The Locust Heights & Western Railroad is a privately owned and operated free train ride for the community. Located directly off of Rt. 19, the railroad has been open every Wednesday from June through October since 1974.
“All the little children just love it. A lot of them have never been on a train. More and more children are into trains now because of Thomas,” laughs Jean Mason, wife and co-owner of the railroad. “We have kids from 0 to 100, I guess you could say. People that rode it when they were small are now bringing their children and their grandchildren back.”
Keith Mason designed and built the train and has always had an interest for steam railroading. Growing up in his dad’s machine shop, he built his first model train when he was 12. His love for railroading continued to grow after receiving a degree in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University.
“He started out building a full size caboose for our three children to play in which was on a real railroad track,” said Jean. “Then he obtained the saw mill and started sawing logs and decided to build a locomotive to get the logs… That’s how it all started.”
The train was modeled after the “Swamp Angel” that was a logging train in the Cranesville logging area of Preston County. The train is a Climax Class A, which has two steam cylinders and a two-speed transmission. A steam engine runs from the steam produced by burning coal and pushing it to the engine.
The train track runs for ¾ of a mile and has been gaining popularity with the community every year. “We’ve had as many as a couple hundred [people] in one evening, which is about 4 train rides. It takes about half an hour to go out and back,” said Mason. “We don’t have to advertise or anything at this point. It’s been by word of mouth.”
The crew consists completely of volunteers of loyal family and friends, including Keith’s grandson Trey Roach (fireman), Mark Ware (engineer), Tom Proud (conductor and brakeman), Gerald Corder (brakeman), and Worthy Hall (brakeman and other miscellaneous jobs).
“All of the people who are involved are getting older and it remains to be seen how long we are going to be able to operate. You need dedicated people because we can’t run a steam engine without a crew,” said Mason.
While the train is free to ride, the railroad does accept donations to help with upkeep. The train will continue to run every Wednesday evening at 6:30PM. The last Wednesday of the season will be October 28 when the railroad will host a “Halloween Ride” and all of the volunteers will dress in costume.
For more information about The Locust Heights & Western Railroad, click here to visit their Facebook page.