CHARLESTON, W.Va. - One and a half tons of coal equals 3,000 pounds.
That is what's needed to fuel Shay No. 4 on a round-trip excursion from the Cass Scenic Railroad depot to Whittaker Station, nearly an eight-mile trip.
Chris Lambert, 29, of Spruce Knob, is charged with the task of placing coal into the steam engine's firebox, a job he has done for six years. He doesn't have special machinery, he uses a shovel and does it all by hand.
"It's a tough job," Lambert said. "Some of my co-workers joke with me saying I have the strongest arms."
Lambert is one of several firemen employed by the Cass Scenic Railroad in Pocahontas County. The men toss coal into the train's firebox, which then heats water that turns into steam. The steam's pressure is introduced into the engine's cylinders, which pushes the pistons and turns the wheels.
It is a hard job but it has been done since the early 1900s when the timber industry was dominant in the state. The West Virginia Pulp and Paper Co. owned the railroad from 1927 to 1942, acquiring timber that would eventually become paper -- paper used for publications such as the Saturday Evening Post. At that time, West Virginia had more than 3,000 miles of track used for logging purposes.
Today, only 11 miles of track remain and are situated in the Cass area.
No logging takes place here anymore. Logging by truck has become more cost-efficient, forcing all of the state's logging-railroad lines to shut down.
By 1963, the Cass rail lines had not been used for years and nothing had been done with the property. There were four men who thought the property could possibly be a tourist attraction - "Bus" Long, J.M. "Jack" Kane, Ted Riffe and Russell Baum.
Norris Long, son of "Bus" Long, of Marlinton said his father wanted to get the trains running again and lobbied the Legislature to acquire the tracks and equipment.
In 1963, the state Senate approved the purchase of the track and equipment and to be converted into a tourist attraction. The state also later acquired the city of Cass.
On June 15, 1963 at 10:30 a.m., Shay No. 4 left the depot on the railroad's first official run as a tourist destination. Shay No. 4 was built in 1922 and has the distinction of pulling the last log train at Cass on June 30, 1960, as well as pulling the first excursion train for the Cass Scenic Railroad in June 1963.'Serenity and coolness'
Cass is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
"I rode on the first run in 1963," Long said. "I was 16 years old at the time and I'm here 50 years later, representing the memory of my father and his involvement that led to the creation of the Cass Scenic Railroad."
When the first run left the depot, it traveled to Whittaker Station, an old logging site. Ben Dickens, first superintendent of Cass, said the site only had a two-hole outhouse and a couple picnic tables in 1963. Today, the site has dozens of picnic tables, a concession stand, restrooms, a lookout tower and a caboose that can be rented out for overnight visits.
A few years later, the track was extended and visitors could ride the train to Bald Knob, the third highest point in the state. The journey to Bald Knob takes more than four hours and covers 22 miles round trip. Many go there for the scenic overlook, including Kristi Frank, 36, of Munich, Germany.
Frank has been coming to Cass with her father, John Baker, 58, of Charleston, for 33 years. She comes to the United States once or twice a year and each visit always involves a trip to Cass.
"We pretty much know everybody that works here," Frank said. "We enjoy the serenity and the coolness of the mountains. It's pretty neat that we can see the Greenbank Telescope atop of Bald Knob, as well as a variety of wildlife. We also enjoy the connection to history that Cass has."