Shortly after the tour, the billowing steam and piercing whistle of the Shay engine beckoned us aboard the Western Maryland for our train ride up Back Allegheny Mountain to our destination at Bald Knob.
With only a roof over our head, the rest of the cars were open to the air. We settled into our wooden seats, sat back and soaked up the woodsy scenery. Slowly the steam engine pushed its way up Back Allegheny Mountain, tackling each switchback with ease and skill.
Over halfway to the top, we took a break at Whittaker Station, where there was a snack bar and some picnic tables. Nearby, a young couple on their honeymoon waved to us from the red caboose they had rented. Overnight stays in a caboose are also available at Bald Knob. After a brief respite here, we resumed our trip to the top.
A water tank by the side of the tracks was our last stop before Bald Knob. Here, the conductors filled the large water tank behind the engine before continuing the last leg of our trip.
At Bald Knob the views were spectacular. One on side we could see far into the valley below. On the other side, a trail led to a wilderness cabin which was also available for overnight rental. We ate our boxed lunches at one of the many picnic tables.
When afternoon shadows started to appear, it was time to head back down the mountain. On the return trip, we received an unexpected education on the local foliage. A lady who knew all the names of the hardwood trees sat on the other side of my husband. Dan, who has a degree in forestry, drilled her with questions and she was happy to oblige.
We spent one more night in house #229.
The next morning, to end our Cass adventure, the three of us rented bikes from a local grocery store. We cruised through the Town of Cass, passed our “home” and, after reaching the trailhead, rode six miles, round trip, on the Greenbrier River Trail. This 78-mile trail, located just outside of town, once featured railroad tracks. Long removed, it now functions as a path for bikes and pedestrians. We followed the Greenbrier River through the Monongahela National Forest that was aflame with white, pink, red, purple and yellow wildflowers. Due to time restraints we ended our trip once we reached the three-mile marker. However, my appetite was whetted for more.
The next time I visit Cass, and there will be a next time, I’m going to stay longer, soak up more railroad history and ride the rest of the Greenbrier River Trail.