The Shay Engine

Four thousand big, black, Shay Locomotives belched charcoal smoke into the skies of the Southern states in the early 1900’s. Picayune’s own engine in Railroad Park was assembled in 1925 by Lima Locomotive Works, Inc. and given to the City of Picayune by L.O. Crosby, Jr. These hard driving iron work horses executed logging operations on the temporary tracks laid in the Great Virgin Pine Forest. Just as the Shay locomotives retired the oxen drawn wagons of the past, mechanical trucks on paved roads sent most of these engines to scrap heap as the Allies scrounged for materials to defeat the Nazi war machines of WWII.

Shay’s efficient design dismissed artistic elements in favor of raw, industrial power. Instead of piston drives commonly used on locomotives at that time, the Shay Engine used visible gear drives. Its wood burning fuel was easily plucked from remnants left alongside the tracks. The inverted coffee pot smokestack forcibly passed smoke and soot through tightly woven screens to intercept combustible particles, ash, and debris that could spark a forest fire. Unlike its piston driven relatives, Ephraim Shay’s Locomotive delivered equal torque directly to wheels on both sides at the same time. Instead of rocking side to side in stride or around curves, Shay’s invention delivered consistently strong, stable power straightforward or in reverse.

This particular engine served the Batson-Megehee Lumber Company at Millard in Pearl River County. A year after WWII ended, Crosby Forest Products purchased the engine to use in its creosote plant. It also served on the Pearl River Valley short line before it was donated to the city of Picayune in the early 1960’s. Community volunteers have manicured, painted, and maintained this charming machine in hibernation so well that it’s been called the best preserved of its kind in the entire state of Mississippi. Come take a look for yourself anytime next to the Greater Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce.


201 Highway 11 North, Picayune, MS