The same steam locomotive used more than 100 years ago to haul timber from West Virginia hillsides will be used to haul materials to improve fish habitat, according to Frank Jezioro, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Director.
On Monday, October 1 at 9 a.m., the Shay #5 engine will depart the Cass train yard carrying three tons of specially baffled culvert liners up Cheat Mountain to Oats Run, a tributary of Shavers Fork. Workers will then install them in culverts, providing native brook trout access to historic upstream spawning areas.
DNR Wildlife Resources Section biologists and West Virginia University research scientists have worked together for years to return once-pristine mountain streams to conditions that will benefit the prized brook trout. With grant funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, DNR and WVU personnel have been undoing damage done by logging and trains in the early 1900s before the implementation of modern best management practices – damage that makes it difficult for fish to move up and down streams to grow and reproduce.
“Many brook trout streams were altered by dredging, installation of railroad culverts and bridges, and early-century logging itself,” Jezioro explained. “When you change the streams that way and take away the trees that help keep them cool, it’s hard for trout to live in them year-round.”
Because this will be a work detail, passengers will not be able to ride along on Shay #5’s historic trip. The public is encouraged, however, to visit Cass for the train’s 9 a.m. departure as well as to record its progress at normal viewing locations along the track. More information on this special event is available from Cass Scenic Railroad State Park at 304-456-4300.
Oats Run is located near the remote, historic logging town of Spruce. The Shavers Fork watershed, located high on Cheat Mountain in Randolph and Pocahontas counties, has suffered at the hands of progress, but is now undergoing a remarkable makeover. Native brook trout which inhabited these streams once attracted famous sportsmen like Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford.
Logo courtesy West Virginia Division of Natural Resources