Train rides feature good food, great views

Engines from an era when trains were steam-driven and geared for power are working at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park in Pocahontas County. Cass has all the bells and whistles that a person expects from a fleet of iron horses that date back to the early 1900s, according to Scott Fortney, park superintendent.

“The locomotives alone are awesome feats of engineering,” Fortney said. “Good food and good music are combined on the Cass Dinner Trains this summer. The dinner setting rivals any overlook view in West Virginia and a band performing for entertainment caps a summer evening.”

Fortney encourages anyone who has never visited Cass Scenic Railroad to do so in 2013, the state park’s 50th year of operation.

“It’s a special place preserving some of West Virginia’s history,” he said.

Cass Scenic Railroad makes daily trips up Cheat Mountain with trips to Whittaker Station and a noon run to Bald Knob with the exception of Mondays. Monday is a day to work on operations and get ready for the week ahead. The town and company house are open, but on Monday the locomotives do not operate.

A schedule is posted online along with descriptions of other special runs and events in addition to locomotive information, “town tour” information and online reservations to rent one of the 20 company houses in the town of Cass. To learn more about Cass Scenic Railroad, visit

– Dinner train schedules and menus

Six dinner trains were planned at Cass Scenic Railroad in addition to the 360 train trips scheduled for the 2013 season. Four dining events remain. Fortney says this year is not a typical year, as shown by the diversity in entertainment. Bands playing are: Once Blue (July 13), Wolf Creek (July 27 and Aug. 10), and Juanita Fireball (Aug. 24.) Bands perform for almost an hour upon arrival at the Whittaker Station pavilion.

The dinner menu on July 13 and Aug. 10 includes: barbecued chicken, baked beans, corn on the cob, potato salad, garden salad, rolls, watermelon and beverages. The July 27 and Aug. 24 buffet includes pulled pork barbecue and veggie burgers, red bliss potatoes, green beans, black beans and corn salad, desserts and beverages.

“The ladies who operate the Last Run Restaurant won’t allow anyone to leave hungry. The buffet is great,” Fortney said. The buffet-style dinner is at Whittaker Station.

“Folks can take advantage of the open area, picnic tables and enjoy the time outdoors with family and friends,” Fortney said. Whittaker No. 1 Logging Camp is also at this area to visit and explore.

Dinner trains depart from the Cass Depot at 5:15 p.m. for Whittaker Station. The evening includes a round trip from Cass to Whittaker Station and back, a buffet dinner prepared by the Last Run Restaurant and entertainment at Whittaker Station. The train generally returns by 8 p.m. The cost is $36 for adults, $26 for youth (ages 5 to 12) and $16 for children under 5. Reservations are necessary by at least a two days or more in advance in order to make food preparations. Make reservations by calling 304-456-4300.

– About the Cass Dinner Train entertainment

Once Blue will be playing on Saturday, July 13. Bluegrass bands find members and become a group, and bands blend and regroup from time to time. Once Blue is a traditional bluegrass band with Bill Lemon of Cross Lanes, guitar; Mark Sowards of Sissonville, banjo; and Larry Melton of Sissonville, mandolin; and Keith Sargent of Point Pleasant, bass.

These four men have played in other groups. Songs written by Don Sowards (and the Laurel Mountain Boys) are performed in addition to other favorites that are on their CD, “Out Behind the Barn.” Once Blue has been performing since 2000.

On July 27 and Aug. 10, Wolf Creek Band will perform.

The Wolf Creek Band is made up of four musicians from Nicholas and Webster counties in West Virginia. Randy Schartiger (Guitar/resophonic guitar/vocals) and his son Ronnie Schartiger (mandolin/guitar/vocals) along with Jubal Taylor (banjo/guitar/vocals) and his father Randy Taylor (bass/vocals) make up a double duet of fathers and sons to form The Wolf Creek Band.

Wolf Creek is a bluegrass band and more. Their performances include the following genres: very old style of bluegrass, hard-driving bluegrass, jazz, southern rock and country.

Juanita Fireball and the Continental Drifters will be playing Aug. 24. A group resurrected after a 25-year hiatus, members include Mary Sue Burns on the claw hammer banjo and husband Mike Burns on the fiddle.

The Burns first started playing music in the late 1970s. The other like-minded musicians who make up Juanita Fireball are Jay Lockman (Lockman is a lead scientist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory); Wayne Walton on the doghouse bass; John Sparks on guitar; and Terry “Double Dog” Richardson on guitar.

The sound is pure – a blend of Appalachian string band tunes with some gospel for good measure.