Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Magic of Steam!

Cass West Virginia, May 1989. When my late wife Patti and I got married that month, we recited our nuptials in a former Spokane Portland & Seattle business car, part of a restaurant complex in Vancouver Washington.

As we drove back east from Vancouver Washington, I would occasionally feed Patti tidbits about the crowd we be joining in Cass West Virginia, our honeymoon destination.

The beauty of the Cass Railfan Weekend was that it was limited to 300 fans. Activities spanned Friday night, all day Saturday, and a Sunday morning run to Whittaker Station and a run by at Cass Station, which included Western Maryland Number Six.

The remarkable aspect of the Cass Scenic Railroad is that the State of West Virginia, in a moment of pure inspiration, bought the entire complex – town and railroad - to preserve as a State Park, the rich history of hardwood logging, indigenous to the Eastern Seaboard.

If you are not familiar with this operation, a ton of material is readily available on the net.

That three-day weekend had a positive effect on both of us. Patti really enjoyed the people we met and the steam engines. I was thunderstruck by the spell binding “sidewinders,” my first real contact with live steam other than being scared to death as a youngster in Victoria years earlier at the CNR roundhouse.

There was a major disaster that we did not realize until we got back to Vancouver. Patti shot almost sixty rolls of 35 film. I had purchased a brand spanking new Nikon 8008 for her as a wedding present, and she stubbornly resisted my intrusion on her picture taking.

When she got her film processed, there were only a dozen or so photos, from all those rolls, that were printable. She raised hell with the processors, who insisted that her exposure mode had been incorrect, and under threat of legal action, they spent considerable time analyzing her negatives to prove their point.

I shot a ton of videotape, and so the only useful visuals are from that tape. I plan to make it available on DVD in a few months.

Oh, yeah! Remember I told you I fed Patti bits and pieces of the nature of rail fans we’d be meeting at Cass? Well, when we walked into the Condo office where we were billeted, there were two pot-bellied dudes, wearing engineer hats, and big vests, festooned with pins and rail memorabilia!

And the next day on the first run, we were among the few who did NOT have goggles on – ah, yes, West Virginia Anthracite coal spewing cinders into the air!

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