Durbin & Greenbrier to Run Cass Scenic

The Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad will be taking over operations of the Cass Scenic Railroad later this year, but the West Virginia operation will continue to operate under the Cass Scenic name.

The changeover will occur on Nov. 24 and includes a 10-year lease with an option for renewal for another decade.

The railroad is currently owned and operated by the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources. The West Virginia State Rail Authority voted on Thursday to approve the lease. The authority will continue to lease the Cass assets.

The Durbin & Greenbrier will operate all Cass rail operations including the shops, depot, water tower, rolling stock, locomotives, and facilities at Whittaker and Bald Knob.

The Department of Natural Resources will continue to operate the rental units in the town of Cass.

“New events and activities will be added to the current offerings of both organizations to enhance customer experience through coordination of marketing, customer service, and regional partnerships,” Durbin & Greenbrier Valley President John Smith told Trains magazine. “The combined operations will offer numerous trip options of interest to a wider demographic with the goal of increased ridership and customer satisfaction.”

The Cass Scenic will become a division of the West Virginia Central, which is owned by the Durbin & Greenbrier.

The railroad will also work with the Mountain State Railroad & Logging Historical Association to continue preservation efforts at the state park.

“We see this changing of the guard as a new opportunity to expand on existing preservation projects, while working with the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad on innovative ways to strengthen our involvement with personnel and operations,” said Mountain State Railroad & Logging Historical Association President Paul Rujak. “We are very confident our Climax restoration project will continue unchanged, along with our annual trips such as Cass Railfan Weekend.”

Schedules of the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley and Cass Scenic are expected to be coordinated to allow patrons to ride two trains with overnight stays at Cass and Elkins.

Passengers will be able to spend the night in Cass, ride the Cass Scenic to Spruce and a connection with the WVC Cheat Mountain Salamander, spend the night in Elkins, and then return by the same route to Cass.

The lease agreement is the first step toward creating a 90-mile rail excursion loop using West Virginia Central and Cass Scenic Railroad track.

Track will be relaid from Cass to Durbin along the Greenbrier River, and from Durbin to Bemis along the route of the West Fork Rail Trail. West Virginia purchased the former Mower Lumber Company track from scrapper Midwest Raleigh Corp. in 1962, and opened it to the public as the Cass Scenic Railroad in the summer of 1963.

Starting with two operable Shay locomotives and 4 miles of track, the railroad has grown to 10 locomotives, eight Shays of which one is a Heisler and another a Climax

The Cass Scenic operates on more than 11 miles of track, including extensions to Bald Knob, one of the highest peaks in West Virginia, and Spruce, on the West Virginia Central Shavers Fork line. John Smith founded the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad in 1996 with his wife, Kathy.

Operations began with a Whitcomb locomotive, a flat car, and a caboose, known as The Durbin Rocket over 2.2 miles of rehabilitated track along the Greenbrier River south of Durbin.

By summer 1998, the Durbin & Greenbrier had extended the track an additional 3 miles toward Cass.

That same year, the Smiths submitted the successful bid to operate the 132-mile state-owned West Virginia Central, consisting of former Western Maryland and Baltimore & Ohio trackage.

Their initial West Virginia Central route was Elkins-High Falls, the Cheat Mountain Salamander, using an experimental Leyland railbus and then a reproduction Edwards railcar.

Since then, they’ve purchased a 35-ton Climax geared locomotive for the Durbin Rocket and expanded now operate diesel-powered excursions over the length of the railroad.

The Smiths have marketed freight traffic and operate the Virginia short line Shenandoah Valley Railroad.

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One Response to “Durbin & Greenbrier to Run Cass Scenic”

  1. Doc Says:

    Having gone to Cass since 1982 I really hope th conveyance to a private company doesn’t mean the end of things in Cass.

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