"A lot of history surrounds what we're doing here today," Frank Jezioro, director of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said. "These trains, the railroads, were put in here to haul the virgin timber off of the mountains back in the late 1800s.
"It provided jobs, and a lot of the wealth was taken out of West Virginia on these trains -- timber, coal, whatever," Jezioro said.
The railroad continues to be a major tourist attraction for the state, said Scott Fortney the superintendent of the park.
"We get people from all over the United States," Fortney said. "It is what I consider one of the most unique parks in the country."
Ben Dickens, the park's first superintendent, in 1963, came back to celebrate the 50th anniversary.
Dickens recalled how park visitors and employees always took whatever happened in stride.
Like the time a train axle broke mid-trip.
"We tried to refund the money because we couldn't complete the trip, but they wouldn't accept it," Dickens said. "There was nobody that would take their money back."
Another time, an engineer threatened to quit because he didn't get a raise.
"We talked to him and he realized that nobody got a raise," Dickens said, "and he was content with what he had."
Then there were the cinders that came off the coal-powered trains and blew onto visitors riding in open cars.
"Through the switchbacks, the cinders would blow down on them," Dickens said. "So they ended up having to hold a large sheet of plastic over their heads to keep the cinders off."
Like Gunno, Dickens noted many changes over the past 50 years.
"It has grown tremendously," Dickens said of Cass. "Things are really wonderful. "It's a great experience for anybody to come up here. It's living history that they're going to ride up on."
Reach Lori Kersey at 304-348-1240 or lori.ker...@wvgazette.com.