Riding the Durbin Rocket
In the late 1800’s, lumber companies working in Pocahontas County were limited, held back by the fact that the only way to move their lumber out of the region was the river ways. In order to overcome this, in 1897, the Greenbrier Railway Company was founded, working to extend the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) rail lines north, from Ronceverte, WV into Pocahontas County.
Meanwhile, rail lines were extending from Elkins, reaching Durbin, WV in 1903. The Ronceverte connection was completed in 1905, and the town of Durbin became a main junction between C&O Railroad and Western Maryland (WM) Railroad. In fact, the rail route between Lewisburg, WV and Cumberland, MD became known at the “Durbin Route,” where rail crews changed shifts, and local residents and immigrants alike found work for the lumber or train companies, in the nearby tannery, or in one of the town’s hotels, stores or saloons.
Today, the main route of transportation into Durbin is The Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, a recognized WV Byway which, along with a special locomotive, is reviving the small town.
The Durbin Rocket Excursion Train (Engine #3) is one of the rarest steam locomotives in existence. One of three Climax geared logging locomotives, the 55-ton steam engine was built in 1910 for the Moore-Keppel Lumber Company in Randolph County. In its time, the Durbin Rocket covered miles and miles of rails, hauling people, lumber and supplies back and forth through the mountains reaching into West Virginia, Maryland and beyond.
The Durbin Rocket now calls passengers aboard from the Durbin Train Depot, offering a 10.5 mile ride along the Greenbrier River, through parts of the Monongahela National Forest. Pulling a 1920-era coach, and vintage cabooses, the Rocket runs typically twice a day through the summer months.
In the coach, passengers are able to “flip” the seat backs rotating the backs of the two-person seats in order to face front — no matter which direction the train is going. Both cabooses have vintage coal-burning stoves, one featuring dining tables, and the other serving once as a sleeping car.
During the two-hour ride, passengers can perhaps catch a glimpse of deer, eagles, bear – even an Osprey – and enjoy the protected lands and residential neighborhood surrounding the Durbin Rocket’s rail lines.
Following the ride, visitors can walk along Main Street in Durbin to shop in the Rail and Trail Store, The Whistle Stop gift shop. For extended stays, travelers can lodge at East Fork Campground and Stables, Greenbrier Suites Bed & Breakfast, or The West Fork Cottage’s Cabins.
For more information about The Durbin Rocket, or other operating historic trains in West Virginia, visit mountainrail.com or call 1-877-MTN-RAIL.
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