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December 3, 2014

A night on Bald Knob Mountain in a red caboose

Dan Friend


This past fall I wanted to go to Cass and photograph the old steam trains.  My wife and I had gone many years ago and I remembered it being a fun trip.  I'm friends on facebook with couple photographers that had these cool photos of the steam engines puffing away as they struggle up the mountain.  I wanted to get photos of the steam engine's trains going through the fall foliage with the smoke pouring out of the top of the engine and making a stream of white smoke behind them..  A scene from the past in West Virginia.

Red Caboose - my home for a night


After studying the Cass Scenic Railroad website I discovered that they have cabooses that you can rent to spend the night.  I thought that would be fun and great way to get some photos.  I booked the caboose on top of Bald Knob for the night of October 6th.  I figured I'd get photos of the steam train in the fall foliage, star galaxy photos if clear night,   sunrise photos, and any other photos I saw while concentrating on those.


Photos I took going to Cass

Red roof barn

Photos taken in Cass before going on train to top of mountain to my red caboose sleeping room

This is when I discovered I might have a problem.  The engine train did not pull the other train cars; it pushed them or pulled them backwards.  So I couldn't get my photo of the old Shay locomotive with smoke coming out of the smoke stack pulling train cars through the woods.  The photo of the engine pushing the other train cars did not have the same photographic appeal to me.


Discovered later, one time a year they turn the Shay locomotives around and pull the other train cars "the correct way".  Of course, they push the customer train cars for the comfort of the passengers.  If you push the passenger cars the passengers don't get the smoke in their faces  and ashes falling on the them.  Great for the customers, not so great for photographers.   lol.

Hopefully next year I can schedule another trip to Cass on the week they turn the locomotives around the "correct way".  The only Shay locomotive engine I got picture of the front was the one on display in front of the Cass Company Store.  It did not run and was used for display purposes.


So I took several of my images and did a composite picture using this as the main image,  Okay, but not exactly what I was after.

Composite Photos

The train ride up the mountain was fun and informative.  It was easy to let your mind wander back to the day when these old Shay locomotives were used to transport the lumber out to the lumber mills.  Personally I enjoy this kind of historical adventure.  It takes 4 1/2 hours with a stop at Whittaker Station for a break and another stop to add water for the Shay locomotive. 

Photos at Whittaker Station

"From Whittaker Station the train then climbs up the mountain, finally reaching Bald Knob, the third highest point in West Virginia. The overlook at Bald Knob provides a spectacular view at an altitude of 4,700 feet. The Bald Knob area has a climate similar to Canada and is abundant in plants typical to the Canadian wilderness!" 

Upon reaching the top of the mountain, everyone got off the train and went out on the overlook.  It was  cloudy with a threat of storm in the air,  too cloudy for much of a view.  About the time for people to get back on train for trip back down mountain, it started to sprinkle.

  The conductor of the train showed me how to start a fire in the coal furnace, said goodbye and good luck, loaded everyone back on the train and it got real quiet on top of the mountain.  The silence was broken by a thunder storm coming through.  It started raining hard and the wind started blowing.  I settled in my red caboose , started my first coal furnace fire, turned on the led lights, put my food in refrigerator and read till going to bed listening to the wind whistling around my caboose on top of the mountain.

View out of the front door window


Lightening storm on top of Bald Knob

Lightning storm off in the distance on Bald Knob Mountain

I set my alarm for 5:00 hoping the storm would be over and could do some "star" photos.  I woke up to a beautiful calm clear night with a moon shining in the window.  Unfortunately when the moon is out you can't get the "star" photos as well because of the moon  light not all the stars show up as bright.    I was setting up my shot using the caboose in the foreground with the stars over it when it went darker.  I turned around and the moon looked really funny.  I thought for a minute I should photograph that moon.  Nope, I thought, the moon just had some strange clouds in front of it.  Nothing unique.   I was set up for the shot the other way so I thought I'd take advantage of the darker view and shoot the caboose and star photo.  WHAT A MISTAKE.  I found out later that it was an eclipse.  Still kicking myself about that one.

Night caboose photo

Day break on the caboose on Bald Knob Mountain

It was a clear morning with the clouds laying in the valleys.  As the sun heated up the air,  the clouds (fog) started raising.  Got some interesting photos as the clouds started raising and wind started whipping around.

Morning photos from Bald Knob Mountain

It was a great adventure for me.  Not for everyone, but for the person that likes things little different, enjoys the outdoors, enjoys nature, and doesn't need luxuries, it is a great trip.  Hopefully I'll make it again next year.  I'll be there when the Shay Locomotives run the "right way"........................

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