News & Reviews News Wire Durbin & Greenbrier Valley acquires Heisler built in 1929

Durbin & Greenbrier Valley acquires Heisler built in 1929

By Alan Byer | September 26, 2023

Locomotive constructed for Arkansas’ Fisher Lumber Co. has long been storied in West Virginia

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Rusted steam locomotive
Durbin & Greenbrier Valley has acquired this Heisler locomotive built in 1929. Walter Scriptunas

CASS, W.Va. — Cass Scenic Railroad operator Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad has acquired a two-truck Heisler locomotive, Builder’s No. 1589, from Stuart Thayer of Thomas, W.Va., bringing to three the number of Heisler locomotives on Cass and DGVR property.

Built in September 1929 for Fisher Lumber Co. of Holly Grove, Ark., as its No. 6, the 42-ton Heisler later worked for Forest Products Chemical Co. of  Memphis, Tenn., as its No. 2 before the late Robert Johnson, industrial historian and banjo virtuoso, purchased it for tourist railroad Dry Gulch & Tombstone Railroad of Wytheville, Va., in the 1960s.  It operated there as No. 2 until that railroad closed in the 1980s, and then John Tisdale purchased it for display at the L&N Depot in Andalusia, Ala.  In 2002, Tisdale moved it to his shop building in Thomas, W.Va., where it remained indoors until earlier this week. In the interim, it had been purchased by Thayer, who conveyed it to DGVR.

Though this locomotive has no earlier connection to the Cass Scenic Railroad or its predecessors, the DGVR points out in a press release that its shop number is only two builder’s numbers removed from 90-ton Heisler No. 1591, Cass No. 6.  Both were constructed in 1929 and could well have shared space on the builder’s erection floor.

The new acquisition joins Cass No. 6 and Builder’s No. 1607 at Cass and the DGVR. No. 1607 was built for Middle Fork Railroad of Ellamore, W. Va., in 1941 as its No. 7, and was the last geared steam locomotive to leave Heisler before the company folded. That locomotive is stored behind the Durbin Rocket shop building in Durbin, W.Va., awaiting restoration.

For more information, visit the DGVR website.

4 thoughts on “Durbin & Greenbrier Valley acquires Heisler built in 1929

  1. Roughly 625 Heislers were produced, of which some 35 still exist. Approximately 8 of these survivors are currently operational.

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  2. Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is a state park and heritage railroad located in Cass, Pocahontas County, West Virginia. It consists of the Cass Scenic Railroad, an 11-mile (18 km) long heritage railway owned by the West Virginia State Rail Authority and operated by the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad. The park also includes the former company town of Cass and a portion of the summit of Bald Knob, the highest point on Back Allegheny Mountain.

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  3. Assuming they are sequential, the builder’s numbers tell a story of Heisler during the Great Depression – just sixteen locomotives between 1929 and 1941.

    1. That information is inaccurate. Heisler was documented to have built at least 62 locosin that period, including 32 geared steamers, 29 fireless steamers, and one center-cab diesel-electric switcher, according to Benjamin Kline and Walter Casler’s 1982 book on Heisler locomotive production.

      “Construction number” 1589 (the loco discussed here, from Fisher/Dry Gulch), was built in September 1929, while c/n 1591, Meadow River 6/Cass first #6, was built at some later point in 1929.

      The issue is clouded by three-truck 80-ton “West Coast Special” Middle Fork Heisler #7, which was c/n 1607, built in the early 1930s for stock, and was not sold until the company’s final closure in 1941. That loco is now “in pieces” at Cass awaiting a full restoration–one hopes.

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