Postcard from Cass, W.Va.: A Climax in Shay country

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Friday, November 1, 2019

CASS, W.Va. – This former lumber mill town and logging railroad center along the Greenbrier River is a familiar place to me. I came here for the first time some 44 years ago as a broken-hearted teenager whose favorite steam-powered railroad (North Carolina’s Graham County Railroad) had just closed down. My parents thought a visit to the former logging railroad turned tourist hauler in the Back Alleghany Mountains of West Virginia might do me good. They were so right.


So I’m back in Cass this weekend for the first time in seven years with a group of 50 steam locomotive fans from across the country. We are in Shay country, which is to say that the famous geared locomotive has been the predominant power here for the last 100+ years. But we’ve come to celebrate the addition of a stranger: A Climax from West Virginia’s Moore-Kepple that was affiliated with the Middle Fork Railroad. A Pennsylvania-built Climax was equally at home on the Mountain State’s logging and coal-hauling railroads, and at least one example deserves a place on the roster of the Cass Scenic Railroad, which showcases that part of the state’s natural resource-harvesting railroads. It is also this locomotive’s 100thbirthday, so we’ve dubbed this event the Cass Climax Centennial Homecoming. This is definitely a party as the locomotive returned to steam only a few weeks ago. Shay No. 5 is also in steam,. 


The story of the restoration of Cass Climax No. 9 is without parallel, and you’ll learn much more about the engine and the heroic and sometimes unlucky and sometimes lucky efforts to save and steam this machine. It is so fascinating that we devoted six pages to an Alan Byer story in our January issue. I hope you’ll find it as interesting as I did. 


So, look for reports from us this weekend, and be sure to pick up a copy of the January issue. 

I’ll be soaking up sights, sounds, and smells of this rare and unusual locomotive in the heart of Shay country.


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