The copies of Newsweek and Sports Illustrated, intended to entertain members of Congress while they waited out a nuclear holocaust, still come to a post office box here and are stacked on tables in what would have been the politicians' bunker.

The bunker's kitchen is still used, but for gourmet cooking classes instead of for whipping up freeze-dried chicken a la king for 1,100.

Billy clubs are still stacked in the weapons vault. But instead of being used to ward off hapless civilians wanting to enter the exclusive quarters to escape the mushroom cloud, the nightsticks now are props for photos.

One of the deepest secrets of the Cold War, a federal bunker that for 30 years was hidden under The Greenbrier resort here in the Allegheny Mountains, now is a tourist attraction.

Jim Varner, an assistant principal at a local junior high school who moonlights as a bunker tour guide, wore a red polo shirt sporting the Greenbrier logo as he led a gaggle of visitors through the bunker one muggy afternoon last week.

He stepped outside the 25-ton blast door -- a Paul Bunyan sandwich of steel and cement that swings on 1,500-pound hinges. His guests were left inside the bunker, which always has filtered air of 72 degrees.

"When this door shuts, contamination is imminent," said Varner, 46. "You're pretty well safe and secure. I'm either going to be sick or dying here in a few moments."

The apocalyptic mission seems alien to the gracious Greenbrier, a time capsule of juleps and cotillions where, a brochure says, guests can "expect to be treated royally, as ladies and gentlemen should be treated."

The resort, which is six miles from the Virginia line, dates back 220 years and once functioned as the summer capital of the South. Plantation owners escaped heat and smallpox, their wives lounged in the hot mineral baths and their teenage children courted.

Bought in 1910 by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway and now owned by its successor, CSX Corp., The Greenbrier has a history of cooperation with the government. At the beginning of World War II, the resort was used as an internment center for German diplomats. Later, the Army turned the entire hotel into a hospital.

The fallout shelter, which opened in 1961, is carved into a hillside that houses a wing of the hotel. Known as the Government Relocation Center, the bunker had the eerie purpose of housing the 535 members of Congress and about 565 staff members to "permit the continuation of the American form of constitutional government in the event of nuclear war."

"Our country asked us to do something extraordinary and our company didn't question it," said Ted J. Kleisner, president and managing director of The Greenbrier, who learned the secret after he joined the resort in 1980 and was granted a federal security clearance.

The three-story bunker cost the Defense Department $10 million to build. The warren of 153 rooms included dormitories, an operating room and a television studio with a backdrop of the U.S. Capitol, for broadcasting to anyone who might be left on the outside.

A power plant could provide electricity for 1,100 people for 40 days. Food for 60 days, rotated for freshness, was stacked along the walls of the 400-foot tunnel to daylight.

"Danger -- High Voltage" signs outside deterred the curious.

A few rooms were part of the hotel. The doomsday House and Senate chambers were used as convention halls, with fake walls bolted over the five-foot-thick ones. The bunker's staff was disguised as TV repairmen for the hotel.

The 60 Greenbrier employees who worked in the bunker had to sign secrecy agreements. The generators were tested every Wednesday from 1 to 4 a.m., when few people would hear them or see the exhaust, which was piped 240 feet into the woods.

For 30 years, the ruse worked.

"If someone asked about the rumors, we'd just say, Oh, you must mean our magnificent Presidential Suite,' " Kleisner said.

Then, in 1992, a story in The Washington Post Magazine blew the cover with a precise description that had been stitched together from the whispered recollections of construction workers, former hotel workers and local officials.

The federal government immediately canceled its lease and began shuttering the bunker. In 1995, The Greenbrier began offering tours to guests at the hotel, where a standard room runs $410 a night. This summer, for the first time, the bunker is open to anyone who wants to shell out $25 for the tour.

Mary Agnes McGannon, 86, a retired accountant from Northwest Washington on Varner's tour, was relieved when she had finished the 90-minute flashback to the days of duck-and-cover.

"We never dreamed such a place existed," she said. "It's awesome -- and eerie. The money they spent to save our officials. What about the little people?"

But Blake Bowling, a 12-year-old from Fayetteville, W.Va., thought the underground Capitol was cool.

"A whole lot of famous people would have come to West Virginia!" he said.

At today's Greenbrier, the lobby has a dress code ("Gentlemen: Coats or attractive golf sweaters during daytime; coats and ties at 6 p.m."), and the spa offers indulgences that include Swiss showers, Scotch sprays and Swedish massages.

In case of detonation, Congress could not have expected quite the same coddling.

Lawmakers would enter through a decontamination room with a dozen shower nozzles on the wall and three on the ceiling.

The fleeing officials would be given Army fatigues, white deck shoes and a bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste, hair tonic and -- for the tense days ahead -- two kinds of deodorant.

The bunk beds were straight out of basic training, with four people sharing each locker. Showers were open, although a women's bay with curtains was added as Congress became increasingly coed.

Bodies of those who might have been fatally contaminated before entering the bunker would be stored temporarily in coffin-shaped wooden boxes labeled "Spare Parts." If the bunker were locked down long, the remains would be cremated in the garbage incinerator.

Even at such a dark hour, The Greenbrier aimed to play the perfect host.

"We'd gather their ashes and later we'd scatter them on the golf course," Varner said. "They'd be very happy there, eternally. We'd make sure of that." CAPTION: Harlan Wickline, who has worked in the fallout shelter at The Greenbrier since 1961, holds the door -- all 25 tons of it. CAPTION: This room would have served as the House chamber if the federal government had found it necessary to retreat to the so-called Government Relocation Center. CAPTION: Take away the wings on each side, and the north entrance to The Greenbrier bears some similarity to a true seat of power -- the White House. CAPTION: The Greenbrier is a five-star resort, with many comforts not found at home. Members of Congress would have received much more Spartan treatment, however, such as these military-style lodgings, if they had had to flee to the bunker.