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W&H MAIN YARDS: Guide to Appalachian Coal Hauling Railroads


This is the fifth and final installment for my coverage of the ex-L&N's Cumberland Valley Subdivision. In this report, we'll cover the branches south of Loyall, visit Hagan's switchback and get pointed toward Big Stone Gap, Virginia. I'll also continue the section on mining terminology with a basic look at why coal is cleaned, coal shipment types and how utilities make their purchases. As for those of you who have asked for a little "history" from the towns we are visiting, I have included a discussion concerning a violent strike in one small Kentucky community at the very end of this post. I hope you enjoy reading about it.


As of June 4th, the CV is loosing yet another small tipple. The Siler Tipple, located close to Corbin, has had the rail car loading conveyors removed with only the truck-dump remaining. Several hoppers were still spotted on the siding, however the coal stockpile was down to nothing. Coal could be loaded by front-end loader, although it appears this site may begin selling only block coal for home heating along with sand & gravel. I still haven't checked on the status of the Bailey's Switch Tipple, but with the depressed condition of the coal industry in Whitley and Knox Counties, it may not look good. One bright spot may be the recent purchase of Richland Coal, a Tennessee based privately owned company, by the Gatliff Coal Company. The Gatliff Coal company is in-turn operated as a unit of Florida's Tampa Electric Company(TECO Energy), which also operates several other coal companies, such as Pike County's Premier Elkhorn Coal and owns over 10 billion cubic feet of natural gas rights in Alabama's Black Warrior Coal Basin. TECO consumes over 6.5 million tons of coal each year, mainly at it's four-unit, 1,687 megawatt Big Bend power station and sells to other southern based utilities such as Virginia Power. Gatliff operates a large prep plant south of Corbin on CSX's KD Subdivision and several smaller tipples, one (The Ada Loadout) being only about two miles (See Volume 2A for exact locations) from Richland's Barbourville Tipple near Artemus. With their larger coal contracts and contacts through TECO, Gatliff may be able to reactive the Barbourville Tipple which had, until a few years ago, shipped about a million tons of "Blue Gem" seam coal annually to only two customers; Niagara Mohawk and Dow Chemical. Hopefully, we'll again see CSX hoppers parked under the largest tipple in Knox County.


In Volume 2D, we discussed some of the various methods for removing coal from the seam in a deep mining operation. Unfortunately, not all of the material mined is pure bituminous coal. Both longwall shearing machines and continuous miners also remove a good portion of roof and floor material during normal operations. In addition to this, the seams are not always perfectly layered and will have protrusions, inconsistences and layers of rock mixed in or can actually split into two seams for a short distance. These are known as "finger rolls", "splits", "middleman" or "partings". This material consist of anything from slate, shale, or limestone to good old dirt and can comprise up to 60% or more of the mined material. When the actual recovery rate drops this low, the operation is said to be "mining hard". If left unprocessed, this substance will end up at the power plants in the form of excessive bottom & fly ash which can build up over time and clog the many steam tubes in boilers or as impurities in metallurgical coke which will effect the final composition of raw steel. Customers will thus specify tight tolerance levels for their incoming coals and have on-site labs to ensure they get what they pay for. These labs analyze six properties:
"Moisture content"--just what it sounds like.
"Volatile matter"--hydrocarbon based gasses released when heated.
"Fixed carbon"--fuel left after gasses & moisture are released.
"Ash"-- impurities consisting of incombustible matter.
"Sulfur"--very important environmentally.
"BTU content"-- the heat given off when burned.
Of these six properties, only two can easily be improved at the preparation plant; ash and moisture content.

Coal is shipped today by four rankings based on it's final properties. These are; "raw", "steam", "compliance", and "metallurgical".

Raw or "Run Of Mine, ROM" coals are shipped as they are mined with only a minimum of crushing to control the final size. These coals are sold mainly to utilities or other coal companies who then further process and blend it to achieve a desired final product. A current practice is to mix high cost-sulfur-BTU eastern coal with low cost-sulfur-BTU Powder River Basin coal to achieve a blend which adheres to the Clean Air Act. Some raw coals, mainly those coming from thick-seam surface mines, are burned by utilities without processing due to the low cost and high quality.

