Ask An Ambassador: Get On The Consumer Choo-Choo!!!

Real Estate Agent with Transaction Alliance 513.520.5305 SAL.2002007747

My mom is from Cass West Virginia.  Never heard of it?  Then you're probably not a big fan of old time railroads!  Until about 60 years ago Cass was a focal point for bringing lumber down off the mountains to be processed at the local saw mill.  My grandfather worked there, and while the mill is long gone (mostly) due a closing and then a later fire, my mom can still point out at the top of one of the ruined building where my grandfather used to work.

Once the sawmill was closed Cass could have just shrunk and become one of the ghost towns you can find scattered around the area with nothing left but foundations and some old heavy equipment steel.

But fortunately for the local residents, that wasn't the town's fate.  Instead, the future was as a Cass Scenic Railroad State Park and scenic railroad (read more at the link for the history).   Three years after the mill closed, the first tourist train made a run up the mountain to an old logging camp.  Since that time there have been some changes, but some things are the same.  The old style Shay and Heisler locomotives that were used to carry logs up and down mountains now carry tourists up and down the mountain.

For me, there's all kind of nostalgia tied to hearing the engineers blow the steam whistles as the make their way around the countryside (yes, even engineers can be sentimental!)!

Cass found its new place in the modern world by dipping into the niche of an older world.  They hold special events during summer and fall that bring in tourists by the hundreds.

You could argue that Cass HAD a niche before, but it was a niche that competed with other niche producers.  As old growth timber declined, the demand for their product declined, and thus the end of that niche.

In real estate, if you're going to work a niche, ideally you select a niche that will sustain itself throughout your real estate career.  You need to monitor your niche and watch for signs that the niche is falling out of favor (short sale demands ebb and flow, will the younger generations still play golf and want those golf course McMansions?  etc.).

But if you find the right niche and get the word out, it's just like the Field of Dreams and Cass Scenic Railroad, build it and they will come!

Until next Tuesday, just Ask An Ambassador,
Bill & Liz aka BLiz

Posted by

Serving Warren County Ohio & Adjacent Areas

The Liz Spear Team of Transaction Alliance
Elizabeth Spear, ABR, Ohio License SAL.2002007747

William (Bill) Spear, Ohio License SAL.2004011109  Kentucky 77938
Ask for us by name if you visit the office!

Bill Direct:  513-520-5305
Liz Direct: 513-265-3004     
Fax: 866-302-8418


Search Homes:  Https://

 FacebookWordpressYouTube Pinterest






Comments (18)

Buzz Mackintosh
Mackintosh REALTORS - Frederick, MD
“Experience, reliable, leadership”

Great analogy tying a real estate niche to reinventing the town to keep it alive and well. Cass reminds me of visiting Tweetsie Railroad amusement park in Blowing Rock NC as a child. They have similar vintage locomotives and the train is attacked by Indians in a wild wild west theme setting.  

May 31, 2023 03:55 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

There aren't many of the old locomotives left, and as you might guess, replacement parts have to be manufactured by the railroad's train repair facility.  They've taken rusted hulks and restored them to full function, and regularly refurbish their current trains to keep them going.

May 31, 2023 05:19 AM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

this is a brilliant post - and no wonder that you are such great ambassadors!  I had a great run with short sales and then it was over!  I like condos and still need to perfect that niche - thanks for the inspiration

May 31, 2023 04:04 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

I don't miss the short sale days, but you have to think at some point they will come back into style.

May 31, 2023 05:20 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning Bill,

I absolutely love your post and learned something about Cass Scenic Railroad and the evolution to it becoming a State Park and scenic railroad hauling many tourists to experience what had happened so long ago. The tie to your niche marketing is so accurate! It can become your Field of Dreams if properly watered and tended. Build it and they will come!

