As a lover of smoke, steel and railroads it is hard to resist spending time at Cass, West Virginia.A state park devoted to our state’s logging history. An artist and photographer’s dream location and my three-day stay was not nearly enough time to explore the logging camp town and her Shay Engines and the beauty of the West Virginia mountains.
As a birthday present to my son Christopher, we chose to spend a long weekend at a preserved logging camp house at Cass State Park and ride the steam train to Bald Knob. The trip is about a 4 hour train ride through the wilderness,a stop for lunch,and final stop for sightseeing on one of the highest points in the state. Christopher has loved trains for all of his 8-year-old life so what better way to let him experience what life was like in the train age then to stay in a logging camp and ride the trains at Cass.
This post could be about all the history we enjoyed while staying in a preserved logging town or descriptions of all the different engines, equipment and cars. I could try to encourage you to take a ride up the mountain and see 3 three different states from the observation tower at Bald Knob. I could say that we all had a wonderful time and plan to go back and spend 5 days next time,or I could just let the photos of this place vividly explain why Cass, West Virginia is so wonderful. So, here are some of my favorite photos of a couple of sunny days in a logging town.
Driving into Cass along the main road are the logging Camp houses that the state has converted into rental houses for tourists and residential housing for local workers.
Each house has a small yard and two porches, one in front and one in back. The house where we stayed had three upstairs bedrooms and living, dining and kitchen fully stocked with everything but food.
The community of Cass had a general store and a restaurant for residents. The store is now a gift shop and ice cream parlor but the restaurant remains.
The community still has a church, a working Police Station, Jail and a working Barber Shop.A community building still holds events in the fall and winter months. Then below the general store is the train station, where all the trains board and depart for the winding mountains.
We learned a lot about Shay Engines on the ride to Bald Knob and could not believe that we had used 4 tons of West Virginia Coal to get up the steep mountain grade to Bald Knob. It takes two engines to push visitors up the mountain and only one to lower us back down.This day the Number# 2 and the Number# 4 engines were pushing (not pulling) the seven passenger cars.
This is the kind of smoke we all hope to see when riding steam engines up a mountain.
While at Whitaker station everyone is able to leave the train and explore the first of two logging landings. This one has several pieces of logging equipment on display and some of the shanty buildings that people used to stay overnight in the mountains. There’s a snack bar,pick-nick tables for lunch and nice bathrooms here at the first stop up the mountain.
After another short ride you reach the top and see the most wonderful sight of the whole trip the view from Bald Knob and the viewing deck.
When the train rides are over you can explore the remaining portions of Cass State Park. We spent our evening roasting marshmallows near the remains of the burned out saw mill that produced the lumber that kept the town alive. Sunset over old lumber mill.
The following morning we spent a couple of hours getting to see the inside of several buildings and the machine Shop where the old engines are repaired and kept running. Over the course of several years the State of West Virginia has added to their collection of Shay engines and now has five that they either use for display or work on the rails at the park.
This part of the tour was possibly Christopher’s favorite part of the weekend. He was able to get up close to the engines and touch and learn about how they are made and repaired. We learned why Shay engines are so unique and why there are so few left in the world today. They were an engine made just for climbing the short steep hills and deep valleys of our mountains and were never meant to go fast, so they make perfect train engines for sight-seeing.
Our time at Cass and the logging camp house was just too short. We could have spent a couple of more days exploring and photographing the town and the rusted hulks of metal that the railroad has abandoned over the years. We should have spent more time walking the Greenbrier Trail that runs through Cass along the Greenbrier River.Christopher wanted to eat more marshmallows at the community camp fire and I just wanted to sleep in the antique bed just one more night before going home.
So as we packed to head home both Christopher and I asked Tom, if we really had to go home… it felt like the fun had just begun and we had to leave. So Tom’s advice was to plan to stay longer next time… .and I am betting we will.