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Narrative

Train coming in On October 7, 2008, a group of Lexington Newcomers made the trip to Cass to ride the old steam train.

This railroad was used for years in the Cass logging and paper industry.

The day was a delight. Perfect weather, glorious color in the higher elevations, and full of historical interest.

Follow the link to cassrailroad.com to find out more about this wonderful place. Better yet - go visit!
Forest road The elevation at the town of Cass is 2688 feet. We will be climbing to Bald Knob, which is 4700 feet.

The track gets steep at times and we will eventually pass through two switchbacks. To negotiate these the train passes the switch, a switchman jumps off to throw the switch so we can continue on the higher track, and then he resets the switch and jumps back on board as we pass.

We are just getting started here so the trees haven't reached their full fall color yet.
Steaming 1   Steaming 2 The color of the vegetation changes with the altitude.

This area of West Virginia, especially at higher elevations, has a climage similar to Canada. It is generally much cooler than our home in Lexington, which is only about 2 1/2 hours away by car.

Coal smoke is black. Escaping steam is white.

Coal smoke and cinders made their way into the open cars (and our hair and clothes).
Mountain farms The track passes through woods for most of the way, but there are some spots where farms allow a long view across the mountains.
Logging camp Part way up the mountain at Whitaker Station The Mountain State Railroad & Logging Association has recreated a 1940s logging camp. The site includes both living quarters and machinery that was used in the logging.
Logging camp Docents were available to explain the uses of the various pieces of machinery.

Most of these are very rare. Their large size (won't fit in your basement) meant that most were cut up for scrap once they were no longer needed.
Taking on water Shortly after Whitaker Station we needed to stop to take on water for the rest of the climb. The reservoir was in a thickly wooded area where the steam and coal smoke were captured.

The smell of the coal is distinctive, to say the least.
Scenic overlook Here are the rolling hills of the Appalachians looking east toward Virginia.

These mountains don't look craggy like the Rockies or the Alps because they are very much older at over one billion years, give or take. They aren't the oldest, however. That is the Barbeton range in South Africa (estimated 3+ billion years).

What we now see as ridges were once the mountain valleys!

it's easy to see why parts of this range are called the "Blue Ridge" or "Great Smokies".
Steam engine The locomotive is always kept down-grade of the load, as shown here, to prevent the possibility of runaway cars if for some reason the coupling failed.

We tourists rode in open cars. Each car had its own brakeman (or brakewoman in our case). There were some seats, but many of us stood for the entire 4 1/2 hour trip to enjoy the scenery. There are a couple of closed cars with reserved seating, but ... why?

The beautiful scenery of the mixed hardwood forest is due to the logging industry that removed almost all of the original spruce.
Bald Knob Here at the top, known as Bald Knob, you can see some regrowth of the spruce, which is the climax forest for this area. There are some dense stands here and there in the hardwoods.

We had purchased box lunches for a picnic meal at the summit.

The park maintains several cabins - some in Cass and some up here on the mountain - that can be rented for an overnight stay. The conditions on the mountain are rustic and you must bring all your own food.
Shay locomotive Our workhorse locomotive is Shay #6. It was built in 1945 for Western Maryland Railway coal service - the last Shay ever built.

It was in production only a few years before going to the B&O Railroad Museum. The Cass Scenic Railway leased and restored it starting in 1990.

The Shay locomotives were designed in the late 19th century by Ephraim Shay specifically for logging. Follow the links for more technical discussions of the design.

This monster was given tender loving care by its engineer. He spent the entire break carefully oiling the many moving parts.

More pictures of wild, wonderful West Virginia See below for more of the beautiful views going back down the mountain
Wild, wonderful WV Locomotive
Caboose Red tree
The views on both sides of the railway were magnficent.

This is an excursion that we had put off for many years, but it was more than worth the trip. I'd recommend it to anyone.
Rocky stream