The town of Cass, in Pocahontas County, was founded in 1901 by the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company. That same year, construction began on a railroad that would haul timber to the lumber mill in town. For a brief period, the town boomed, and the mill at Cass processed over 1.25 billion board feet of timber. However, by 1960 timbering ended in Cass, and plans were made to scrap the railroad. Even as the track was starting to be torn up, local residents and entrepreneurs formed a committee to plan how to convert the remaining assets into a tourist attraction, and presented their idea to the legislature.
In 1961 a legislative committee that had visited the area and studied its potential, unanimously recommended that the Cass railroad be saved. By 1962, the state had purchased 12 miles of track, 3 locomotives, and other miscellaneous railroad equipment. Tracks were repaired, train cars were converted for passenger use, and the old depot was turned into a headquarters. The first train tours started in 1963. In its first season in operation, 23,000 people rode the train, and the number continued to grow in the following years. The track was also expanded over the years, and reached Bald Knob in 1968 – a 12 mile trip with a scenic overlook at the top.
The facilities were hit by fire in the 1970s – the repair shop in 1972, and the depot in 1975. New buildings had to be built to replace the damaged structures, so the depot you see today is not the original structure. The state purchased buildings in the town of Cass in 1977 and began restoring them to their historic condition so visitors could experience an authentic company town.
Today visitors can choose between a couple of different routes on the historic locomotive, and can stay in restored company houses in town. Unlike most state parks, Cass doesn’t have any trails but is located not far from the Greenbrier River Trail. Cass Scenic Railroad State Park had an economic significance of $4,208,086 in 2015.