May 31, 2023 04:28 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

Back in the early days the railroad was staffed by a lot of relatives, so they could "sneak" the locals onboard.  Nowadays, those relatives are all long retired and the railroad is subbed out to a business and they treat it as such.  Tickets are $59 for the two hour trip and $79 for the 4+ hour trips.  They just opened up a new leg this month along the Greenbrier River, so my mom and I rode the new branch last Friday.  Perfect day for watching the river go by!

May 31, 2023 05:28 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

What an interesting story and analogy. Perhaps it's not just that we need a niche that will stand the test of time. We also need to change with the times!

May 31, 2023 04:41 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

And fortunately Cass did find a way to survive.  The old Company Store sells touristy stuff, and quite a few of the old company houses are now available to be rented by tourists for overnight stays.  It's a beautiful area to rest up and recharge :)

May 31, 2023 05:30 AM
Brian England
Ambrose Realty Management LLC - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

I feel like I am fond of old-time railroads, although I admit I don't know much about them at all, haha.  I have not heard of Cass West Virginia before, but I enjoyed learning about it from your post.  I hope that your week is going well.

May 31, 2023 06:31 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

No complaints!

May 31, 2023 08:33 AM
Ray Henson
eXp Realty of California, Inc. (lic. #01878277) - Elk Grove, CA

It is good to hear that Cass did not become a ghost town.  So many of our old mill towns have fallen on hard times.

I noticed that you had success posting a YouTube Short.  When I have posted them on ActiveRain, it will not work properly.  Well done!

May 31, 2023 06:43 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

I had to get some help from Craig!  Couldn't find the "copy embed code" link and was at the point I just assumed Shorts and AR weren't compatible.  Once Craig pointed me to the embed copy, easy enough to drop in like we used to in the html code section.

Cass could have easily become cleared out, but eventually a ski resort up the mountain offered some jobs.  They've also added a bike path along an old railroad bed, so another reason for tourists to come to the area.

May 31, 2023 09:03 AM
Erik Hiss
Keller Williams Capital Partners Realty - Worthington, OH
You can trust me for all your real estate needs!

Great article and thanks for sharing!

May 31, 2023 07:03 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

You're welcome!

May 31, 2023 09:03 AM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Liz and Bill Spear 

Thanks Bill for the family history lessons associated with the Cass Scenic Railroad. I hope your mom's history has been written down and published in Cass West Virginia. I love stories like this and when you attach a great analogy it is even better. I enjoyed the video too, especially the sound of the Steam Engines. It reminded me of the Mount Washington Cog Scenic Railroad in North Conway, NH. To my knowledge, it is still in operation, but I could be wrong. 

But the point you made is clear and very true. I did not enjoy short sales either because of the pain it caused my clients who were in that situation, not to mention the long, long, long hours to come to fruition with a closing. But the smiles and gratitude that came after the worst was over made it all worthwhile. And patience was the same, every day the property remained as Active, Under Contract, or Pending. 

Some niches come and niches go. Agents need to stay alert. Coincidentally, I received an invitation for Short Sales Training yesterday. 

May 31, 2023 07:31 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

Unfortunately I didn't catch a whistle blow during that short clip (I think I have one SOMEWHERE on my phone from a past visit...finding it, that's another story!).  My mom said each train engineer has some personalization to how they blow the whistle, so if you knew the style, you'd know who was driving that train.

From a seller side, we did a small number of short sales.  From a buyer side, so much frustration between the bank and the listing agents that it was almost a better to avoid category.

I know they'll come back into vogue at some point, but I have no intent of entering that same arena.  Too close to retirement to HAVE to work them, so I'll let those that have the WANT to handle them have at it.

May 31, 2023 09:07 AM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP

Bill, sorry my imagination got the best of me. I did watch the video and enjoyed it.

May 31, 2023 10:21 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

The video has the bells, but not the whistle.  Love the sound of them!  Still have to dig on my phone and find my old video that includes the whistle.

Jun 01, 2023 05:34 AM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Bill (and Liz too) - thank you for the introduction to Cass West Virginia.  I am all aboard learning more about what makes a community a community. It's a combination of things that connects them as well as moves them along to that next place.  

