Logging Railroads in USA , Bo Justusson
Logging Logging railroads in USA did often use zigzags (switchbacks) to overcome high grades. Almost all have been closed down and very few have been preserved. West Virginia had the longest network with 3 000 miles in 1911, and in Cass a logging railroad has been preserved.
Cass RR Cass Railroad in Western Virginia was in use from 1901 to 1960 transporting timber to a large sawmill in Cass (approx. 250 km west of Washington DC). Part of it has been preserved as Cass Scenic Railroad (1963-). The line uses heavy Shay-type locomotives.

- Cass Scenic Railroad State Park   (www.cassrailroad.com)
- Mountain State Railroad & Logging Historical Association, MSR&LHA   (www.msrlha.org)
- Travel report from Cass RR by Bob LeBras. From July 2001, with 60 photograhps, on TheLynx website (www.thelynx.com).

Grades: up to 8.9 per cent.
Switchbacks: 2 (one zigzag).
Track length today: 11 miles (18 km)
Total length built for Cass RR: 250 miles
Logging tracks in West Virginia in 1911: 3 000 miles
Map of Cass RR showing lower and upper switchbacks.

At each switchback there was a run-around track. Engines should always be on the down-hill end of the train.

Source: MSR&LHA (see above) - Cass Track Guide.
(Their map is over the whole network. Here only the lowest part.)


Swithchback #2 on Cass Railroad as it climbs Bald Mountain.

An exquisite photo! Its mystical colours, the haze in the background, the winding tracks, and - no trains that disturb the view!

Photo: Aug 2001, Carl Arendt.
Source: His webpage:
- Micro Layouts for Model Railroads (carendt.com)
- Design Gallery - Industrial - Logging.

Shay type locos have vertical cylinders (placed on one side) driving the wheels via crank-shafts and joints. This yields a very smooth driving force and they can be used for grades of 7 - 15 per cent. But the top speed is very low. Cass RR has 8 locos of Shay type or similar. You will find many nice photos on their website.

Photo of Shay loco #2 at Cass RR. Built: 1928. Weight: 98 tons.

Photo: origin? year? delivery photo?
Source: Cass RR website (see above) - Locomotives - Shay #2

Zigzag Railways - Start Page

Last updated 25 January 2003