Murder Takes A Train Ride This Summer At Cass State Park
Cass, WV – It’s the 1920’s in Pocahontas County and adultery and murder most foul have found a home in Cass. That’s the premise of Cass Murder Mystery Dinner trains scheduled for this summer and fall. Cass Trainmaster Fred Bartels gives us the skinny on this second story in the Sheriff Lincoln Cochran series.
“This is the second mystery we’ve done that has to do with something that really happened here at Cass” says Bartels. “This year it’s about a brakeman who used to work for the C&O railroad, and he would come up here on the evening train from Ronceverte and he would stay overnight, and the next morning he would head back. But while he was here, he was known to have visited one of the ladies in the town while the husband was out at work on the locomotive. One evening this brakeman went to the ladies house, but he never left, because he was shot.”
He says in real life they were never able to convict anyone of the murder, although they had pretty good suspicions. Another twist to this story involves the pilfering of a valuble document. Bartels’ first mystery, “The Murder of Lumberjack Johnny Parker,” based on a murder in the early 1900s, ran for two seasons. Once again, Bartels portrays the Sheriff.
“My name is Link Cochran, and Link was an actual Sheriff of Pocahontas County back at that time” he says. “So Link is investigating this murder and the theft of the document; Link thinks they’re connected. And he brings some of the citizens of Cass up to Whittaker Station where they’re having the buffet dinner, and the visitors have a chance to listen to the sworn testimony of the townspeople are giving and try to figure out who the murderer was.”
Bartels says he purposely leaves two or three of the character parts open to encourage visitors to become part of the drama.
“Since it’s a sworn testimony, we have something for them to read as that character” says Bartels. “And some of them really get into that character; they start talking like somebody would have at that time, and they say some really off the cuff things that add to it. And then when we get back to Cass, we find out who did the murder, and one of the people who make the right choice gets a prize. And it’s usually a two night stay as one of our fine resort parks.”
The characters in the play are based on those who would’ve been found in 1920’s era Cass, including the person who runs the Riverview Hotel, the outhouse cleaner, a funeral director, barber, the locomotive engineer who’s also the cuckolded husband and the train fireman. After giving testimony, audience members are encouraged to grill the “witnesses”. Local thespians Mary Snyder, Mary Seldomridge, Ben Egan and Geri Bartels portray various characters in the play. The barber and the engineer and his wife are portrayed by audience members.
“All these characters are possible suspects; a lot of them have motivations for killing this brakeman besides the engineer” says Bartels. “So we really have a lot of fun, the audience has a lot of fun and they get a feel for the way life was at that time.”
There are four murder mystery dinner trains remaining on this year’s schedule: July 29, August 12th, and September 2nd and 23rd. The special train includes a buffet dinner at Whittaker Station, optional locomotive shop tour or Cass Showcase presentation and an optional self guided tour of Camp Whittaker, a re-created logging camp. Cost for the Murder Mystery train is $42.00 for adults, $32.00 age 5-12, and $22.00 for a child under five. Call 304-456-4300 or visit cassrailroad.com for more information.