CASS, W.Va. — State Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette wants to quell any rumors that Cass Scenic Railroad in Pocahontas County is on the auction block.

“We wouldn’t sell the rail under any condition!”

There have been posts on Facebook that the railroad portion could be sold while the state would maintain the park. Burdette stressed those are just rumors.  

He said his office is in the preliminary stages of considering other options for the future of Cass.

“The challenge we have had is that it looses a substantial amount of money every year. It loses in the neighborhood of $1.4 million every year it operates,” according to Burdette.

A recent federal audit of Cass shows the need for substantial maintenance, in the next few years. It adds up to $1.4 million for repairs to the tracks and another $700,000 for the park. That’s a steep price for state government when budget cuts are already underway on essential services.

Burdette said they’d like to see the park bring in a bit more money.

“Not so much profitable but at least make it so we can guarantee our citizens and our friends that it’s going to be there for a long, long time,” explained the commerce secretary.

The state is looking at partnering with the Durbin-Greenbrier Valley Railroad, a privately owned company that offers rail excursions at several sites across West Virginia.

“The most significant difference that we’ve looked at is simply a vendor contract to operate the railroad itself, not the park or anything about it,” said Burdette. “There’s no bids out. There’s no RFQ. There’s no offer to sell. In fact we’re not going to sell Cass Railroad!”

Burdette said if the state can team up with a private company it could cut costs. However, he stressed, even talks are in the very early stages.

“We’re just trying to explore our options to make sure we’re good stewards of the taxpayers’ money and at the same time we retain a first class attraction at Cass,” said Burdette.

The town of Cass was brought into the state park system in 1961 when the legislature appropriated money for the purchase. The first sightseeing tours began in the summer of 1963. Over the past 50 years millions of visitors have taken the train to Whitaker Station and further up the mountain to Bald Knob.

 

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Comments

  • Grant Stephens

    I would really like to see the Railroad operating one Durbin train on Saturday and one Spruce train on Friday. The return trip will be on the old GC&E line to Durbin, WV, and then on the Greenbrier Division on Sunday. I believe the railroad should be contracted to Wick Moorman, the chairman, and CEO of Norfolk Southern Corporation, and he's a big fan of steam locomotives.

  • Neil Heinekamp

    My concern is that a private company will come in and put all the fine people that operate the park out of work. Somebody needs to tell there story.

  • Christopher Smith

    Please keep The Case RR from going private!

    Thanks,
    Chris
    Alvin, Texas (born and raised in CrossLanes, WV)

  • MoneyPenny

    Cass has potential to grow into something great but not as a State Park. The Durbin-Greenbrier Valley Railroad is really taking off and bringing tourists to this area. Is this a bad thing? NO! Look how much Elkins has grown in the few years this company has been here. Coal mining is dying WV needs to look at tourism as money maker now and the State should work with this company to bring jobs to this area. Look at Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, TN. Millions are rolling in.

  • Frank Murphy

    https://www.change.org/petitions/west-virginia-commerce-commisioner-keep-the-railroad-operation-at-the-cass-scenic-railroad-state-park-under-direct-and-exclusive-management-by-the-state-park-system-do-not-allow-it-to-be-contracted-to-any-private-entity

  • Chris

    Good reporting...I wonder if state employees with valuable knowledge, experience, and expertise in maintaining the historic locomotives, would be retained if the excursion operations are contracted out.

    It seems that the State should maintain control of all maintenance related aspects of operations at Cass. I think that is where the anxiety lies.

  • Frank Murphy

    There is obviously some collusion going on here that we're just starting to hear about...

  • Frank Murphy

    "Loses 1.4 million a year" is a pejorative spin on the situation. Far from giving a complete picture, it is engineered to give a negative perception of Cass as a money loser. 1.4 million is Cass's total annual budget. Not just for the railroad, but for the town, the houses, all the infrastructure. It doesn't account for hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue from ticket sales, house rentals, or money spent elsewhere in Pocahontas County by Cass visitors. A more honest, accurate statement would say "Cass Scenic Railroad State Park has an annual budget of 1.4 million. The money that budget is spent to earn in is an entirely different story."

  • Frank Murphy

    Did you probe Burdette about how he came up with the 1.4 million dollar annual loss? It would be interesting to know what that number actually means. What is Cass's annual budget? It must bring in hundreds of thousands in ticket sales, house rentals, and money spent by Cass visitors elsewhere in Pocahontas County. Hence, if it's "loosing" 1.4 million a year, it must have one heck of an annual budget. My guess is 1.4 million a year is Cass's annual budget, and Burdette is intentionally leaving out the hundreds of thousands of dollars that budget earns.

  • Mason County Contrarian

    Fatcat Politispeak Translation: it's going to be sold.

  • CheetahWhizerd

    WV Tourism should start a campaign for volunteers to do a lot if the 'maintenance' needed. That would alleviate some of the costs.
    Could use inmates too... but that would start a controversy.
    I, for one, would take a day or weekend(or two maybe) to help out. That area is beautiful, and it would be worth it just to be part of it for awhile, knowing I am helping to keep it that way. I would hope that a lot of other people in the state would feel the same, and would help out too, if asked properly.
    I would go and do it myself without asking or being asked to, but they would probably throw me, or anyone else that tried it, in jail for terrorism or something.

  • Independent View

    Eureka! I did live to hear a politician admit that the private sector could take over and operate a govenment facility that is loosing $1.4 million annually (conservative--bet it's much more than that number) and turn a profit.
    The cows came home, pigs flew and the cow jumped over the moon!

  • wishes

    Their a%%

  • wishes

    what they need to do seriously is revamp the welfare system and get rid of all the freeloaders collecting money or fake total disability people they need to get rid of all that then they would have plenty of money for legitimate purposes. some of those people that are on total disability then do whatever the hell they want all week; cut them off and let them live under a bridge for a while and then maybe they will go get off her ass

  • Diana Beverage DeLuca

    My concern is that the state government keep an open mind and share any and all thoughts, and plans. That they listen to the people and that they do what is BEST for POCAHONTAS COUNTY!