On the New Tygart Flyer.
Two years ago, we traveled to West Virginia and stayed in East Fork Campground. That year we rode the Durbin Rocket. This year, we went to Elkins, West Virginia, some 40 miles north of Durbin, and rode the New Tygart Flyer. This four-hour trip was an entirely different experience.
The Tygart Flyer is a restored General Motors Electro Motive Division (EMD) FP7 1,500 horsepower diesel locomotive produced between June 1949 and December 1953. This engine type was used for both passenger and freight service. Engines like these were seen frequently at what is today One Station Square in Elkins. The engine is accompanied by a second engine for additional pulling power. This second engine is controlled by the front engine.
We arrived at the station about an hour before the 10:45 boarding time, allowing plenty of time for photos. The entire train consisted of the two engine units and six cars. The cars include a parlor car—imagine “first class” on a train. There was also a kitchen car in which fresh, hot meals can be prepared enroute. This car is used on special dinner excursions. The remaining cars are standard passenger cars, except that the typical train seats have been replaced with tables and chairs.
We boarded on time, through the parlor car and made our way back to car C.
After leaving the city limits of Elkins, the tracks begin their climb up the mountain. The incline is not noticeable, and the diesel engines pulled us effortlessly up the mountain. The first tracks were laid between 1900 and 1905. Originally, these trains ran throughout the Monongahela Mountains to carry timber and coal out of the mountains. Passenger service came later.
The trip up the mountain passes over a bridge and through a tunnel and dense woodland, by fishing camps and mountain towns, and then along the Cheat River, offering many, changing vistas through the large rail car windows. The route also crosses an abandoned railroad bed and by an abandoned bridge.
Photography through the windows is remarkably clear and sharp, more affected by the train’s motion than the clean glass.
On the trip up, a buffet lunch is served in the dining car for passengers to take back to their seats. The meal included a good selection of lunch meats and cheeses, bread, and sides so that each person could assemble his or her lunch. Desserts, cookies, and beverages are included. And the buffet remained opened the entire trip.
At the top of the mountain, the train stops and passengers have the opportunity to deboard to explore the High Falls of the Cheat River.
There are several viewing levels above and below the falls with walkways and platforms. The hour set aside for the falls is sufficient to explore all levels of the falls, take photos, or just relax by the rapidly flowing river and enjoy the cool, fresh air.
Water drops about ten to twelve feet over the falls that are about 100 yards wide. The train or a three-mile uphill hiking trail are the only access to the fall. Tent camping is permitted near the falls, and campers can make arrangements to ride the train to the falls, and camp for one or more nights, and ride the train back.
Throughout the trip, our hostess explained many interesting facts about the train and the history of the area, pointed out common wildflowers visible from the train, and even conducted a brief sing-along on the return trip.
The entire trip was thoroughly enjoyable. Having experienced rides on several restored trains, one thing I have noticed—each train is a unique experience.