Steam coals are normally processed to reduce the ash percentages without concern for the sulfur content. These are sold primarily to electric utilities which have electrostatic precipitators and scrubbers to remove the sulfur dioxide & "fly ash" from their emissions. Sulfur dioxide, SO2, being the main ingredient in acid rain and the target of the Clean Air Act. The term "steam coal" is also often interchangeably used to refer to "any" coal sold to and burned by an electric utility plant.

Compliance coals are low sulfur coals, usually much less than 1.0%, which are processed and shipped to utilities that do not have scrubbers. These are very desirable due to the high cost of scrubber installations which can run as high as $600 million. The percentages of sulfur in these coals are low enough to "comply" with the Federal Clean Air Act.

Metallurgical or "Met" coals require the highest degree of purity and quality and are often processed several times before shipment. Met coal is used exclusively to produce "coke" for the steel industry. Coke is formed by heating coal in the absence of air to drive off the gaseous components and produce nearly pure carbon. The coke is mixed with iron ore and limestone then heated in a blast furnace to produce raw iron. As the coke begins to burn, it releases carbon monoxide which reduces the iron ore to metallic iron. The iron ore impurities, which have a higher melting point, are collected by the limestone and removed as "slag". In the past, coke plants were located beside the mines and were very common in Appalachia. These numerous coke "ovens" emitted large amounts of smoke & sulfur reducing visibility to near twilight conditions, even at high noon, and killing vegetation for miles. Today, only one facility in the U.S., located in Virginia, actively produces coke at the mine site using a patented process unique to the industry. We'll visit this interesting and environmentally friendly plant sometime in the future.

All coal today is either sold to customers through long-term contracts or on the "spot" market. Long-term contracts are negotiated between customers, railroads and coal companies and specify tonnage per year, the coal's characteristics and a fixed price. Most, but not all, contract coal moves in dedicated unit trains on a set schedule. The spot market is where coal is sold through brokers to anyone, anytime, anywhere and can move as single car shipments or unit trains. Utilities usually gamble with pricing and sign long-term contracts for part of their yearly needs at a fixed price then try to purchase the balance on the spot market at lower prices. This can backfire for both parties depending on market conditions. As an example, let's consider the recent shipments of coal to Appalachian Power's (AEP) John Amos electric generating facility located near Charleston, WV. During May, this plant, which holds contracts with Ashland Coal, Peabody Coal and Westmoreland, received a total of 450,015 tons, all but about 28,000 tons being delivered by CSX. Since AEP supplemented their contracted shipments with several spot market purchases from Ashland Coal, we can make a good cost comparison of coal coming from the same mines. Ashland shipped 229,500 contracted tons of 0.8% sulfur, 13% ash, 12,200 BTU coal at a price of $39.37/ton with a rail cost of $3.14/ton. AEP later found Ashland offering excess production on the spot market and purchased 3,756 tons of 0.8% sulfur, 12% ash, 12,210 BTU coal at a price of $23.00/ton and a rail cost of $3.29/ton. Why, you may ask, does AEP not buy all coal on the spot market if they can save $16.00 or more per ton? (Peabody holds several $46- $50+/ton contracts with AEP) Simple, the required volume may not be available and the competition between utilities for this cheaper coal is tough. So, if another power plant bought first, how would all the good people in Charleston dry their hair in the mornings? Even holding contracts are not guarantees and we'll take a look at an instance in which a utility basically forced an old Kentucky coal company out of business when we visit the Eastern Kentucky Subdivision in the next Volume. Now let's get back into Harlan County and see what we can find. From Volume 2D, we had found our way all along the Cumberland and Poor Fork Rivers. Today let's start exploring from the US119/421 intersection just north of Harlan.


