Durbin, West Virginia grew up in the late 1700s in the densely forested Allegheny mountains of then western Virginia. The town is located in Pocahontas County, between the East and West Forks that form the Greenbrier River.
The need to move timber out of the mountains and workers into the area motivated the construction of the railroad. The Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) brought the first passengers to Durbin in 1902. The next year, the Western Maryland reached south from Elkins, making Durbin a railroad junction for freight and passengers.
Today, Durbin, a town of fewer than 300 residents, continues its tradition of being a town heavily reliant on the railroad industry—but now it is rail tourism rather than logging and interstate passenger service.The Durbin Rocket (top speed about five miles per hour) is a restored coal-fired steam-powered Climax engine designed to haul heavy loads of timber from the densely forested mountains of Pocahontas and surrounding counties in West Virginia.
Today, the small powerful steam engine makes regular 5.5 mile runs along the Greenbrier River pushing and pulling several passenger cars on a leisurely two-hour run. Tickets for the train are available in the Rail and Trail store next to Al’s Upper Inn Club.
Durbin is located about 70 miles north of White Sulfur Springs or 40 miles south of Elkins on US Route 92. Either way, although a good two-lane highway, Route 92 climbs, dips and turns, limiting travel to an average speed to about 45 mph.
What might be called downtown Durbin is about four or five blocks long, right on Route 92. Businesses are on the east side of the street, the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley railroad is on the west side.
Visitors will find at least two good places to eat in town. Our first meal was at Al’s Upper Inn Club, directly across from the train “station.” It is a classic, dimly lit, dark wood toned, club atmosphere with multiple televisions and a pool table. They serve basic pub fair of burgers, sandwiches, and sides in either a dining room or bar area off to the side. The kitchen is open until 8:00 in the evening, although Laura, the owner assured us that if we came in later, they would be happy to fix us a meal.
Down the street, the “Station 2” restaurant, decorated in a firehouse theme, is open from 7:00 in the morning until 8:00 in the evening, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. They provide a hardy breakfast for a good value. Offerings include eggs prepared to order, standard breakfast meats, biscuits and gravy, hot cakes, and good coffee. A full breakfast should cost little more than $6.00 per person.Station 2 has several recently furnished guest rooms available. Our waitress, who also tends to registration duties, offered to show us around. These are basic, modestly appointed guest rooms with full baths.
New this year, East Fork Lodging on the main street offers a lodge that sleeps up to eight people, as well as individual guest rooms. It is owned and operated by the folks who run East Fork Campground. Guest room rates range from $60.00 to $90.00 a night.
On the west side of Route 92 and beyond the railroad tracks is East Fork Campground and Stables. Owned and run by Mark and Marsha Kane, they describe the campground as “horse friendly.” This is evident by the number of horse trailers that were parked along the river, and the variety of stables and riding pens they provide. The main draw for riders is the camp’s access to many trails in the Monongahela National Forest.
Durbin is less than 20 miles from the Scenic Cass Railroad and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. For those who like to hike, there is immediate access to several national forest trails, some of which may be shared with horse riders. Also, the Greenbrier river system is periodically stocked with trout and there are many good fishing sites within walking distance of town. You can even ride the morning train to a good fishing area and return on the afternoon train.
Text and Photography: © Jeff Richmond
A Town that Railroads Built, Left Behind, and Resurrected I We selected the campground in the town of Durbin because it was within 30 miles easy drive of the reunion we were attending. As frequently happens, we discovered, this happenstance led to many pleasant discoveries, from places to eat to attractions to visit. This is the first of several articles about our “adventures” in Durbin, West Virginia.
In a search for a suitable campground in a totally unfamiliar area, we stumbled on the town of Durbin, West Virginia. It not only provided a campground that exceeded our expectations, but led to several totally unexpected adventures. A Town that Railroads Built, Left Behind, and Resurrected is brief profile of Durbin and the first of several articles from this trip.