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

  • mooki

    How about the some of the parks that have not been touched since they where built. Talk about not keeping things up! Cabins that still have 1980's furniture in them and feels like it!!

    • CheetahWhizerd

      If you want a hotel.. GO TO A HOTEL.
      If you want a home... GO HOME.
      It's a cabin... cabins are supposed to be like that. Not 'artificial' like the expensive luxury cabins that are anything BUT a cabin.

  • WV Guru

    WV gives a lot of lip service to Tourism but they only want you to use the motels and restaurants. Cass is one of the few things that tourist can do beside Whitewatering. Take it away and you ain't got much.

  • rob

    To allow the partnership of Cass would be a tragedy. Cass locomotives have to be inspected yearly by the FRA.The FRA makes certain that the locomotives are safe and properly maintained. NO other rail road other than CSX can claim that distinction. So for me personally I would rather ride a more safe and efficient train.

    • ViennaGuy

      - To allow the partnership of Cass would be a tragedy. -

      Why? What's wrong with exploring ways of improving Cass? If improvements can be made at Cass that will benefit the railroad, benefit the tourists, and save the taxpayer money in the process, why not do it?

      • Frank Murphy

        Because Cass is one of those things in the world that is so special and unique, it deserves public stewardship to guarantee security and longevity--like the Smithsonian. No private entity can provide that longevity as well as the people.

    • Bill Hill

      While I don't know about the boiler part of Cass railroad, I can assure you that ALL railroads operate under the SAME FRA regulations. The engines are inspected every 92 days. The track is inspected at least twice a week, since passengers travel on it.

      • Jim

        The Climax of the Durbin Rocket is inspected by the state boiler inspector. It has been red flagged. State boiler inspections aren't as strict as FRA boiler inspections.

  • jfk

    I thought the lottery, then the dog track, then slots & table games was the answer to help fund education, senior citizens and tourism.
    Folks should look in to the millions of dollars the state lottery (slots, dog track, table games) bring in each week.
    WHERE IS ALL OF THIS $$$ GOING TO?

  • Wonder

    I've never been, but I've heard that train ride up the mountain is one of the most boring things you could ever do, can anyone confirm?

    • Chris1529

      It is about the appreciation of history and heritage. They Shay locomotives are awesome machines that can traverse railroad grades that no other locomotive can even think about climbing without the aid of a cog wheel system. If you can't appreciate things like that Wonder, I would just stay hold up at home. I would never call a place like Cass boring.

    • The bookman

      I have been to Cass every year sine1994, not always to the top, but usually. It is a great opportunity to create a memory. I've been on other excursions, both steam and diesel but nothing compares to Cass!

    • jfk

      maybe for the one who needs to have their Iphone or Ipad in their hand 24/7 and wont get a signal. But a quiet ride through the mountains and lunch at one of our states highest points is good for most.
      No I say it was not boring and I think every state citizen should take the full ride to the top!

      • Wonder

        Ok, I was told there were really no good views, except trees and hillside and it was just a monotonous ride up a hill.

        • Shadow

          Unfortunately, you can say the same thing about a lot of the road through the mountains. There are not many turnoffs where you can view the beauty of the mountains, especially in an RV.

        • Jonus Grumby

          If you don't mind a few hours being out of touch from technology while taking a relaxing ride up a scenic mountain, you will enjoy it. Mark a date on your calendar & go.

          • Wonder

            Are there a lot of scenic vistas, where you can see for miles? If not I think I may pass.

  • Lowlander

    I can see the Secretary's position that this is a tough time and hard to find a $1.4M gap yearly to keep the park open. I am also encouraged by his remarks that the state will NOT be selling this true gem of WV. Bookman had a great comment and what I consider an excellent idea...open a train route from Elkins to Cass. What wonderful country to ride through to reach your destination! Sadly, those of us in the "lowland" will not have that option, but we wouldn't take a rail line over the Greenbrier River Trail any day of the week...Here's to you and yours for a wonderful Easter weekend.

  • Tom

    Be nice to see the tracks to Durbin repaired. Anybody who has floated from there to Cass knows how beautiful it is. Imagine "See the Upper Greenbrier by rail for the first time since 1985" as a sales pitch!!!
    Just don't sell it to the Snowshoe bosses at Intrawest. Prices will skyrocket and the average West Virginian won't ever be able to ride.

  • DWL

    Deny it until the last minute before the sale takes place. Isn't that the way government works? What better way to "advertise" a product, yet "squelch" a "rumor".

  • JimJIm

    We need high speed rail! ;)

  • ricardo

    A state official is exploring a way to cut costs and is criticized, by the same folks in many instances who knock government for waste and high taxes. You just can't win, because people always want someone else's pet project cut, not their pet project. It like the folks pulling down free Medicaid health insurance criticizing Obamacare, when their extended Medicaid is there because of Obamacare. Its no wonder we have so few outstanding people running for office, you almost have to be masochistic to subject yourself to such illogical and uninformed opinions.

    • JMB

      Raise the price to ride the thing. That's pretty simple right?

      Your point is well taken about pet projects, etc. but protecting a huge tourism draw and just plain state pride resource seems pretty important to me. The welfare crybabies get their money, every month. Why shouldn't something that DOES make the state money (if you factor in total tourism footprint in that area, not just what the RR itself does) get some money too?

  • The bookman

    The footprint for Steam Locomotives could be greatly expanded by partnering with DGVRR. What an attraction to have regular departures from Elkins, than having to travel the extra 90 minutes to Cass. Round trip driving adds 3 hours to a day, plus the 4.5 hour haul up the mountain to Bald Knob. It can be profitable, with due diligence to the bottom line, as the Shays, Climax, and Heisler locomotives as well as the history and beauty of that stretch of rail would draw thousands more than are already departing Elkins on Diesel engines. Much work on the logistics side of things regarding coal and water to make it work, but I would love to see it come to fruition.

  • JAA

    Put in some video lottery machines, a couple poker tables & sell liquor. That seems to be the states solution.

  • JMB

    I'm all for the bottom line. But the fact that's there is even a RUMOR out there that this could happen is a travesty to the WV State Park system. Cass Scenic RR is the crown jewel of the state Park system. Some things just have to be maintained because it's the right and propert thing to do, and this is one of them. Figure out ways of increasing revenue and worry less about decreasing cost in this instance.

    • Chris1529

      I agree that Cass should remain open for the greater good of the state. Steam locomotives were never easy or cheap to maintain. Cass is something the whole state can be proud of, so I hope it stays operational.

  • Spellcheck

    Loses $1.4 million a year. Not looses. Looses would mean it released how tightly something is attached to $1.4 million a year. Lose vs loose. Elementary grammar folks.

  • Charleston

    Just some food for thought, but I would be willing to bet that if they modernized those living quarters (white houses) I am sure they could turn a profit in the long term.