Greenbrier Presidential Express
With the collaboration of entrepreneurs Jim Justice, Jr. and Ross Rowland, Jr., the Greenbrier Presidential Express was to be the finest regularly scheduled passenger train in the country, and to top it off, it was to be powered by steam. Scheduled to run from Union Station in Washington, D.C. to the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV, the train was to be powered by former C&O J3a 4-8-4 #614, and the consist was to be comprised of (15) cars furnished with luxury comparable to that of the Orient Express; Red carpets on the platform leading to the train, deluxe cocktails, a Steinway Baby Grand piano, an on-board registered nurse, and at the conclusion of the 6 hour excursion, horse-drawn carriages waiting to take patrons to the resort. It was to be a grand excursion!
The plans were revealed for this majestic trip in June of 2011, and work immediately began on the train. Jim Justice invested $15 million into the acquisition and rehabilitation of the (15) cars which were stored and worked on at a plant in Bethlehem, PA. Ross Rowland had the C&O 614 moved to Clifton Forge, VA for storage until restoration work could begin. While there, the 614 was stripped of her rusting black paint and received a brand new paint scheme. Green and black were the primary colors, along with gold striping, and white paint on the hand rails.
Unfortunately, in May of 2012, the project was abruptly cancelled. Capacity of the Buckingham Branch Railroad which the train was to run on, and Federal approval of the train to run on it’s own were the ultimate demise of the project. According to an interview with Ross Rowland, the train faced the issue of not receiving government funding if it was to operate as a private entity. The train would need to either be it’s own railroad, or run under another railroad supervision, which was something Amtrak and CSX wanted no part of.
The (15) cars planned for use with the Greenbrier Express were ultimately sold at auction, and the 614 and her aux tender still reside on display at the C&O Railway Heritage Center in Clifton Forge, VA, awaiting an eventual return to steam.
Greenbrier Presidential Express set includes: Engine, Tender, Aux Tender, Tool Car, Crew Car, (2) Lounge Cars, Dining Car and Private Observation Car.*
*Note, the consist was never finished or painted, so the paint scheme on the passenger cars depicted in this set is not necessarily what the final train was to look like.
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