2022 Parade of Steam at Cass
06-22-22 Cass Days 2022(Sound of a steam whistle)
The lonely sound of a bygone era when the logging town of Cass, WV was booming, well over a century ago. It was the sound of the huge geared Shay locomotives that were used almost exclusively to haul huge logs off the steep surrounding mountains. Now those locomotives are used to haul tourists up the mountain for stunning views of the valleys and ridges beyond the town. That history was on display Saturday, June 18th during the Cass Days celebration. Train enthusiasts from far and wide came to this small logging town in Pocahontas County to see a very unusual sight.
“This is the only place in the United States where you can see five geared locomotives steamed up at the same time and it’s right here is Cass, WV, so it’s pretty special.”
That’s Walter Scriptunas, who spent many summers in Cass and now leads photography workshops for what is now known as Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. With the smell of coal-fired locomotive smoke filling the air, Scriptunas explained what goes into making an event like this happen.
“It’s a lot of work, especially for our crews. Our small crew, it’s a testament [to them], to keep five locomotives running is just incredible. Next year, we might have seven locomotives fired up so it’ll be a bigger event next year.”
“Tell me about Number 11 [engine] – when it came out it had a whistle I’ve never heard before.”
“It’s pretty crazy, it’s called a mockingbird whistle. It has two ropes on it, so you can make it sing, I guess you would say, different tunes, it’s pretty eerie.”
(Sound of the Mockingbird whistle)
“One of our firemen, Noah Barkley owns the whistle. I wasn’t sure if he was going to use it today and he quietly put it on this morning, and it’s definitely being heard.”
Distinctive whistles aside, Scriptunas says if the engines are running, there’s always maintenance of some kind to be done. A crew of fifteen keep the engines in good working order year-round whether they’re hauling tourists up the mountain or sitting in the workshop in the off season.
Rail fans began arriving in town early Saturday and traffic on the two-lane bridge into town was already starting to back up by 10am, when the official Parade of Steam began with the locomotives lining up one by one on the tracks in front of the depot. For JT Arbogast, it was the culmination of a successful partnership between the state park and his group, the non-profit Friends of Cass.
“They started doing this a couple of years ago, mostly because they have these engines and they were like we should just get them out and let everyone look at them. And we on the Friends of Cass side as we recognized an opportunity to tie in the Town and what we’re doing with the events and stuff, that it just became a great collaboration.”
It seems to be a collaboration that’s off to a great start.
(Sound of all five steam whistles at once)