William Warden began photographing logging railroads in West Virginia in 1957. This book explains–and illustrates with both color and black & white photographs–the operations of logging railroads in the state from about 1940-1960. It includes a fascinating look at the rapid and haphazard laying of track, the challenge of getting up the mountains, and the hazards of derailing locomotives. Warden’s book addresses the romance of back woods railroading.
With puffy white clouds in an azure blue sky, a Shay type narrow gauge geared locomotive on the Ely-Thomas Lumber Company’s logging railroad hauls a train of logs toward the mill in June 1954. This scene is typical of the interesting West Virginia logging railroad operations that are portrayed in this book.
In another Ely-Thomas Lumber Company scene, Shay No. 5 prepares to cross Manns Run, near the end of this narrow gauge logging line’s life in October.
William E. Warden began photographing logging railroads in West Virginia in 1957. He prepared this book to illustrate and explain the methods and operations of logging railroads in West Virginia in the last twenty years that they ran, ending about 1960. West Virginia was one of the nation’s largest producers of lumber beginning in the late 19th Century and extending into the middle third of the 20th Century. It had hundreds of logging railroads carrying huge quantities of timber to mills for processing into finished lumber, which was then shipped all over the United States, again by rail. The lumber industry in West Virginia began its decline when the great stands of virgin forest began to be depleted, and by the 1950s, there were only a half-dozen or so operations left still using logging railroads. There remain many logging and lumber milling operations in the state, but today the logs are taken from the forest by motor truck to modern, highly automated mills. The romance of back woods railroading holds a particular allure and nostalgia today, even as it did when these last few lines were still operating. We are lucky that Bill Warden and others were there to photograph the last decades. The book treats in detail five of the last and largest companies to use logging railroads and illustrates each line in some detail. Also included are chapters about logging in West Virginia and the locomotives that were favorites of the loggers–the famous geared Shay, Climax, and Heisler types. Today tourists can experience some of the logging railroad flavor by riding the Cass Scenic Railroad over the old line of the Mower Lumber Company out of Cass, W.Va.