Story by

DeAnna McCasland

December 1st, 2015

My father-in-law, a kind and gentle man with one heck of a mustache, worked many years as a coal miner in West Virginia. My children love to hear stories about the old coal mines and how their Pappy spent so much of his time underground digging up the coal that fuels the old trains and produces 99% of our state's electricity.

We live in one of only two counties in West Virginia that does not produce coal, so while my children have heard many stories about it, they didn't really know what coal was. We decided it was time they learned, so we booked tickets on the Durbin Rocket, a coal train that carries you through the backwoods of the West Virginia countryside. Being fall, the mountainsides are painted with gorgeous colors this time of year, and the ride was absolutely breathtaking.

We loaded up the kids around 6 a.m. and hit the road. The drive was gorgeous as we watched the sun come up over the mountains, deer wandering about as a blanket of fog rolled across the highways. We made our way to the train station and it was COLD. I hadn't thought to dress the kids for chilly temps, so we all suffered just a bit while waiting to board the train. Next time I will be sure to check the weather for where we are going – instead of just where we live. Live and learn, right?

The Durbin Rocket is one of only three operating climax-geared, logging locomotives on earth. It took us on a 10.5-mile ride through Pocahontas County in Monongahela National Forest. It was a truly stunning ride, and we were lucky enough to not only catch the peak of fall colors, but also wildlife, including a bald eagle flying across the Greenbrier River. It was a breathtaking moment to see such an incredible bird soaring wild and free in its true element. We discussed how the bald eagle is the national emblem for our country because of its long life and great strength. My seven-year-old daughter, Marleigh, was really excited about this sighting and made sure to document it in her nature journal. My five-year-old son, Maddox, loved the train whistle, and especially loved talking to the conductor. He was so intrigued watching him shovel coal and when we stopped at a creek to pump more water into the steam car of the train.

We were able to take a bit of a break in the national forest to explore the area and to pick up the caboose. This train offers a unique experience where you can ride the caboose car with your camping gear, and the train will drop you off and then pick you up on the next day's ride. We got to chat with a family who had camped the night prior to our ride, and they really loved the experience. We are putting this on our "must do" list for next fall!

After a little bit of exploring and stretching our legs, we loaded back into our train car to finish the ride and head back home. When the train took off, the steam sent leaves falling from the trees along with coal dust. The kids loved it! They were so excited to show pictures of their coal-stained hands and faces to their Pappy, who spent many of his days with the same coal stained hands.

We took some of the leaves home to preserve so we always remember our beautiful fall adventure through wild and wonderful West Virginia.

If you are lucky enough to find yourself in our beautiful state, I highly suggest taking one of these train rides. It was one of our favorite adventures yet!

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