Thursday, May 14, 2009

Scenic RR machine shops

Most people journey to Cass, WV, to ride the scenic railroad. Cass State Park has a virtual monopoly on Shay, gear-driven, steam locomotives that climb the 10% grade into the mountains with ease. The park opens to the public next week. Of course a “No Authorized Persons Beyond This Point” sign rarely stops the intrepid technical tourist. We nonchalantly strolled past the water tower, around the bend to the maintenance shed. Happily we found the staff working away, firing up four of the steam locomotives, and finalizing the winter maintenance in preparation for the tourist season.

Park Superintendant Dave Caplinger soon caught up with us, but instead of shooing us off, he handed us visitors passes and gave us an impromptu tour. The town of Cass developed in the early 20th century with the formation of the West Virginia Spruce Lumber Company. The saw mill employed 150 men who worked two 11-hour shifts, six days a week. Additionally, there were 1,000 loggers in various camps in the surrounding mountains. The loggers cut 10 acres a day, and five to six 11-car trains of logs arrived at the mill daily. At its peak, the mill sawed 100,000 board-feet of wood a day.

The saw mill closed in 1960, and a fire destroyed most of the buildings in 1982, but the rail line remains. Cass is an interesting undertaking for a state government. The park includes not only an operating railroad, but also the entire company town of Cass. Its full time employees include skilled workers who weld gear teeth, replace bearings, and flush the steam boilers.

1 comment:

  1. I think you are right. I was pleased when I heard one of my student saying, "I like it here because you are not a bunch of eggheads." We definitely hire tutors who can develop a positive rapport with the student.

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