It was a state Public Service Commission study that first suggested that a scenic excursion train would be successful on the South Branch Valley Railroad. From that study members of the Romney Business and Professional Organization began their effort to make the idea a reality. A few years lapsed before the Potomac Eagle became the company in charge of making the dream of a few a source of pleasure for many. And by coincidence that time frame was also when a few American bald eagles decided to make the Trough, a narrow passage the train tracks and the river share, a permanent home. In the fall of 1991 the Eagle Canon Passenger Car Company began operating the Potomac Eagle from a siding named Wappocomo Station just north of Romney.
The enthusiasm Potomac Eagle owners Dave Corbitt and Dan Snyder showed for their new venture caught on in the community. The trek to Sycamore Bridge to the south of Romney and back to Wappocomo Station covers 17 miles and three and a half hours by Potomac Eagle. But passengers soon find there's not a moment to waste. As soon as the train pulls out of the station and the wheels start squeaking and grinding their way south visitors become enthralled with the natural beauty of the South Branch River and all the beautful mountains of West Virginia have to offer. Tree covered mountains and lush green fields provide the backdrop for wildlife of all kinds.
And that's before passengers get to the 6-mile Trough, where eagles almost always await train visitors. Sometimes passengers see one eagle, and then other trips provide visitors with the chance to see several. It's not a guarantee to see America's greatest symbol on the Potomac Eagle, but it's a pretty good bet that passengers will see at least one. It's almost as if they come out on cue to perform in all their spectacular style.
There's plenty to see before the train gets to the Trough, not the least of which is the house called Wappocomo. So what began as a humble venture to explore the great outdoors by rail has grown into a smooth operating passenger excursion service that features air-conditioned dining cars, open-air coaches amid service that's second to none.
Text adapted from Hampshire Review's special Eagle Extra insert, August 2005