Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Iron rails of Cass Scenic Railway

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.

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Rows of Sate Park logging houses on the main road into Cass State Park.

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.

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The House we rented while we stayed at Cass State Park.

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.

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The general store is now a gift shop.

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.

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Sign on the restaurant at Cass State Park

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.

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Shay Engine #2 getting ready to depart for the first trip of the day to Whitaker station.

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.

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Loading Coal in the early morning at the Cass Steam Works.

 

This is the kind of smoke we all hope to see when riding steam engines up a mountain.

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Smoke from two Shey Engines pushing our train up the hill to Whitaker Station.

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.

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View of the observation deck and West Virginia Skyline at Bald Knob landing, destination of Cass Scenic Railroad

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View from the observation deck at Bald Knob. Three states are seen from the deck,West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky.

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Rental caboose at Bald Knob where you can stay for a week or weekend.

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. burned-out-sawmill-at-sunset Sunset over old lumber mill.

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Sawmill belt drives left on their mounts to rust away at Cass State Park

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.

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Christopher in front of a Climax engine in the shop for repairs

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Open boiler of an engine in the Cass work shop

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.

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Retired diesel engine in the weeds along the river at Cass WV

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Back end of a wheel milling machine left out in the weeds in Cass WV

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.

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Father and son lesson on how to skip stones on the Greenbrier River at Cass WV

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Return of “Doc” Holiday

Please forgive me for not writing more the last month. It seems as if I have taken on a little more than I should have and the main reason is “Doc”.

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Our new Redbone Coonhound Puppy “Doc” Holiday 8 weeks old

Doc is a 8 week old Redbone Coonhound who has stolen my house and my heart. We have been waiting over two years for his breeder to have another litter of pups. So I was overjoyed to be contacted by our friend that they had puppies again and I could finally get my very own hound.

Ok, so it is true that very best coonhounds are bred in Appalachia and the top two in the nation are from West Virginia or Kentucky. It might be the terrain or the population of raccoons that keeps this breed’s history so closely linked to the mountains. But this breed of dog is such a good reflection of who we are that you often judge the character of the man based on how he treats his dogs. In my part of the world often times a grown man will cry like a baby when a hunting dog dies or is killed. Often the dogs are raised as family and are more trusted than most humans and only surpassed by the trust a man will have in a rifle or shotgun. The love of the Hill Billy is deep, their loyalty is unwavering and their ability to work hard and fight to win is just like their dogs.

Hounds have been scent hunting these hills and hollows for generations and it is not uncommon to hear the bay of hounds ringing out for miles in the night. It is truly not a bark at all, but a cry from way down deep and is instinctual, nothing taught. It is the sound a hunter waits for, the dog is saying to his master “Come running we have something for you.”

Here in West Virginia there are three typical coonhounds, the Redbone, the Treeing Walker, and the Blue Tick. All three have the same typical look of a hound but coloring is different. Each have a voice that is unique and hunters know their dog miles away by the sound of the bay they make. If trained properly the dogs once on a treed coon, will remain at the bottom a tree for hours guarding the coon until help arrives.

The reason I love them is not about hunting really,but about their personality. Hounds like the stereotypes portray, are big, silly, loving, dogs that are tolerant of children who play too rough and of cats who often times get rolled into balls on the floor as the hound forces games of chase.Their love of family and protectiveness make them wonderful alarm systems without the deeper fear of being known as bitters. They have huge hearts and are willing to do most anything asked of them. If you can keep them from being distracted by the powerful noise that God gave them.

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Sleepy Puppy ready for a nap

The Redbone Coonhound breed is the grandfather breed to the more well known Bloodhound and was first developed by Irish immigrants in the 1700’s. The long floppy ears play a major role in how well the dog can track and the longer the ears the better, fanning scent to the noise with every lunging step. Some would refer to the hound breed as having a one track mind because everything comes second to their sense of smell and many dogs get lost do to the fact that hunters and families forget that they go wherever their noise leads them, sometimes that is right to the local dog pound.

They are social dogs and love to spend time with their owners. They are active and enjoy being outdoors doing physical activities like running and swimming. My Doc’s sire is a grand champion water dog and could out swim almost every person I know. He loves to track through streams and ponds and has webbed toes on all four feet. So does Doc and we will soon learn if he likes to swim.

So as you can see I have been busy…and will be for a few more months as we get through house training and teething, but I will keep you posted on our adventures together. I hope you enjoy the photos and I am sure to take tons more of the silly guy as we train him.

There is nothing in the world better for a boy then the love of a good dog.

 

 

 

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A National Quiet Zone and a National Radio Telescope.