From the intersection of US119 and US421, turn south on US421 and head toward the town of Harlan. Harlan, the largest town in Harlan County, is rich in history and is the site of a Vietnam type monument s. This prep plant and another one located clos years in accidents and during strikes. Visit this shrine, located at the courthouse in the center of town, and you'll see why this whole area has rightfully earned the name "Bloody Harlan". Construction is now underway to erect a floodwall around the city to control the Cumberland River and is the final stage of a project which included redirecting the river through four massive tunnels under Black Mountain. The Clover Fork Branch departs the CV mainline through a wye and will cross US421 in the middle of town. I'll come back and venture up this branch and the Catron Creek Branch, which is just a mile south from here, after we stop by Hagan's Tunnel. The tracks will follow both US421 and the Martin's Fork of the Cumberland River for several miles to the south. By the way, the Cumberland River is actually formed near the 119/421 intersection where the Poor Fork, Clover Fork and Martin's Fork all come together. Before the 1930 opening of Hagan's Tunnel, the tracks south of Harlan were known as the Martins Fork Branch. The completion of the CC&O Connection gave this stretch of trackage mainline status and eliminated the Branch. You will still sometimes hear trains operating on this section refer to it as Martins Fork over a scanner.

Continuing south on US421 for 5 1/2 miles from the 119/421 intersection will take you past the Gray's Knob Prep Plant on your right. This is a classic, grey/green striped prep plant which had belonged to the Gray's Knob Coal Company before being taken over by the Dixie Fuel Company. These vertical green strips seen on prep plants are actually translucent panels for letting the light in. Dixie now loads on this 40 car capacity "Bennett" siding and at a second loadout not far from here at Crummies. The rail siding, which passes under the plant, is named for the company's owner, Joe Bennett, and keeps busy, having originated an average of 369,596 tons for CSX each of the last few years. A long conveyor allows for a large volume of clean coal ground storage to the right of the main structure. Just past the plant, and sharing the same siding, had been the small V&C Coal Company's Charlotte Tipple. This is long gone and you'll be hard pressed to find it's exact location. There's a bridge, about a 1/2 mile back, which will get you in closer to the prep plant, but be mindful of the "No Trespassing" signs.

About a mile south of here, at the community of Chevrolet, is a road to your left which extends up Enoch Branch. The L&N operated a spur which reached about a mile up the branch to service a medium sized tipple. The spur has been removed and the crossing on 421 paved over long ago. I heard the tipple has been demolished, however, I have never checked it out. Next time I'm in Harlan I'll take a look and post it as an update.

An additional mile from here, or two miles from the Gray's Knob plant, the twin tracks of the Merna Spur's wye branch off the CV main at milepost WM248.5 and cross US421. The road to your left, KY990, follows Turtle Creek for 3/4 of a mile, passes by two old loaders and terminates at a massive processing facility. The first loader you will pass is what's left of the wooden Lenarue Coal Company's Lenarue Tipple. Although most of this structure has fallen down or been salvaged by local kids, much remains; including a conveyor and two loading chutes. The L&N serviced this tipple on the 50 car "Rue" siding.

Visible about 400 feet past the Lenarue Tipple is the 3-track Creech Tipple. This was a more modern steel structure which was served by the 90 car "Creech" siding. The loader looks like a typical truck-served facility, however, the "truck dump" is actually all that's left of twin conveyors which transported coal from two deep mine openings close by. These have been sealed and are now overgrown with brush and small trees.

