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Earl Ray Tomblin, Governor
Frank Jezioro, Director

News Release: October 27, 2014

Facebook: WV Commerce - State Parks

Hoy Murphy, Public Information Officer (304) 957-9365 hoy.r.murphy@wv.gov

Contact:

Chelsea Ruby, Director of Marketing and Communications West Virginia Department of Commerce 304-957-9364


Cass Scenic Railroad to join state-owned West Virginia Central Railroad

CHARLESTON, West Virginia – West Virginia's Division of Natural Resources Monday announced that it will partner with the State Rail Authority to improve and streamline operations at Pocahontas County's historic Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. The partnership will transfer responsibility for Cass' rail operations to the SRA, which is the central state agency for railroad matters and operates two other state-owned railroads: the West Virginia Central Railroad and the South Branch Valley Railroad. DNR will continue to operate Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, and visitors to the park and to Cass Scenic Railroad will see no change in the operation of either the park or the railroad.

Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette, who oversees the DNR, described the partnership as a boon to both taxpayers and Cass aficionados. "Joining forces at Cass with the State Rail Authority is a wonderful opportunity," Burdette said. "They're the state's premier rail experts. Now, their expertise will be put to work at Cass, making the Cass experience even better. And having all the state's rail operations under one agency instead of divided between two will save money by eliminating redundancies and creating economies of scale. Saving taxpayer dollars is always a responsible thing to do, and at Cass, in particular, it will allow us to focus on some much-needed upgrades to the park and the railroad.

"Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is a wonderful state treasure. Finding a way to preserve it for future generations has been a priority for both the Division of Natural Resources and the Department of Commerce," Burdette continued. "We believe this new partnership will allow us to preserve it and possibly even expand the experience for our guests, something we weren't sure we could guarantee a few months ago. We are excited about the possibilities this arrangement will create."

"We are pleased with the progress being made to allow the State Rail Authority to oversee the operations of the historic Cass Scenic Railroad," stated Secretary of Transportation Paul Mattox. "We recognize how important the Cass Scenic Railroad is to our West Virginia heritage and culture, and really believe, with the State Rail Authority's existing expertise and resources that we can preserve, maintain, and even enhance the experience for years to come."

The organizational change will add the 11-mile Cass Scenic Railroad to the SRA's successful rail portfolio. The West Virginia Central Railroad, owned by the state and operated by the SRA since 1997, is a 132-mile line that operates in Pocahontas, Randolph, Barbour and Webster counties. Its day-to-day operations are handled by the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad, a state contractor that operates many well-known West Virginia Central tourist trains, including the Durbin Rocket, the Cheat Mountain Salamander, and the highly popular Polar Express.

The South Branch Valley Railroad, another SRA rail operation run by the state since 1978, is a 52-mile line serving Hampshire, Hardy and Grant counties. It features the Potomac Eagle excursion train, a popular line for summer journeys and spectacular fall foliage trips along the South Branch of the Potomac. The South Branch Valley also boasts a busy freight operation that has long supported economic growth in eastern West Virginia, with region's prospering poultry industry among its biggest customers.

When the SRA assumes responsibility for the Cass Scenic Railroad at the end of Cass's current season, the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley will handle day-to-day operations. All of Cass's current full-time railway employees will be offered continued employment after the handoff to the SRA. Under its agreement with DNR, the SRA is required to maintain and exceed the high standards of operation to which Cass Scenic Railroad State Park's 100,000 annual visitors have become accustomed.

**DNR**

Photo courtesy of the West Virginia Department of Commerce Cass Scenic Railroad
Photo courtesy of the West Virginia Department of Commerce Cass Scenic Railroad