High Altitude Turn. Cass Shay #5 slowly rumbles through the east leg of the wye on Cass Hill with her work train, as she is turned to face uphill in preparation for the 2017 tourist season.
Probably the most inconveniently located turning facility on any US tourist railroad, the wye on Cass Hill is located well above the 4,000 ft. level at MP 9.1, a mere two rail miles from the summit of Bald Nob (4,842 MSL.) Any equipment that needs to be turned has to make an 18+ mile detour, up some of the steepest grades on any non-rack railroad in America. Fortunately, the need to do that is a pretty rare event. In the case of Shay #5, the locomotive had been turned to face downhill at the end of the 2016 season, to facilitate some maintenance procedures in the Cass Shops. Having her face downhill made it easier for the crews to work on her due to more to the configuration of the shop building than anything else. In the case of the operation seen here, the railroad was able to take advantage of a spring photo charter to get the locomotive turned without having to make a special trip.
This view does provide a relatively good look at the unique configuration of the Shay Locomotive. Unlike a rod engine, ALL of the running gear is on the right side. She features 3 vertical cylinders, turning a driveshaft that is as long as the locomotive itself. This driveshaft turns all 6 wheel sets, located in three separate trucks, two of which are under the locomotive, and one of which supports the water tank. The weight of the entire locomotive is relatively evenly distributed, and all of the wheels are powered. The combination of this and the low gearing makes her a bit like a car in first gear. She won't go very fast, but she can pull a heavy load up a steep hill. Note also that all of the running gear is right out on the open, facilitating regular servicing and field maintenance. She looks like a machine room on wheels....and she needs about as much lubrication as a machine room on wheels. Shay Engineers typically carry numerous pots of oil, and sometimes a grease gun and a case of cartridges for it.