Cass, Pocahontas County, West
Virginia. It consists of the Cass Scenic
Railroad, an 11-mile long heritage railroad that is owned
by the state of West Virginia. The park also includes the
former company town of Cass and a portion of the summit of
Bald Knob, highest point on Back Allegheny Mountain.
1901 by the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company (now
MeadWestvaco), Cass was built as a company town to serve
the needs of the men who worked in the nearby mountains
cutting spruce and hemlock for the West Virginia Spruce
Lumber Company, a subsidiary of WVP&P. At one time, the
sawmill at Cass was the largest double-band sawmill in the
world. It processed an estimated 1.25 billion board feet
of lumber during its lifetime.
In 1901 work started on the railroad,
which climbs Back Allegheny Mountain. The railroad
eventually reached a meadow area, now known as Whitaker
Station, where a camp was set up for the immigrants who
were building the railroad. The railroad soon reached to
the top of Gobblers Knob, and then to a location on top of
the mountain known as 'Spruce'. The railroad built a small
town at this location, complete with a company store,
houses, and a doctors office. Work soon commenced on
logging out the Red Spruce trees, which grew in the higher
The WVP&P originally had only been
interested in the Red Spruce timber for the purpose of
making pulp, which would be turned into paper. It wasn't
until a few years later when the company realized that the
mountain held a fortune in hardwoods, such as maple,
cherry, birch and oak. The company decided that they would
build a mill in the town of Cass, which could process
The railroad eventually extended its
track to the top of Bald Knob, the third highest mountain
peak in West Virginia. This area was logged of its Red
Spruce, and the track was torn up in the early 1910s. The
track was also extended to a valley near the town of
Spruce, at a bend in the Shavers Fork of the Cheat River.
The WVP&P set up a new town here, with about 30 company
houses, a large company store, a school, and a pulp mill,
where the Red Spruce trees could be processed on the spot.
This new town was also named Spruce, and the former town
received its current name of Old Spruce.
In June 1942, WVP&P sold the Cass
operation to Mower Lumber Company, which operated the line
until July 1, 1960, cutting second-growth timber off Cheat
Mountain. The mill and railroad were shut down by Mower in
1960, due to rapid decline of the timber industry in the
Following the 1960 closure, the rail
line, land, and all equipment and rolling stock were sold
to a holding company named the Don Mower Lumber Company
(no relation to the former Mower Lumber Company), and the
railroad was conveyed to the Midwest Raleigh Corporation,
which started to scrap the railroad and equipment.
However, a group of local businessmen led by Pennsylvania
railfan Russell Baum convinced the West Virginia state
legislature to make the Cass Railroad a state park. In
1963, the first tourist excursion train left the Cass
depot for Whittaker Station (four miles up the line).
In 1977, the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park took
possession of the entire company town of Cass, and the old
hardwood mill in Cass.
Today, visitors ride on historic converted log cars
(flatcars?), pushed along by a powerful geared logging
locomotive. Traveling on 11 miles (18 km) of standard
gauge track laid in 1901 by immigrant workers, the line
traverses the steep grades of Back Allegheny Mountain.
The railroad owns eight Shay locomotives, one Heisler
locomotive, and one Climax locomotive, which is being
restored by volunteers of the Mountain State Railroad and
Logging Historical Association. The Heisler and the
Climax, both made in Pennsylvania, were competition to
Shay's geared locomotive design.
Three trips are
available: a two-hour round trip to Whittaker Station, a
five-hour round trip to the abandoned site of the ghost
town of Spruce (once the coldest and highest town east of
the Rockies), and a five-hour round trip to Bald Knob, the
third highest point in the state.
houses have been refurbished and are available for rent
through Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. A small cabin on
Bald Knob is also available for rent, and cabooses can be
reserved for private use as well.
Town and shop
tours are available daily to visitors who would like to
learn more about the town and its lumber industry, and see
how the rare geared locomotives are maintained by the Cass
shop crew. A tour of a recreated logging camp is available