Day 1 - Depart Chicago
Meet your tour Manager in Chicago’s Union Station. At 5:00 pm we’ll board Amtrak’s Cardinal prior to its 5:45 pm departure. Spend the evening relaxing aboard the train and getting to know your fellow travelers. Overnight train. (D)
Day 2 - New River Gorge / Greenbrier
Throughout the night the Cardinal cut across the fertile farm fields of Indiana and then traversed the mighty Ohio River for many miles. This morning the train enters wild and wonderful West Virginia and the beautiful Allegheny Mountains. The highlight of this morning’s ride is the magnificent views as we pass through the New River Gorge. It is said that this is the most picturesque section of rail east of the Mississippi. The original Chesapeake and Ohio railroad company line was constructed, following the New River through the Gorge, between 1869 and 1872. The great tunnel of the C & O Railroad, known as the Big Bend Tunnel, is the scene of the steel drivers’ ballad “John Henry.”
At 11:31 am we’re scheduled to arrive in White Sulphur Springs, home of the magnificent Greenbrier Resort. Up until May of 2009, the resort was owned for 99 years by what is now known as the CSX Corporation. In the late 1950s, the U.S. government approached The Greenbrier for assistance. It wished to construct an Emergency Relocation Center—a bunker or bomb shelter—for use by the U.S. Congress in case of war. Between 1959 and 1962, the classified, underground facility was built in conjunction with an above ground addition to the hotel, the West Virginia Wing. For 30 years, the railroad owners of The Greenbrier and the federal government agreed that, in the case of an international crisis, the entire resort property would become the emergency location for Congress. Enjoy lunch at the Greenbrier and a tour of the bunker. Overnight Lewisburg. (B, L, D)
Day 3 - National Radio Astronomy Observatory / Cass
Radio astronomy has profoundly changed and enlarged our understanding of our Universe, enabling new discoveries, opening new celestial windows, revealing an otherwise invisible Universe. This morning we’ll visit the fascinating National Radio Astronomy Observatory and learn how it enables scientists working with the forefront of technology to do research into the invisible Universe.
This afternoon we journey to the lumber town of Cass, previous home to the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company. Specially designed Shay steam engines were used to pull heavy lumber cars over steep grades in this rugged mountain terrain. Once you board the train, the real excitement begins! The great pistons of the carefully restored Shay locomotive will start pulsing, driven by hundreds of pounds of steam pressure. With thick, black smoke belching from its stack, the train pulls away from the station, passing the water tower from which the locomotive tanks are filled. As the train rounds the curve up Leatherbark Creek, you’ll pass the Cass Shop, where the locomotives are serviced and repaired, and a graveyard of antiquated but fascinating equipment on sidetracks. As the pressure builds, the locomotive is driven at full steam, and the laborious journey up the mountain toward the two switchbacks begin. The loud huff of the stack, the clanking of gears and pistons, the furious scream of the whistle at the crossings, and the ever present clackety-clack of the rails will indeed make you feel as if you have been transported back in time. A boxed lunch will be provided to bring aboard the train.
Late afternoon finds us in the quaint town of Buckhannon, where we’ll spend the next two nights. Dinner is included at the1863 Tavern. This evening, clap your hands and stomp your feet at a wonderful performance at the American Mountain Theatre. Overnight Buckhannon. (CB, L, D)
Day 4 - Durbin Rocket / Cheat Mountain Salamander
In historic Durbin this morning, you have the opportunity to ride and experience the sights and sounds of one of the rarest steam locomotives in existence. The Durbin Rocket is powered by a rare steam locomotive; Old #3 is one of only three operating climax-geared logging locomotives on earth. This 55-ton antique was built in 1910 for the Moore-Keppel Lumber Co. in nearby Randolph County. Today you will ride in an authentic 1920-era coaches and vintage wooden cabooses behind #3 as she puffs and whistles her way along the free-flowing Greenbrier River in Northern Pocahontas County. The ride offers many beautiful river and mountain views in the Monongahela National Forest. Lunch is included at the Durbin Depot.
This afternoon, travel into the high country spruce forests of legendary Cheat Mountain on the most distinctive rail excursion in the Eastern United States. Named in honor of the little endangered creature whose sole habitat is the river of the same name, the Cheat Mountain Salamander takes you through some of the wildest mountain wilderness you will ever experience. The excursion route includes many interesting features such as a long tunnel built with an “S” curve far underneath Cheat Mountain, numerous long mountain vistas, and many opportunities to view exotic wildlife including bald eagle and black bear sightings. A stop will be made at the inspirational “High Falls of the Cheat” and the former site of the notorious town of Spruce, WV, once the highest and coldest incorporated town east of the Mississippi. Dinner this evening is at the Railyard Restaurant located next to the Elkins train station. Overnight Buckhannon. (CB, L, D)
Day 5 - Romney / Cumberland
Our journey continues north to the tiny town of Romney, home of the historic Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad, one of America’s most beautiful train rides. For three hours enjoy a narrated excursion through a tranquil and pristine mountain valley. View historic farms and lush mountain greenery. Around every curve unfolds the splendor of native wildflowers, evergreens, and mixed hardwoods in an unspoiled countryside environment. Experience “The Trough,” a spectacular narrow mountain valley. Below runs the South Branch of the Potomac River, where the water is so clear fish are easily seen as they lie resting in the shade. Above, the high mountain walls and thick forest help keep a secret few have discovered.
You have entered a sacred place, the eastern home of our magnificent national symbol, the American Bald Eagle. These majestic birds soar high above in their natural habitat, undisturbed by the low rumblings of the occasional train and the passengers who have come for a sighting. Don’t be surprised to see these superb flyers swooping overhead in pursuit of prey or gliding gently across the blue mountain skies as if to flaunt their supremacy of the air. Lunch is served on the train.
Evening finds us just over the border in Cumberland, Maryland, a town significant to the transportation industry being located on the Potomac River at the intersection of a major rail line, the National Road and the C & O Canal. Dinner is included today. Overnight Cumberland. (CB, L, D)
Day 6 - Cumberland
Learn about Cumberland lore from a local guide this morning and stop at the beautiful Emmanuel Church. This church has several original Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows. The church was built on the site of old Ft. Cumberland and has a series of earthen tunnels that still exist below it. These tunnels were also used to hide slaves on the Underground Railroad.
Travel back through time aboard the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad with our 1916 Baldwin 2-8-0, Mountain Thunder, or restored diesel engine. You’ll climb through the spectacular scenery of the Allegheny Mountains. A narrator will be aboard to provide you with information about the scenery, history, and culture. This scenic excursion runs roundtrip from the Western Maryland Station in Cumberland. There will be a 1-1/2 hour layover in Frostburg where you will watch as they turn the engine on a turntable. A visit to the interesting Thrasher Carriage Museum is included.
Once back in Cumberland there is plenty of free time at Canal Place to shop and explore the Canal Museum. Reminisce with your fellow travelers at our farewell dinner. Then at 7:24 pm board Amtrak’s Capitol Limited for the journey home. Overnight train. (CB, L, D)
Day 7 - En Route to Chicago
After breakfast aboard the train, we’re scheduled to arrive back in Chicago at 8:45 am, where your tour comes to an end. (B)
Prices are land-only, per person. Prices are correct at the time this web page is published; however, are subject to change.