May 31, 2023 08:05 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

Where my parents live (about 20 miles from Cass now), there's a lot of neighbor helping neighbor.  The resources we take for granted in city areas may be an hour or more drive from their home, so people help each other out more.

May 31, 2023 09:08 AM
Michael Jacobs

The good neighbor policy is in evidence in small yet meaningful ways.  

May 31, 2023 09:13 AM
Ginger Harper
Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage~ Ginger Harper Real Estate Team - Southport, NC
Your Southport~Oak Island Agent~Brunswick County!

Fun Blog.  Thanks for posting.


May 31, 2023 08:55 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

You're welcome!

May 31, 2023 09:09 AM
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Realty - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

Hi Liz and Bill,

Great analogy!  Here in AZ, home of the wild-west and ghost towns,  there are many stories of how these towns became ghost towns after the copper mining days.  I just wrote about one of them, Jerome.  The town's major population was tumbleweeds for many years.  Then the hippies took it over, and now it is a thriving tourist attraction with ghost themes and artist stores.  The company town of Clarkdale was the site of the trains that got the ore to the transportation hub.  It is now the Verde Valley Railroad tourist train.  We have to find that niche and tweek it as conditions change.

May 31, 2023 09:32 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

Sherry, I've driven through Jerome quite a few years back.  Had a weekend off attached to a business trip to Phoenix, so made a huge loop up to Grand Canyon before returning.  Years late Liz and I met my parents at the PHX airport for a Grand Canyon and other area site long weekend.  One of things we did was ride the Verde Valley Railroad train!  That was a hot one (end of May) if you went out on the open air car!

May 31, 2023 09:38 AM
Anna "Banana" Kruchten
HomeSmart Real Estate - Phoenix, AZ

Hi Bill what an interesting history of Cass WV and railroads! We have a town not too far north of Phoenix called Jerome that was an old mining town.  They too have successfully changed it into a charming tourist destination we a fabulous museum and many restaurants, stores and little hotels (inns). When folks visit us we enjoy going up there to share the old west flavor.   And.....this is perfect analogy for real estate - when a niche changes or no longer exists - SHIFT!

May 31, 2023 09:40 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

Nice views from Jerome!

May 31, 2023 12:05 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

The choo-choo train can be a little fickle sometimes, but I think you have the right idea with your thesis here

May 31, 2023 11:30 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

They've got experts at maintaining these 100+ year old machines, so no fickleness on the tourist runs!

May 31, 2023 12:06 PM
John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA

What a fun trek it would be to ride the Cass Scenic Railroad.

All aboard!!!

May 31, 2023 12:57 PM
Liz and Bill Spear

It is fun, and you never know what wildlife may appear during one of the trips.

May 31, 2023 01:02 PM
Kieran Jackson
Keller Williams Hollywood Hills - Los Angeles, CA
Realtor®, SFR, U.S. Army Veteran

Very nice! I can imagine Cass was, and is, a very nice place to reside and visit.

All the best!

May 31, 2023 09:43 PM
Liz and Bill Spear

It has pros and cons like most places.  Peace & elbow room, got it.  Cell service, fast food joints, big box stores?  No gots!

Jun 01, 2023 05:36 AM
Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

Interesting about the history of this little town. Also, the niche market idea is a good idea for sure.

Jun 01, 2023 03:11 PM
Liz and Bill Spear

There's a lot of the old company town kept intact.  Boardwalks, identical homes, the company store.  Community fundraisers featuring cakewalks, a one room barbershop, all are parts of what has made the town the same for me even though my grandfather's original home burned down decades ago.

Jun 01, 2023 03:21 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude


That was an interesting history of Cass, and a good segue into a discussion of niche marketing and doing it well, as we all know you understand as you do it so successfully.


Jun 02, 2023 08:49 PM
Liz and Bill Spear

If nothing else about blogging, I've learned what works best for us, and that's serving a niche.

Jun 07, 2023 06:38 AM