In sight of here and located near the end of KY990 at what was the community of Coalgood(a.k.a. Mary Helen), are the headquarters and processing facilities belonging to New Horizons Land Management. From Volume 2C, we know that this is the ex- Great Western Coal Company, ex-Bow Valley Coal Company now operated as the Harlan Fuels Division. I have also recently heard that all of New Horizons may now possibly be on the selling block. The company has retained the investment banking firm of J.P. Morgan to "evaluate how to maximize shareholder's value". On your right are the office buildings and large pond with a fountain, on your left is the Coalgood Church & the Coalgood Supply Store, and directly in front of you are three prep plants, two flood-loaders, coal stockpiles and miles of conveyors extending up and over Little Black Mountain in several directions. The Coalgood Supply building alone is worth a trip as it's one of the few original company stores left in Appalachia. The rail siding here is called "Merna" and serves both loaders with ample room for two unit trains. The first loader is referred to as the Coalgood Tipple and is where some of the first unit trains originated as discussed in previous reports. This loader is not used and has been modified to supply coal to the larger, blue-and-grey-painted unit train loadout which is still called "Bow Valley #2". All three of the prep plants are 500 ton per hour units using jigs to clean the coarse coal, hydrocyclone fine coal circuits and centrifuges for the dewatering process in place of a thermal dryer. Don't get excited, I'll explain these terms in an upcoming Mining 101 section if your interested. Two of the three prep plants are located side-by-side and are hard to distinguish. The first is called the "Coalgood Main Washer" and the second the "Wallace Prep Plant". The Wallace plant differs slightly in that it includes concentrating tables to help recover some of the finer size coals for higher efficiency rates. The third plant, "The Mosley Washer" is located nearby and linked by conveyors to everything else. Eight different underground mines, with names like Belmon #14 & #15, Dulcimer #1A, #2 & #4, Oxford #6 and Smith #10 & #11, produce the raw feed for these plants and range in size from a very small 2,885 tpy mine to several yielding 250,000+ tpy. Contractor mined coal is also trucked into the facility from several miles away. A refuse dump is situated directly behind the plants and is now almost as high as the surrounding mountains. This plant lacks concrete storage silos and therefore has several stockpiles containing probably 40,000- 50,000 tons at any one time. New Horizons has been consistently producing over a million tons of clean coal per year from these three prep plants, mainly for shipment under long-term contracts to TVA, Santee Cooper and Florida Power.

Get back to US421 and continue south. One mile from here, at CV milepost WM249.7, is the switch for the combined Lick and Crummies Spurs on your right. These spurs will remain at road level while the CV mainline begins to climb upgrade. An additional mile will bring us to an intersection with KY987 at the community of Cawood. There is a switch here that divides the Lick/Crummies Spur into two different track segments. The Crummies Spur continues to parallel US421 as it follows Long Branch for 2 1/2 miles to the southeast, while the Lick Spur turns almost due south and parallels KY987 and the now-much- higher CV mainline. There is a long, curving tunnel up on the CV mainline visible from the area around this intersection. For now, continue on US421 about a mile until you first cross the tracks and then pass by the inactive, Mill Ridge Tipple on your left. This is an older prep plant which featured a three-track loader spanning the "Closplint #3" siding. A typical Harlan county abandoned prep plant, there's lots of rusting junk and old coal trucks sitting about.

Within a quarter mile of here is an unmarked road to the left which passes up Slack Hollow. Should you first pass under a conveyor crossing US421, you have gone too far. Just up this road and within sight of 421 is the abandoned Slack Hollow tipple that had been operated by the Terry Glenn Coal Company. This is a smaller operation with a truck-dump, coal crusher/screens, ground storage area and a single track loader. The 15 car "Cassidy" siding is still in place but well overgrown.

Now go back to US421 and drive a few hundred feet to get to the only active loader on the Crummies Spur. The Dixie Fuel Company operates this as it's Crummies Stockpile. A truck dump and ground storage "stockpile" is located on the hill above US421 to the right. A conveyor crosses the road and supplies coal to the small flood-loader on the 72 car "Karen" siding.

Continuing on US421, you will pass the remains of the Terry Glenn Coal Company's Crummies Tipple. Most of this wooden tipple remains standing however some of the siding and conveyors have been removed. For a good picture of an active Crummies Tipple, which had been served by the multi-track, 45 car capacity "Crummies" siding, refer to page 36 of the April, 1990 edition of CTC BOARD Magazine.

Just ahead, the road will cross the tracks, pass through the small community of Crummies and begin climbing up and over Black Mountain. Pennington Gap, VA and the CV mainline are reached by this road after about 15 miles. We'll come back this way in a few minutes, for now let's keep exploring Harlan County. The end of the Crummies Branch is just about a 1/4 mile from the last crossing. The track section past the crossing, the final 1/4 mile of the Crummies Spur, remains active by loading cut timbers onto flatbed logcars for transport to sawmills and pulpwood plants. You will always find 2-3 cars waiting to be loaded.

