Monday, January 31, 2011

An outing to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia; Part I: Le Grand Depart

Over this past weekend your diarist and diarist-woman took the choo-choo from Washington, DC's Union Station out to White Sulphur Springs, WV to meet up with the diarist's brother and sister-in-law, aka John and Alice.  Alice, a WV native, had sussed out that the Greenbrier Hotel, the sort of address generally a bit too up-scale for your thrifty diarist, was offering a cut rate weekend that made this swish, over the top resort seem almost affordable.  The Greenbrier once the haunt of Presidents, Royalty and Hollywood types got its start in the 1700s after European colonists discovered the mineral springs that native Americans had been using since time out of mind to cure a variety of ailments.  It soon became fashionable to "take the waters".  Little by little a resort was built around the spring.  An interesting factoid that was unknown until the 1990s is that the federal government had constructed a top secret underground bunker at the Greenbrier large enough to house the entire U.S. Congress in case the Russkies dropped the big one on Washington.  Currently the Greenbrier is owned by Jim Justice, a local coal billionaire who sold some of his coal mines to those same Russians in order to buy the bankrupt hotel from the railroad.  Mr. Justice seems committed to returning the Greenbrier to her former glory.  More can be read here:

For your diarist one of the high lights of the weekend was sure to be the train ride.  It's been dog years since I've ridden a train any great distance and the ride from DC to the Greenbrier is over 250 miles.  Would there be a security pat down?--another possible high light!  And what to do once arriving at the resort?  Do they give tours of the bunker?  Do they still use the hot spring?  Your diarist didn't know but figured that he could sit in a hot tub with a glass of wine and exaggerate his importance with the best of them if the opportunity presented itself.  So join us as we listen for the conductor's plaintive cry: The Cardinal, now departing Uuuun-ion Station for Alexandria, Culpepper, Clifton Forge, White Sulphur Springs, Charleston, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Chicago; All Aboard!

It was snowing lightly when we arrived at Union Station

While there was a heavy police presence both in and outdoors your diarist was not "patted down".
The interior of Union Station is quite elaborate.

Like most large train stations, Union Station is a city unto itself complete with liquor stores, barber shops, eateries, book shops, &c.
You could probably live here, under this escalator, and sneak over to the French baker (left side of the photo) for coffee and fresh pain au chocolat.  Just keep an eye out for the station watchman and his German shepherd....

Train nr 51, the Cardinal, leaves on track 23 at a civilized 11:10 am.  This train originates in NYC and changes engines at Union Station.  The ride out to White Sulphur Springs should take about six hours.  Will the train run on time?  We shall see.


  1. The Greenbrier! That's living pretty high.

  2. Yes. It is, it is. Our sister-in-law is a cheerleader for almost anything positive concerning her home state. The salvation of the Greenbrier from bankruptcy and almost certain ruin is a big deal out in WV. It's also nice to see that Jim Justice is chalking off a couple weekends per year so that his fellow West Virginians can afford to sample this magnificent if somewhat extravagant property, personally.