Before the turn of the 20th century the state’s coal, timber, oil and natural gas were nearly inaccessible. Railroad construction allowed access to these resources, the materials that drove the nation’s Industrial Age.
The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) is the nation’s oldest line, and more than half of it is within West Virginia’s borders. During the Civil War, the B&O was so important that both the Union and the Confederacy fought to keep it from falling into the other side’s hands.
As American factories became mechanized, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad (C&O) hauled coal to heat the furnaces. The C&O also produced the legend of the “steel drivin’ man” John Henry. Today that legend is memorialized with a monument near Talcott, W.Va. The C&O Heritage Museum is housed in a newly-refitted depot in Huntington.
Today’s Specialty Trains
Romney’s Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad train boasts a 90% success rate of spotting our national symbol, the bald eagle, during each of its runs.
The New Tygart Flyer, originating in Elkins, offers a four-hour journey with lunch included.
The Cheat Mountain Salamander also originating in Elkins, is one of the highest rail excursions east of the Mississippi River and offers the two tightest track curves in the United States.
New River Train Excursions offer fall foliage tours in the impressive New River Gorge. The trip ends in scenic Hinton, home of Railroad Days, a celebration of everything railroad.
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is home to the types of trains that once hauled lumber. Here, engines like Shay #5, that celebrated its centennial in 2005, take visitors on scenic tours of historic logging towns.
The Durbin Rocket travels through the Monongahela National Forest, offering a chance to ride one of only three remaining “Climax” engines.