In the past Cass, WV was a mill town. Everyone in the town lived in company houses and shopped at the company store. To look at it now, its hard to relate to what that must have been like. The town was and still is known for the Shay locomotives that hauled lumber off the mountain.
The town and mill had its heyday in the early 1900's. The mill employed 2500 to 3000 people and sawed 1.5 million square feet of lumber in a week. There isn't much left of the mill. Fires in 1978 and 1982 have pretty much destroyed it. More information on Cass and the Scenic Railroad can be found at www.cassrailroad.com.
The locomotives were built to handle steep grades and carry heavy loads. I'm not a train buff but many of the people in town appeared to be. They were there for the locomotives more than the ride itself.
The town is now a West Virginia State Park. Many of the old cottages have been restored. They are quite charming and the ones on Front Street overlook the Greenbrier River. They come complete with front porch swing so they're hard to beat. The cottages we've stayed in had a living room, dining room, kitchen and three bedrooms. One even seemed to come equipped with a cat.
We've stayed in town three times. The Greenbrier River Trail starts just outside of town and we've ridden on it twice. Once in October, 2002 when we rode in the rain. Again in May, 2003 when we got rained out in Marlinton. There are different pictures of Cass on the bike ride pages as well since they both started here.
There isn't much to do in town, so you have to get out and walk around. When its quiet and misty in the evening, you can almost imagine there are ghosts in some of the un-restored places. They even have some of the old style wooden walkways in place. If you want dinner, you better have a car. What food there is can be found at the gift shop but they close early. The Snowshoe Resort is a short drive away, though.
The shop is worth a look. We got a tour but I'm not sure how often they offer one. They are rebuilding a couple of Shay Locomotives now. Or at least were in early 2004. Even if there isn't a tour, you can walk out around the water tower and see the Shay's on the siding.
If you're going to take the train ride, take the long one. It goes all the way to Bald Knob. On most days it provides a spectacular view. When we were there it was more like being in cloud. The passenger cars are covered so there's no need to worry about cinders. The engineer will give you a running commentary on the history and what you are seeing. Pay attention to the brakemen on the way back down. They all work together.
At the stop at Whitaker Station, get out and look at some of the old equipment there. They people will tell you how they uses to slide the logs down from the mountains to the equipment there. Life up there was hard and dangerous. Spend a few minutes checking all this out. Its actually pretty interesting.
They now have a caboose you can ride to the top and spend the night. It looked like it would be a lot of fun. The guy who had it rented let us tour through it. Not fancy but it would hold you until the train came back to get you. Must get really dark at night but how many stars could you see from up there.
If you want something different to do for a weekend, reserve a cottage, leave a little early on Friday and head for Cass.