Day 1: Depart Chicago
Trains of West Virginia tour members will meet the Tour Director in Chicago’s Union Station. At 5:00 p.m. we’ll board Amtrak’s Cardinal (Train #1 of the six trains you will experience) prior to its 5:45 p.m. departure. Relax in your reclining coach class seat with leg rest. A limited number of Roomettes and Bedrooms may be available at extra cost.
Day 2: New River Gorge, Greenbrier
Throughout the night the Cardinal cut across the fertile farm fields of Indiana and then traversed along the mighty Ohio River for many miles.
An included dining car breakfast and scenery intertwine this morning as the train enters Wild and Wonderful West Virginia and the beautiful Allegheny Mountains. The highlight of this morning’s ride is the magnificent views as we pass through the New River Gorge. It is said that this is the most picturesque section of rail east of the Mississippi. The original Chesapeake and Ohio railroad company line was constructed following the New River through the Gorge between 1869 and 1872. The great tunnel of the C & O Railroad, known as the Big Bend Tunnel, is the scene of the steel drivers’ ballad “John Henry.”
At 11:39 a.m. we’re scheduled to arrive in White Sulphur Springs, home of the magnificent Greenbrier Resort. Up until May of 2009, the resort was owned for 99 years by what is now known as the CSX Corporation. In the late 1950s, the U.S. government approached The Greenbrier for assistance. It wished to construct an Emergency Relocation Center—a bunker or bomb shelter—for use by the U.S. Congress in case of war. Between 1959 and 1962, the classified, underground facility was built in conjunction with an above ground addition to the hotel, the West Virginia Wing. For 30 years, the railroad owners of The Greenbrier and the federal government agreed that, in the case of an international crisis, the entire resort property would become the emergency location for Congress.
Enjoy lunch at the Greenbrier and a tour of the Bunker.
Late this afternoon we will check into the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Lewisburg. Dinner tonight is included.
Meal(s): B, L & D
Day 3: Cass, Green Bank, Elkins
Following breakfast, a local guide joins us for the next three days.
We will journey to the lumber town of Cass, previous home to the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company. Specially designed Shay steam engines were used to pull heavy lumber cars over steep grades in this rugged mountain terrain. Once you board the train (Train #2), the real excitement begins! The great pistons of the carefully restored Shay locomotive will start pulsing, driven by hundreds of pounds of steam pressure. With thick, black smoke belching from its stack, the train pulls away from the station, passing the water tower from which the locomotive tanks are filled. As the train rounds the curve up Leatherbark Creek, you’ll pass the Cass Shop where the locomotives are serviced and repaired plus a graveyard of antiquated but fascinating equipment on sidetracks.
As the pressure builds, the locomotive is driven at full steam and the laborious journey up the mountain toward the two switchbacks begin. The loud huff of the stack, the clanking of gears and pistons, the furious scream of the whistle at the crossings and the ever present clackety-clack of the rails will indeed make you feel as if you have been transported back in time. A boxed lunch will be provided to bring aboard the train.
Radio astronomy has profoundly changed and enlarged our understanding of our Universe, enabling new discoveries, opening new celestial windows, revealing an otherwise invisible Universe. This afternoon we’ll visit the fascinating National Radio Astronomy Observatory and learn how it enables scientists working with the forefront of technology to do research into the invisible Universe.
This evening we will check into The Isaac Jackson Hotel, our home for the next two nights.
This evening, enjoy a wonderful dinner and performance at the Gandy Dinner Theatre.
Meal(s): B, L & D
Day 4: Elkins
A Continental breakfast is included in the hotel both mornings.
This morning in historic Durbin you have the opportunity to ride and experience the sights and sounds of one of the rarest steam locomotives in existence. The Durbin Rocket (Train #3) is powered by a rare steam locomotive; Old #3 is one of only three operating climax-geared logging locomotives on earth. This 55-ton antique was built in 1910 for the Moore-Keppel Lumber Co. in nearby Randolph County. Today you will ride in authentic 1920-era coaches and vintage wooden cabooses behind #3 as she puffs and whistles her way along the free-flowing Greenbrier River in Northern Pocahontas County. The ride offers many beautiful river and mountain views in the Monongahela National Forest. Lunch is included at the Durbin Depot.
This afternoon, travel into the high country spruce forests of legendary Cheat Mountain on the most distinctive rail excursion in the Eastern United States. Named in honor of the little endangered creature whose sole habitat is the river of the same name, the Cheat Mountain Salamander (Train #4) takes you through some of the wildest mountain wilderness you will ever experience. The excursion route includes many interesting features such as a long tunnel built with an “S” curve far underneath Cheat Mountain, numerous long mountain vistas and many opportunities to view exotic wildlife including bald eagle and black bear. A stop will be made at the inspirational “High Falls of the Cheat” and the former site of the notorious town of Spruce, WV, once the highest and coldest incorporated town east of the Mississippi. Dinner this evening is at the Railyard Restaurant located next to the Elkins train station.
Meal(s): CB, L & D
Day 5: Oakland / Cumberland
Our journey continues north where we will visit the Oakland Railroad Depot and Garrett County Transportation Museum.
Return to the past as you visit two floors of exhibits. The first floor features carriages, sleighs, buggies, fire department artifacts and automobiles, along with a representation of A.D. Naylor’s Blacksmith Shop, one of the earliest and most prominent businesses in Oakland. The second floor called the Deep Creek Gallery, hosts a variety of exhibits documenting the history of Deep Creek Lake and nearby Maryland State Parks of Herrington Manor, Swallow Falls, New Germany and Deep Creek.
We will transfer to the Penn Alps Restaurant for an included lunch. You will have time to visit the Spruce Forest Artisan Village. Imagine yourself back in time when the local artisans of a community supplied the crocks, dry goods, wrought iron tools and decorative elements of the household. You will find treasures and memories to keep for yourself and others. Enjoy the grounds and relaxed atmosphere.
Mid afternoon we will depart for Cumberland, MD, a town significant to the transportation industry being located on the Potomac River at the intersection of the modern CSX Railroad and the historic National Road and the C & O Canal.
We will visit the Allegany County Historical Society Museum where you can see exhibits from prehistoric times, to George Washington, to the Revolutionary War and to the Civil War.
Dinner is included today. We will be staying at the Ramada Cumberland Downtown.
Meal(s): CB, L & D
Day 6: Cumberland, En Route
Learn about Cumberland lore from a local guide this morning and stop at the beautiful Emmanuel Church. This church has several original Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows. The church was built on the site of old Ft. Cumberland and has a series of earthen tunnels that still exist below it. These tunnels were also used to hide slaves on the Underground Railroad.
Travel back through time aboard the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad (Train #5) with our 1916 Baldwin 2-8-0, Mountain Thunder, or restored diesel engine. You’ll climb through the spectacular scenery of the Allegheny Mountains. A narrator will be aboard to provide you with information about the scenery, history and culture.
This scenic excursion runs round trip from the Western Maryland Station in Cumberland. There will be a 1-1/2 hour layover in Frostburg where you will watch as they turn the engine on a turntable. A visit to the interesting Thrasher Carriage Museum is included.
Once back in Cumberland there is plenty of free time at Canal Place to shop and explore the Canal Museum. Reminisce with your fellow travelers at our Farewell dinner. Then at 7:24 p.m. board Amtrak’s Capitol Limited (Train #6) and begin the journey home.
Meal(s): CB, L & D
Day 7: En Route to Chicago
After breakfast aboard the train, we’re scheduled to arrive back in Chicago at 8:45 a.m. Some tour members will change trains bound for home destinations. Others will return by air.