Go back to the KY987 intersection and turn left to follow the Lick Spur and CV mainline to the south. 3/4 of a mile down KY987, the Lick Spur cuts back to the west by tunneling under the CV mainline through a short, concrete-lined tunnel. KY991 also branches off here and cuts under the CV through a very narrow automobile tunnel to gain access to Lick Branch. The tracks, and thus all of Lick Spur, are abandoned, however, the two tipples at the end of the line are still in place. About 3/4 of a mile from the tunnel, the pavement will turn to dirt/gravel and quickly pass by the KCK Mining Corporation's Libby Tipple, located about 40 feet in elevation higher than the road. This is a small flood-loading tipple which drew coal from ground storage cut into the side of the hill just above it. The 72 car "Libby" siding which snaked under the loader has been removed, so if you pass by, then turn left and go up the hill to track level, you can drive back directly under it. I don't recommend trying this in anything less than a 4-wheel drive. The first thing you'll notice before getting to track level is an old, dilapidated prep plant to your right. This plant originally and slowly loaded hoppers from the still-in-place conveyor extending from it's side. After the Libby Tipple was constructed, with the ability to load a 72 car unit train in 4 hours, this plant became too time consuming to use and was left to rust.

Get back out to KY987 and turn right. The CV main will pass through a short tunnel about a 1/4 mile from here that's visible during the winter months from the road. KY987 will twist and turn for about 5 more miles to the very small community of Sampson. You'll lose sight of the mainline tracks along the way as they cut behind a hill and enter another tunnel about a mile after you cross under them, but they will reappear after about 2 additional miles. Keep watching for the tracks to the left as you cross the Crank's Creek bridge and then the Martin's Fork bridge. There are two good-size lakes here that offer excellent fishing if you like to sit in a boat while waiting on trains to pass. The tracks follow the road about a mile then make a hard 90 degree turn to the left at the far end of a 3,738 foot siding and plunge into the east portal of Hagan's Tunnel. The CV leaves the Kentucky coalfields at this point only to emerge 6,244 feet later on the south side of Cumberland Mountain at the bottom of the only mainline switchback in the United States. We'll get over to Virginia at the end of this report and try to catch one of the numerous unit trains as it winds back and forth through this obstacle.


As stated above, the Catron Creek Branch departs the CV mainline just past Harlan at milepost WM243.0 and runs in a southwesterly direction for about 6 1/2 miles. Look for KY72 turning right, 2 miles south of the US119/US421 intersection. KY72 will follow Catron Creek and the tracks all the way down to the mines. If you will remember from Volume 2D, KY72 ran from Blackmont to Alva also. Confusing huh? Same numbers for two different roads in the same county that never meet! They actually terminate on opposite sides of the same mountain from each other. Maybe someone forgot to build the tunnel. :-) In the past, there had been tipples located all along the track at Elcomb, Teetersville, Beech Grove and Mary Alice. The only one I ever got to see was the JAD Tipple which loaded on the 21 car "Mary Alice" siding about 3 3/4 miles from US421. Coal was mined high up on Little Spur, and conveyored about halfway down the mountain to a 1/2-mile-long track haulage system at the head of Hall's Branch. This track then wrapped around the mountain to a rotary dumper just above the tipple where another conveyor dropped down to the valley floor. This loader and the siding survived the L&N era and were recently removed by CSX.

A half mile south of here is an intersection with KY1216 at Pansy(a.k.a Gulston), which turns left and will take you about a mile up Slaters Fork to Yancey. The Yancey Tipple had been a huge, 1950's era plant owned by Harlan Fuels that loaded coal on 5 tracks which passed under the structure. Deep mines were located on Double Spur, Bee Branch, Farmers Branch, and Grays Ridge. These tracks were, of course, known as the "Yancey" siding and could actually handle over 150 hoppers. The tipple was also recently removed after Great Western acquired the land leases for this area, however, several support structures still remain such as warehouses, offices and a bath house. New Horizons' Harlan Fuels Mining is still actively working this area so beware of trespassing.

