Editor's note: This is the second in a series of articles about local vacations and scenic spots in wild, wonderful West Virginia.
With the beginning of the school year around the corner, it might be just the time to gather up the family to take that much needed weekend getaway.
The Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad is offering to all Randolph and Pocahontas County residents during the month of August a substantial discount on Sunday tickets for the Durbin Rocket, which departs the Durbin depot.
Photo by Mark William Branciaroli
An outdoor car provides close-up views of the Greenbrier River, surrounding forest, and steam engine operations.
The Durbin Rocket is one of four Mountain Rail excursions offered by the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad from April to December. It is the only excursion based in Durbin in northern Pocahontas County, and offers two excursions daily throughout the month of August, Thursday through Sunday, the morning excursion leaving the Depot at 10 a.m. and the afternoon at 2:30 p.m.
Powered by a Moore Keppel No. 3, the Durbin Rocket is only one of three surviving Climax geared locomotives still operating in the world today. Built in 1910, this unique steam engine pulls an authentic 1920s-era coach and vintage wooden cabooses along a 10.5 mile stretch of track that parallels the free-flowing Greenbrier River.
The ride takes approximately two hours and includes a stop for water, a necessity for this steam-driven locomotive, and a 20-30 minute layover at Heavener Station, where you can sometimes watch the cabooses being detached for overnight stays in the wilderness. Along the ride and from the open car you can watch coal being shoveled into the engine of this 55-ton beast or, if you choose, ride comfortably in the enclosed coach.
According to Shane Yeager, reservations manager for the company, the overnight Castaway Caboose experience is quite popular, noting that the railroad is already taking reservations for 2014 since most 2013 dates are booked.
The "Resident Discount" applies to the standard runs only, and is a 25 percent discount on the Sunday ticket for Randolph County and Pocahontas County residents only, and is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets must be purchased at the window in Durbin the day of the excursion, and photo ID is required for proof of residency. It is also advised that interested riders call ahead for availability. Reservations for this special cannot be made online.
The Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad was incorporated in 1996 to bring rail excursions back to Durbin and, since then, has become one of the great American heritage railroad success stories. As well as the Durbin Rocket, the DGVR runs other passenger and freight services in West Virginia, including the West Virginia Central Railroad and Shenandoah Valley Railroad. It operates four excursion trains out of the railroad's base in Elkins: the New Tygart Flyer, the Cheat Salamander, the Mountain Explorer Dinner Train and the popular winter excursion, The Polar Express.
For availability information on discounted Sundays, call 1-866-241-9910.
For information on other excursions offered visit www.Mtn-Rail.com