Mo & Terry Smedley


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Appalachian Autumn (2008) Tour

Part 6:  Cass Scenic Railroad, West Virginia (Shay locomotives!)

Today, we traveled from Cumberland, MD to Cass, WV.   The Cass Scenic Railroad is located here, where you can find operating Shay and Climax locomotives, and several logging & sawmilling historical displays. 

This was a real treat!  My reaction to the sights and sounds of an operating Shay was visceral.  The Shay whistle is quite musical - click here and listen carefully to the engineer's skill on the whistle rope - it's a real musical treat.   When I heard the whistle echoing off the West Virginia hills as the train made its way down the mountain, images of those Northwest loggers and railroaders of yesteryear bringing the big timber to the mill flooded my mind.   The timber is different here, of course - small by historical Northwest standards - but the machinery is remarkably familiar.

We are spending three nights in Snowshoe, WV - just a few miles from Cass.  Tomorrow, we're heading up the other side of the mountain to ride the Durbin Rocket behind a Climax logging locomotive.

While the pictures are interesting, be sure to have a look at some of the video.   Steam locomotives are best viewed in action!

Internet access in Snowshoe is limited, so it may take me a while to get pictures from the next few days uploaded.

We made a rest stop at Senaca Rocks, a popular climbing spot.  A helicopter landed while we were at the visitor center. Seneca Rocks, with nice color display on the slopes. Watch out!  Posted on a trailhead at Seneca Rocks. Cass, WV.  It was a mill town - the millworker houses in this row are now available for rental.  The area (including the railroad) is maintained as a West Virginia State Park.
This is for Hoquiam Mayor Jack Durney.  The basement of the Mayor's office was the city jail.  You can see the black iron bars in this picture. This is what's left of the Cass sawmill.  The concrete structure on the right contained the drying kilns.  The metal building on the left contained the (steam) boilers.  You can make our the horizontal shaft that was used to drive the sawmilling machinery. The brick building is the powerhouse, that contained steam engines to drive the horizontal shaft and also to generate electricity.
Here's what's left of one of the big band saws. Shay #11 is powered up and pushing the 12:00 train out of the depot.  This is a 103 ton locomotive, built in 1923.  Click here to listen to #11's whistle as she approaches a grade crossing. With smoke and steam blowing everywhere, the train turns past the locomotive shops to begin its trip up the hill. #11 is taking on water before returning to the depot.
On our 2:30 train, #11 is pushing hard up the 9% grade!  The Shays were designed especially for these extreme logging grades and tight curves.   Curvy track in a tunnel of turning trees. There are two switchbacks on the way up.  #11 has gone to the end of the switchback tail, while "'Big #6" (a large 162 ton Shay) waits to get around us on its way down the hill.
It was raining lightly, and quite cool, but the colors were ablaze nevertheless. This was stenciled onto the wall of the (logging) crew dining hall on display.  Our guide claimed this message was found in the original building, and so was reapplied after restoration. Hi, Mo.  Also found in the crew dining hall. A large steam yarder on a railcar.
A close-up view of #11's pistons.  What an incredibly clean engine!  A close-up view of the horizontal geared shafts on #11. The fireman oils the gears before heading back down the hill.  
Blazing colors at the top of the run (Whittaker Station).   A view of one of the switchbacks and the trailing car's handbrake wheel.  
  View from the train on the way back down to the station. The brakeman has to manually apply the car brakes on the way down. Three locomotives (two Shays and one Climax) are steamed up and ready for work outside the Cass shop building.
Click here to watch a video of #11 departing Cass Depot. Click here to watch a video of #11 returning to Cass Depot, with some nice whistle sounds. Click here to watch #11 push our train up the steep 9% grade into Whittaker Station.
One of the cars used on the special Halloween runs. (Video files are very large, and will take several minutes to download even with a fast internet connection.) (Video files are very large, and will take several minutes to download even with a fast internet connection.) (Video files are very large, and will take several minutes to download even with a fast internet connection.)