Go back to KY72 and continue south until you cross the tracks at the community of Stanfill. 1/4 mile from here on your left stood an old tipple that loaded coal from a deep mine opening about 60 feet up the hillside. The siding for this tipple, which I have always unofficially called the Stanfill Tipple, ran from the crossing all the way down to Liggett. The tipple is gone but one could still find the footings if you look hard enough.

1/4 mile south of Stanfill is Bardo and ex-home of the Red Raven Tipple. A deep mine opening, about 130 feet up the hill, had haulage tracks running out to a large storage bin. A conveyor then dropped down the hillside to supply the tipple. The 22 car "Bardo" siding had crossed KY72 from the Catron Creek Branch on the left, passed under the structure to your right then crossed back to rejoin the main branchline just south of the loader. This old wooden tipple was razed and a small, modern coal processing facility installed in it's place. Balmont Corporation operated this site until completion of the flood- loader just ahead at Liggett. The "Bardo" siding was removed and the two crossings paved over, however the equipment remains in place, looking good in it's blue paint but unused.

From here you should be able to see the entrance to New Horizons owned, Harlan Fuels Division, Liggitt Prep Plant and loadout. Just before the gate is a small road to your left that leads past several unused yellow brick mine support buildings and follows Upper Double Branch. Just in sight from the cable blocking the road is the old, wooden Golden Glow Mining's Croley Tipple. The 30 car capacity "Croley" siding is long gone, but the rails, crossties and just about every possible piece of junk and rusting mining equipment is piled up here. Harlan Fuels is also actively mining up on Little Black Mountain so ask permission at the office before walking back to the site.

In Volume 2D, I discussed ownership and where this new prep plant came from. Originally only the flood-loader, stacking tube and truck-dump were located here. The conveyor from the old truck dump has been removed and replaced with one extending up from the wash plant. The twin dumps and a short length of conveyor remains on the hillside to the right. As of December '94, last time I was here, the plant was about 85% complete. The breakers and several raw coal conveyors were still stored on the ground and the plant's roof had yet to be installed. This plant had shipped 287,009 tons of raw coal during the year before the expansion began. When this plant is completed, I would bet the Catron Creek Branch's total coal output surpasses the total tonnage from all the old tipples combined.


The Clover Fork Branch departs the CV at Milepost WM242.1 through a wye, crosses both Martins Fork Branch(river) and US421, passes through downtown Harlan, then follows the Clover Fork of the Cumberland River for 29 miles to Glenbrook. KY38 will follow the tracks all the way from Harlan to Glenbrook, however, with the above mentioned floodwall construction, I'm not sure how KY38 will intersect US421. Look for the sign is all I can say until the construction is completed. Just outside of Harlan, KY38 will pass by what looks like a concrete covered hillside and high fence. This is where the southern portals of the mile-long river redirection project tunnels are located. About a mile past here on the right, at the town of Kitts, is a sawmill and woodchip plant that took the place of an older tipple. Woodchips have replaced coal as the "Kitts" siding's only output and you will always find several oversized, highside hoppers spotted there.

4 miles from US421 is the turbulent and infamous community of Brookside. The Brookside Prep Plant is currently owned and operated by Manalapan Mining Company and ships coal on the 72 car "Brookside" siding. Originally built by the Eastover Mining Company to supply coal to their corporate owner, North Carolina based Duke Power Company, this plant became the focal point for a bloody 1970's coal strike. At the end of this report, I'll cover some of the trouble that was associated with the deadly strike. This older plant is yet another grey and green painted facility almost identical to the Grays Knob plant on the CV mainline. It sits higher up on the hillside, surrounded by coal stockpiles and conveyors in all directions. The best views will come from pulling into the softball field parking lot located right in front of the plant and walking around to the back side of the bleachers. The green painted offices at the gate were the site of most of the violence during the early '70's. Brookside has been featured in two television broadcast that are now available on video. The first, "Harlan County, USA", is a documentary of the coal strike & general living conditions in the area and was filmed on location. Several early morning shots of L&N Alco mine run engines in action and footage from inside a deep mine make this worth watching. The second, "Roses Are For The Rich", stars Lisa Hartman Black and is a fictional account of a coal miners wife seeking revenge for her husband's death in a mine explosion. Although the prep plant and railroads in the movie resemble those at Brookside, they were most likely filmed somewhere in the West. Typical Hollywood!

