Monday, November 7, 2011

Cass Scenic Railroad and the Shay Locomotive

The Cass Scenic Railroad State Park in West Virginia has the world's largest collection of working Shay locomotives.  What's a Shay? Shays are relatively-small steam engines that were developed specifically for the lumber industry. They differ from the larger, main-line locomotives by having small wheels, rather than the large drivers, that are driven by direct gearing to each wheel. The result is restricted top speeds, but great power for such a small engine. They were employed to haul logs from the woods to the mill, frequently over mountainous terrain and temporary track that wasn't built to main-line standards. 2768 Shays were built by the Lima Locomotive Works of Lima, Ohio; only 117 survive.

The gearing for the wheels is located on the right side, which is the side most-often photographed. Compare the left side photo (above) to the right side photo (top) and it's easy to see why. According to Wikipedia, however, four "left-handed" engines were special ordered by a Mexican company.

The Cass Scenic Railroad employs all of its Shays on excursions over their 11 miles of track. Their oldest, #5, was built in 1905 and is thought to be the second oldest Shay in existence. The newest, #6, was built in 1945 and was the last Shay ever built. At 162 tons, it is also the largest engine at Cass.

I'll have more about the train ride and museum later. To visit the Cass Scenic Railroad website, click here.


  1. Isn't Cass the best!!! We stayed overnight in one of the cottages, with friends from Idaho a few years back. It was wonderful! No TV; nothing but friendship and good conversation and an old-fashioned card game for evening entertainment!

    Great photos!

  2. I'll probably never get there myself so thanks for sharing your visit. Great little locos. Why would you need left-handed engines in Mexico???

  3. Wonderful post Jim! I'm fascinated with railroading.

  4. I love railroads. Cass looks like a great place to visit.