Mo & Terry Smedley


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Appalachian Autumn (2008) Tour

Part 7:  Durbin, West Virginia - Durbin Rocket & Cheat Mountain Salamander - Climax locomotive!!!

Today (Saturday), we traveled to Durbin to ride the "Durbin Rocket" pulled by a Climax geared steam locomotive.  This is one of just three Climax locomotives still in operation.  We were able to get very close to the locomotive for a good look at the geared mechanism.  The Rocket follows the Greenbrier River for about 5 miles out of Durbin.

After returning to Durbin, our bus took us to Cheat  Bridge where we boarded the "Cheat Mountain Salamander" train for a ride down the Cheat River to Elkins, WV -  about 40 miles.  This is a more or less conventional train pulled by two diesel locomotives.  A brief stop is made at the High Falls of the Cheat for a quick walk to a viewpoint.

Tomorrow, we return to Elkins for a ride on the Tygart Flyer.  This train follows the same route as the Cheat Mountain Salamander, but features a brunch buffet in a deluxe parlor car.

Another town hall for Mayor Jack to ponder. Durbin doesn't mess around at town hall meetings! The Durbin Senior Center doubles as the train depot.  Our lunch at the depot was catered by the seniors. "Downtown" Durbin.  Good ice cream at the Rail Trail Store.
Climax #3 steams up inside its shed... ...and backs out to get coal    
  Coal is picked up by a front end loader/backhoe.... ....and shoveled into #3's tender. This picture is for Dad and he will know why,
A local mill makes logs for buildings, and the mill ends are used to fire the stoves in the Rocket's cabooses.  These peeled and grooved pine logs are about 8" in diameter. A close up of the Climax angled cylinders (one on each side) and gearbox. You can see the ring and pinion gears and the universal joints on the drive shaft to the front truck.  Like the Shay, the Climax drives all wheels on the locomotive and tender. #3 hooks to the train and is ready to pull into the Durbin station.
Along the Greenbrier River, a little smoke from #3 mixes up with the abundant fall colors in the hills. #3 pushes the train down the river -  which is nice because the smoke and soot don't fall into the open gondola right behind the locomotive. This young rider studies a lump of coal that the fireman gave him.  Let's hope it doesn't end up in his Christmas stocking! A really unique service of the Durbin Rocket is the "Castaway Caboose".  A fully stocked "hotel on wheels" caboose is setout on the afternoon run for campers to spend the night.  The caboose (and its camper occupants) is picked up on the next morning's run.   Here we're approaching the first caboose to pickup.
The exterior of one of the "Castaway Cabooses".  Inside, it has a gas stove/oven, beds for six people, wood stove for heat, and a shower with hot water.  You supply the food. A Castaway Caboose is hooked to the back of our train to be taken back to the station. Here's a plaque inside one of the Castaway Cabooses.  Could make for an interesting overnight getaway. #3 looks good in the mid-day sun at our Hevener Station stop, where the train reverses direction and returns to Durbin.
On the way back to Durbin, the smoke and soot blow right over the open gondola - but it's still the best place to be on the train! About halfway back to Durbin, the train stops and the crew lowers a hose to this creek to refill the boiler. Fall colors are still beautiful, although many of the trees have now dropped their leaves.  I think we're now past the time of peak color. #3 pulls back into the Durbin station.
A ballast tamper carried this French manufacturer's plate.  I wouldn't have guessed that US standard gauge railroad maintenance equipment would have come from France. Our group listens to a little area history at the Cheat Bridge station. Here's the Cheat Mountain Salamander as it pulls into Cheat Bridge station. Mo at the High Falls of the Cheat.
Mile after mile, both banks of the Cheat River are lined with the thickest rhododendrons I've ever seen.  Here you can see we had to walk through a tunnel in the rhodies to get to the falls.  This area must be spectacularly colorful in the spring! High Falls of the Cheat. While stopped at the High Falls, the engineer disassembles one of the locomotive's journals to take measurements so a repair part can be fabricated. The Salamander pulls into Elkins station.  The brickwork indicates this station was built in 1908.  My math says that makes it about one century old.
Click here to watch Climax #3 back out of the shed. Click here to watch #3 pull the Durbin Rocket into the station. Click here to watch and hear #3 start up with some good "stacktalk". Click here to listen to #3's whistle.
(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.)