Part 21: Green Back, WV to Clintwood, VA


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The Trip

We spent the night at Seneca, a "state forest" near Green Back because the storm-caused power outages had closed the local RV parks.  The forest area was fine, but crowded since the outage impacted all travelers equally.  The camp site was in a heavily wooded glen close to a small stream and had only "basic" facilities (no electric, no water, pit toilet) but met our needs.  Next morning, we broke camp and headed to the Cass Scenic Railroad facility only a few miles away.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

When we pulled into the Cass Scenic Railroad parking area we spotted this excursion coming back into the station area.  Plenty of smoke being generated by the engine.

This engine was rather unusual because it is a "gear drive" locomotive.  More on this later in this page.

As the loco passed us we got a view of the V configuration pistons and center-mounted drive shaft.  The crank shaft is in the lower center of the photo and the pistons are mounted at an angle in the center of the photo.

The loco passed the station and continued on down the line leaving a huge plume of acrid coal smoke in its wake.

We decided to check out the station area and spotted this vintage Chevrolet truck.

We were aware that there were hour-long train rides available but the station agent told us that because it was the Fourth of July, the railroad was offering short rides for free.  The loco on the right track had reached the extent of its free tour and was headed back into the station area while the paid train was approaching on the left track.

A view of the opposite side of the loco.  Note the water being spilled from the engine.

As the loco passed, we get a better view of the gear drive mechanism.  Visible above are the V-pistons, crank shaft, drive shaft, U-joints and the direction control valving.  This type of center shaft loco is called a "Heisler" after the designer/manufacturer.  The advantage is that much more torque is available on the driving wheels.  The Heisler, and the other gear drive locos, are the "four wheel drives" of the steam engine world.  They were designed for heavy loads on steep grades.  West Virginia coal and logging industries provided both challenges and these locos were locally deployed.

After the excursion train came into the yard and stopped we were able to get a good view of its drive train.  This type of loco is called a Shay, after its designer.  The designer was a dentist and after spending his career struggling to gain access to teeth, he designed all the working components to be easily accessible and maintain.  Thus, the gears, drive train and pistons are on the side of the loco.  This configuration drives all axles and has both extension joints and spherical flex joints in the drive shaft assembly.  The fellow on the right is inspecting and lubricating components.

The manufacturer's plaque for the Heisler.

As opposed to the Shay, the Heisler has a center drive shaft and uses conventional U-joints.  To improve operating efficiency only one axle on each truck is driven via gears.  The other axle is driven via a more conventional crank rod.

The Heisler U-joints were about 11" across the flats.

The opposite side of the Shay truck assembly.  This is the non-driven side.

We took advantage of the free ride and got aboard the Heisler and rode around the yard.  I asked a ton of questions of the conductor and was given a free pass to ride in the engine compartment of the Shay on the upcoming excursion.  More on this later.

When we hit a grade crossing the engineer blew the steam whistle and it was deafening.

We passed the old Cass lumber mill site.  Visible are the stationary steam generation plant and some of the power distribution shafts.  These shafts were powered via a steam engine and a variety of belts.  The pulleys are visible on the shafts.

We returned to the station and went into the gift shop.  From the elevated deck, we got a nice view of the Shay.  Note the smoke and steam coming from the cab area?  The outside temperature was about 95 degrees so the temperature in the cab must have been hellish.  Seeing the smoke and steam and knowing that the excursion was about 1 hour, both Kathleen and I took a pass on the cab ride.

We decided to mosey on and as we departed we got this shot of the smoky station area.  Anyone downwind of the Shay's smoke plume was pretty unhappy I am sure.

We headed to the southwest and encountered more storm damage.  These power poles were leaning heavily due to the force of the storm winds.  The close pole is actually fractured.

Note the root ball on this fallen tree.

The farms in this area were located in a truly beautiful area.  The one above is a log cabin on the left that has been extended using more modern building techniques.

We passed plenty of downed power poles.  The area had been without power for about 6 days when we came through.  No power = no a/c (it was hot).  In addition to no a/c, most of these farms have electric pumps on their wells, so no power = no water.  One of the towns we went through was having a benefit lunch for the local fire department so we stopped.  We went to the station to make a donation and all their equipment was out in the yard rather than in the buildings.  Instead, the buildings were full of pallets of bottled and canned water.  They were making deliveries to farms and houses that had no water.  They also had an emergency shower and laundry facility for use by local citizens.

This family was very lucky.  That large tree could have crushed the front portion of the house when it fell.

Further down the road we passed a section where the fallen trees were large enough to crush the guard rails.  These trees clearly blocked the road and required a bunch of work to clear.  If you were unfortunate enough to be under the tree when it fell, your vehicle would be toast.

This tree would have taken the power and phone lines with it, but somehow it missed.  But, note the angle of the power pole and the trees a bit further down the road.  They were in danger of falling as well.

The tree above was photographed on the outskirts of Lewisburg, WV.  The tree did not break the lines, but it will have to be cut down.  As you can see, the traffic lights are functional but power in this area was spotty.  We got fuel in town and were told that the town was being powered by a "1 gigawatt generator donated by CBS Networks".  I doubt that there was a 1 GW generator any place nearby, but it COULD have been a 1 MW generator.  But in any case, the station was able to power its pumps and fill my tank.  Most grades of fuel were unavailable at that station as the tanks had run dry due to a local "run" on fuel.  We were lucky to be able to get fuel.  As it turned out, we could have gone another 400 miles on the fuel we had but it is always best to get fuel when you can.

From Lewisburg, we decided to get on the freeway and head west.  Along the way, we passed these LMTV 5 ton trucks on the side of the road.  The markings say "WVARNG" for West Virginia Army Reserve National Guard.  The National Guard had been put on notice when a state of emergency was declared due to the widespread power outages and road blockages.  These fellows were likely returning to their bases since their trucks were empty.

We got off the freeway and headed south along the New River.  We got this shot at a view point.  The river is wide, but not that deep.

Further on we spotted this fisherman trying his luck in the river.

The Corps of Engineers had built a flood control dam on the river and on the upstream side was a state park and marina.

We headed south to Pipestem State Park.  The park was big and had a sky way to take tourists to the bottom of the canyon from the facilities on the ridge.  We spent our night at the park using our generator to run the a/c.  The park had gravity feed water, but no power.  Sadly, the water heater for the showers were electric so we were treated to cold showers.  But other than the cold shower, the outages had no direct impact on us.

Next day we continued on into Virginia and in Grundy we came upon this extensive road cut in progress.

My heart goes out to those who were impacted by the large storm that hit the area.  This sort of thing reaffirms the requirement to be prepared for the unexpected.

Next destination: Mammoth Cave National Park.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2012, all rights reserved.
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