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Cass Scenic Railroad State Park
West Virginia State Park
Cass Scenic Railroad Heisler #6 along with Shay #11 lead a loaded log train down the former C&O Greenbrier Division mainline.
Country  United States
State  West Virginia
County Pocahontas
Elevation 2,438 ft (743.1 m)
Coordinates 38°23′48″N 79°54′53″W / 38.39667°N 79.91472°W / 38.39667; -79.91472
Area 940 acres (380.4 ha) [1]
Established March 7, 1961 [2]
 - Acquired 1962 [2]
 - Opened June 15, 1963
Owner West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
Nearest city Cass, West Virginia
Location of Cass Scenic Railroad State Park in West Virginia
Website: Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is a State Park located in Cass, Pocahontas County, West Virginia.

It consists of the Cass Scenic Railroad, an 11-mile (18 km) long heritage railroad that is owned by the state of West Virginia. The park also includes the former company town of Cass and a portion of the summit of Bald Knob, highest point on Back Allegheny Mountain.



Founded in 1901 by the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company (now MeadWestvaco), Cass was built as a company town to serve the needs of the men who worked in the nearby mountains cutting spruce and hemlock for the West Virginia Spruce Lumber Company, a subsidiary of WVP&P. At one time, the sawmill at Cass was the largest double-band sawmill in the world. It processed an estimated 1.25 billion board feet (2,900,000 m³) of lumber during its lifetime.

In 1901 work started on the railroad, which climbs Back Allegheny Mountain. The railroad eventually reached a meadow area, now known as Whitaker Station, where a camp was set up for the immigrants who were building the railroad. The railroad soon reached to the top of Gobblers Knob, and then to a location on top of the mountain known as 'Spruce'. The railroad built a small town at this location, complete with a company store, houses, and a doctors office. Work soon commenced on logging out the Red Spruce trees, which grew in the higher elevations.

The WVP&P originally had only been interested in the Red Spruce timber for the purpose of making pulp, which would be turned into paper. It wasn't until a few years later when the company realized that the mountain held a fortune in hardwoods, such as maple, cherry, birch and oak. The company decided that they would build a mill in the town of Cass, which could process these hardwoods.

The railroad eventually extended its track to the top of Bald Knob, the third highest mountain peak in West Virginia. This area was logged of its Red Spruce, and the track was torn up in the early 1910s. The track was also extended to a valley near the town of Spruce, at a bend in the Shavers Fork of the Cheat River. The WVP&P set up a new town here, with about 30 company houses, a large company store, a school, and a pulp mill, where the Red Spruce trees could be processed on the spot. This new town was also named Spruce, and the former town received its current name of Old Spruce.

In June of 1942, WVP&P sold the Cass operation to Mower Lumber Company, which operated the line until July 1, 1960, cutting second-growth timber off Cheat Mountain. The mill and railroad were shut down by Mower in 1960, due to rapid decline of the timber industry in the region.

Following the 1960 closure, the rail line, land, and all equipment and rolling stock were sold to a holding company named the Don Mower Lumber Company (no relation to the former Mower Lumber Company), and the railroad was conveyed to the Midwest Raleigh Corporation, which started to scrap the railroad and equipment. However, a group of local businessmen led by Pennsylvania railfan Russell Baum convinced the West Virginia state legislature to make the Cass Railroad a state park. In 1963, the first tourist excursion train left the Cass depot for Whittaker Station (four miles up the line).

In 1977, the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park took possession of the entire company town of Cass, and the old hardwood mill in Cass.

Shay locomotives

Ephraim Shay (1839–1916), has been credited as a schoolteacher, physician, civil engineer, logger, merchant, railway owner, and inventor. He lived in Michigan, and became a logger in the 1860s.

While a logger he wanted to find a new way to get logs to the mill, besides floating them on a river. He then built his own tramway in 1875, on 26 inch track, and wooden ties. This was very efficient and enabled him to beat his competitors because he saved so much money with the tram.

Two years would pass before he would invent the Shay Locomotive. In about 1877 he developed the idea of having an engine sit on a flat car with a boiler, gears, and trucks that could pivot. The first Shay only had two cylinders and operated through a series of gears over the inside portion of the rear truck. It did not take long for this idea to become popular.

When Lima Locomotive Works received the Shay idea it was not impressed, but a man by the name of John Carnes influenced the company to take the idea and expand upon it. What resulted was the classic Shay design we see today.

During its lifetime, Lima Locomotive Works manufactured every Shay, including the last, Western Maryland Railway Shay #6, which is still in operation at Cass.

Current operations

Today, visitors ride on historic converted log cars, pushed along by a powerful geared logging locomotive. Traveling on 11 miles (18 km) of track laid in 1901 by immigrant workers, the line traverses the steep grades of Back Allegheny Mountain.

The railroad owns eight Shay Locomotives, one Heisler locomotive, and one Climax locomotive, which is being restored by volunteers of the Mountain State Railroad and Logging Historical Association. The Heisler and the Climax, both made in Pennsylvania, were competition to Shay's geared locomotive design.

Three trips are available: a two-hour round trip to Whittaker Station, a five-hour round trip to the abandoned site of the ghost town of Spruce (once the coldest and highest town east of the Rockies), and a five-hour round trip to Bald Knob, the third highest point in the state.

Former company houses have been refurbished and are available for rent through Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. A small cabin on Bald Knob is also available for rent, and private cabooses can be reserved as well.

Town and shop tours are available daily to visitors who would like to learn more about the town and its lumber industry, and see how the rare geared locomotives are maintained by the Cass shop crew. A tour of a recreated logging camp is available at Whittaker.

Photo gallery

See also

West Virginia portal

External links




  1. ^ West Virginia State Parks Facilities Grid, accessed March 29, 2008
  2. ^ a b Where People and Nature Meet: A History of the West Virginia State Parks. Charleston, West Virginia: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company. April 1988. ISBN 0-933126-91-3. 

Other sources


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