Live out your Butch and Sundance fantasies on the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad.
I love a good train ride through the West Virginia hills. There’s nothing better—until you add horses, train robbers, and plenty of excitement.
While staying at Snowshoe Resort last summer, my daughter, Olivia, and I were planning a daytime excursion and found the Wild West Weekend on the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad. We purchased our tickets online and made our way down the mountain to the town of Durbin, in Pocahontas County. We parked beside the train station, which is in the middle of town, and admired the bright yellow depot as well as the coal-fired steam engine huffing impatiently to begin its 10-and-a-half-mile journey along the Greenbrier River.
We were greeted by the sheriff and his men, all dressed head to toe in Western wear, sidearms and shotguns completing their outfits. They seemed to be quite capable of guarding the mail bag, packages, and the padlocked trunk—I’m guessing it was the railroad’s payroll—I could see behind them. We hurried to our seats and waited to be part of this great adventure. With a long blow of the Durbin Rocket’s whistle, we were on our way.
Ladies in hooped skirts and feathered hats talked with passengers, some of whom had clearly taken this train before, as they were also wearing Western-style clothes and had plastic guns holstered at their sides. Everyone was enjoying the day—until two reenactors stood up and one hollered “Draw!”
Olivia and I thought it was time for a train heist, but the men were able to settle their argument without “gunfire” as the train reached the midpoint of our journey. The Rocket is in reverse during the first half of the journey, with the engine pushing the train cars and caboose to the end of the line. After a short break, we were on our way back toward the depot.
As we approached a clearing on the return trip, someone shouted a warning to the lawmen. There were men on horses following the train. Time for the real action. I won’t spoil your trip by telling you all the details, but know this: Guests are right in the middle of the action. We witnessed talented horsemanship, reenactors completely into their roles, choreographed stunts—all of it transporting us back to a different time.
Once the smoke cleared and the mail, money, and cargo were safe, a few of the reenactors sang and played some old-timey songs for us. Traveling back to the depot, the romantic part of me wanted to linger in that slower-paced place with train travel, hooped skirts, and Wild West thrills. It was nice to travel back in time for an afternoon.
Four trips are scheduled during this year’s Wild West Weekend, August 4 and 5. You’d better be quick on the draw—the train trip is quite popular with train and Western enthusiasts, so tickets sell out fast. 4759 Staunton Parkersburg Turnpike, Durbin, 304.636.9477, mountainrailwv.com
written and photographed by Carla Witt Ford