We hadn’t been to Cass to stay for 3 or 4 years. Sue decided we needed to do that and called it a birthday present. She rented one of the houses in Cass and off we went. I enjoy the town and the trains. I'm pretty much always up for a weekend in Cass. This turned out to be a little different than I expected.
We stopped in Durbin on the way. I knew about the Durbin Rocket and the other trains but hadn’t ever been in town. The place is very small but has a sense that it’s doing well. The Rocket isn’t running right now. One of the bridges had some problems in a flood and is being rebuilt. Hopefully that won’t take long because I think they depend very much on the train. It’s an old Climax locomotive now used to haul tourists. I read that it one of only 3 remaining operational ones.
We got to Cass without incident and were able to check in early. We got everything unloaded and went for a walk. I enjoy simply walking around town and watching the trains come in and out of the station.
We decided to try the handcar. It looked pretty easy. It also went back into the area where the old locomotives and logging cars are on the siding. You can’t walk back there any more. It wasn’t too hard but my back didn’t like it. It’s about a 10 minute ride and that’s all I wanted. Glad we did it, though.
When we got back to the house, my daughter and son in law were there. It was a surprise but not quite a shock. While we were getting ready for dinner, my brother showed up. That did surprise me a bit. Made for a nice family reunion that evening.
Saturday morning was to be the train ride to Bald Knob. I remembered it leaving at 12:00 so it was a good thing we checked. It left at 11:00. We got there a little late and many of the cars were pretty full. We went to the one at the end. We could actually see where we were going so that was pretty cool anyway.
Shay 11 pushed us up the mountain and Shay 4 assisted. We learned a few things this trip. Some of them we may have already known but forgot. The locomotives push you up the mountain. There’s a brief exception between the two switchbacks but they push. When you come back down the mountain, they pull you. The brakemen set the brakes to as much brake as possible without the wheels sliding. That means there’s a great deal of friction and the cars don’t roll on their own. The Shay then pulls you down the mountain. You can see the brakemen checking to make sure the wheels are turning.
When you get ready to come down the mountain, the helper Shay (4 in our case), releases and heads on down. It pulled off on a siding and waited for us to go by. It then followed us down the mountain. I guess it was easier to get it positioned at the yard if they didn’t have to worry about us.
After the train ride, we went to see the presentation about Cass and the diorama. That was especially interesting. We had wondered about the houses on the hill behind the gift shop / company store. It turns they are for the superintendents and other managers of the lumber mill. A manager’s row if you will. The Cass photo album in the menu identifies some of the houses.
Walking around town, we had trouble deciding what kind of places we were seeing. Some are obviously privately owned. Some are obviously rentals and have swings on the porch. Some were obviously being refurbished too since you could see where they taped the windows for painting. There’s also some about to fall down. There were several that might have been privately owned, including some on “manager’s row”. There were others that seemed empty but in good shape. They had flower boxes but no swings. I’ve been looking for something to explain that a little more but no success. We were told there are 18 rental houses with more coming.
If you look at the diorama, you can tell how big the operation at the mill was. What is now the parking lot, used to be part of the mill and was the lumberyard. They produced an amazing amount of lumber while in operation.
We watched Shay 11 assemble the cars for the trip to Bald Knob. Some one rented the caboose and it had to be the first car. He first coupled with the caboose and put it on the outside track. He then backed up and switched to the other track. Now he coupled with the 4 covered passenger cars and moved them back past the switch. Someone threw the switch and he pushed the passenger cars to the caboose and coupled with it. Now all he had to do was wait for us. Part of the tour is riding back to the station.
Shays #6 and #5 are in the shop. If my memory is correct, #6 will be finished in a couple of months. It’s not only the largest locomotive there it twice as big as any of the others. Number 5 started life at Cass in 1904 and has been there since. If there’s a flagship, its Number 5.
We also stopped in the shop where they’re working on the Climax locomotive. There’s nothing recognizable there. I finally asked, “Where is it?” He then pointed out the frame for the locomotive and the tender. They’re almost rebuilding it. Very impressive for a bunch of volunteers.
It was a very nice trip to Cass. I think we learned more this time since we took advantage of more of what they offer. I’ll pay closer attention to the information presented with the diorama next time too.