I maybe the last remaining member of my family to not have a smartphone. But when traveling to Green Bank, W.V.  and the National Radio Telescope Science Center, I am not alone. This 13,000 acres of land inside the Monongahela National  forest is designated as A National Quiet Zone. Residents in the area are not allowed to use cell phones, WIFI is strictly prohibited,and families are not even allowed to use microwave ovens. I am thinking, I should move to Green Bank and go back in time to a place where things were different and people actually talked to each other. A time when life was slower and communication took hours not seconds.

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Green Bank,West Virginia and the world’s largest steerable radio telescope.

Many people who live in the Green Bank area either love the reason for the Quiet Zone or they hate it. Green Bank, West Virginia is home to the largest  steerable radio telescope in the world. The technology is so sensitive that they could pick up a cell phone signal on Mars and when researchers received that information back on earth, they would think that your phone was the loudest radio signal in outer space.It is hard to wrap my brain around that but, that means cell phones are the “Devil” to these researchers and their work. So I feel like I may have found my “People”. These families, researchers, farmers and public employees all live in a world that is more reminiscent to the 1940’s and 1950’s then 2016. Maintenance workers at the research center are not even allowed to have gas powered engines on the astronomy property. The researchers all drive diesel vehicles so they do not have spark plugs firing near the telescope. The spark sends out  a signal to the telescopes sensitive receivers.

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Green Bank Science Center National Radio Astronomy Observatory

So this holiday weekend my family decided to explore the Green Bank Science Center and finally see the huge radio telescope for ourselves. I have just enough of a nerd in me to find the study of astronomy very fascinating and  always jump to the chance to learn more. This research center is only about two hours from our house and is hidden in a rural mountain community so the trip was not only to see the telescope but spend the rest of the weekend in a small community called Cass.Cass State Park is home to  a scenic Railroad with several passenger trains that run year around. We spent the following day riding the trains up into the beautiful forests of Pocahontas  County for a restful day of sight seeing.How could we beat two great locations to visit about 15 minutes apart.

When you arrive at the Green Bank Science Center you are able to spend several hours exploring the building and grounds before actually taking a bus ride out to see the telescope up close. They have a nice interactive exhibit hall with activities for people of every age to explore. Tom, Christopher and I played with all kinds of fun devices that explained different things that they study at the science center. We took inferred photos of each other, played with mirrors and light reflections, put together huge puzzle pieces and got to see a scale model of the telescope that was beautiful.We walked around the grounds looking at some of the historic telescopes  and checked out a scale solar system display.

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JoLynn Powers at the Green Bank,West Virginia Science Center Exhibit Hall

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Green Bank,West Virginia Tom and Christopher are my favorite Aliens!

 

After our lunch and time in the exhibit hall we were allowed to photograph the telescope outside on a wooden landing area just out back of the main building. This would be the last location that digital photos would be allowed.Even the smallest click from a digital camera can disturb the radio waves near the telescope, so we packed away our cameras as we boarded a small tour bus to see the megalith up close. In a matter of minutes we were within a couple hundred yards of the huge structure. Watching the huge dish move into position for recording the data that a scientist needed that day was hypnotic. It is hard to explain how quite the telescope is when it moves. We stood only 50 yards from the large base of the telescope yet you could not hear a sound of any movement. How lonely it feels to be in the dishes huge shadow and how little I feel when I think about the fact that this telescope is looking not just at our solar system but ones hundreds of millions of miles away.

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photo from last safe point before entering the restricted camera area

After we returned to the bus and traveled back to the main building it was time to spend a few dollars on a nerdy telescope t-shirt and cool toys for Christopher at the gift shop. I also got the schedule of coming events. The science center hosts many child friendly events throughout the year and we hope to try to come back for some of them so ….. Christopher ( not his mom ) can learn more about space, the planets and the world we live in.  This very inexpensive trip  has to be the coolest thing I have done all summer.

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Roof and view from visitors center of the Green Bank Science Center.

Just as a side note, I love metal structures of all kinds, bridges, towers, old piles of rusted junk, cranes, old ships, radar dishes and now radio telescopes.This man made aluminum dish is the most fascinating object I think I have ever seen. Its sheer size,the dish is larger than a football field across and around 2 acres is surface space, the height is taller than the statue of liberty and makes me want to take hundreds of photos. I love its maze of bright white structural supports with so much open spaces to look through. I could have spent most of my day just watching it slowly move on its 6 legs with 12 feet tall steel wheels that support the 8,500 tons or 170,000,000 pounds. I will one day return to spend more time with a film camera so that I can take photos really close up and enjoy sitting it the shadow of a giant.

For more information about the Green Bank Radio Telescope please check out their Website at NRAO and plan to visit one of West Virginia’s most undiscovered treasures.

 

 

 

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Categories: Green Bank NRAO, historic locations, Monongahela National Forest, Pocahontas County, rural life, Science Center, State Park activities, trains, Travel, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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