Members of the work crew were part of WVDOH Central Forces, or Cenforce, a group of workers with specialized skills who are sent around the state to tackle projects requiring special expertise. All were presented with certificates of recognition from Gov. Jim Justice.
“You name it, we do it,” said Greg Pennington, a supervisor on the Cass project. “We step in and knock it out of the park.”
Originally intending to build only the bridge abutments in 2019 and 2020, Cenforce came back in 2022 to build the bridge itself. Conditions at the work site were harsh, with crews having to bring all materials by rail five miles up the rail line. Twelve or 14-hour work days were common as dedicated Central Forces work crews toiled in rain and snow.
For Pennington and other Cenforce workers who rebuilt the Trout Run Bridge, it was a labor of love.
Cameron Barkley is one of two men on the Cass crew with direct ties to the railroad and to the area. Barkley’s father worked as a train engineer running Shay locomotives on Cass scenic railroad, and Barkley grew up on the Cass to Durbin run.
“He’s one of the old-timers that knows about the railroad and a lot about the Shay engines,” Barkley said. “People seek him all over the place to speak about Cass.”
Pennington felt personally responsible to help reopen the Cass to Durbin run.
“I think we owe it to the state and to the nation to open this back up so people can see the beauty of the river and this valley,” Pennington said.
A Shay locomotive from Cass made a test run over the new bridge in early February 2023. With warmer weather arriving, Cass is ready to start running excursion trains over the reopened rail line.
“This bridge is an amazing accomplishment,” said Wriston. “These guys in these yellow shirts, they have memories they’ll be telling their great grandchildren about. This was the project for them.”