From the crossing at Brookside, continue for 1 3/4 miles to the community of Verda. You'll be looking for KY1601 which turns right at Verda and follows Jones Creek up to the community of Ten Spot and several idle deep mines. To see the loader, park at the gas station that sits on the north side of the KY1601 crossing and walk across the tracks. The facility is located just behind the houses and garages to the east. Houses line the Verda siding and people walk up and down these side tracks to get home due to a lack of roads. Just watch for trains on the main branchline! This is a small tipple, consisting of truck-dumps, crusher, screens, conveyors for ground storage and a single track coal chute. Hoppers loaded on the 84 car capacity "Verda" siding require 24 hours to completely fill a unit train. This facility has been owned by Bonanza(Bon) Trucking Co, Appalachian Colliers Incorporated and more recently the Tennessee Consolidated Coal Company, itself operated by the A.T. Massey Coal Company which is a subsidiary of Fluor Corporation. Get all that? Under Tennessee Consolidated, coal was shipped over CSX to Jasper, TN (near Chattanooga) where it had been transloaded into barges for movement on the Tennessee River to steam customers. As of March '95, the Verda Tipple sits idle and in good condition. At one time, a spur crossed the Clover Fork (River) and ran over to a large, 5-track tipple just a few hundred feet to the west of the 1601 crossing. This original Verda Tipple is long gone.

Continue on KY38 for a mile and a half until the road crosses the tracks at the town of Evarts. After crossing the tracks, make note of the road that turns left and parallels the tracks. We'll come back here in a moment. For now, stay on KY38 as it enters town. KY215 will turn right at one of Evarts' two red- lights, just look for the sign. Turn right on KY215 and go 3 blocks until you see a high, red & white, metal-siding type fence on your right. This fence hides the small coal processing plant owned by Cloverfork Mining and Excavation, Inc. Pulling into the church parking lot on your left will give a good view back behind the fence at the truck-dumps or turn on the dirt road just before the fence and drive back to the rail crossing. Don't worry, this is a public road and will give a good view of the actual loader. By this time, you will also have noticed the very large, wooden Yocum Creek Tipple on the opposite side of the tracks. Although abandoned years ago by the Yocum Creek Coal Company and overgrown with weeds, this tipple is in fairly good condition for it's age and is in perfect position for photographs. The active siding which serves the Cloverfork loader is known as "Lewis" or "Kenvir #3" by some and is the remaining part of the old Yocum Creek Branch. The Yocum Creek Branch had extended up Yocum Creek for about 5 miles serving tipples all along the way. Today, trackage has been removed past the first crossing at Redbud, about a 1/2 mile from the two surviving tipples. Believe me, there's nothing RR related from Redbud to the old end-of-the-line at Dizney, so don't waste your time.

Now go back to the RR crossing on KY38 and turn right on the road I mentioned at the beginning of the last paragraph. This road will follow the tracks and pass the old Evarts Depot. The depot is a large structure which had also served as the freight house during the passenger era days of yesteryear. Today, it's quickly falling into a state of disrepair and could already be beyond saving. On your left is the aging Evarts Yard, which had been 5-6 tracks wide and used for hopper storage.

About 3/4 of a mile from where we left KY38 is a road to the left which crosses the tracks and leads up Bailey's Creek. This will be the 3rd or 4th turn to the left and the only road (County road CR5119A but unmarked) which actually extends up a holler. All the other roads lead into residential areas. Located at the end of the tracks had been the Bailey's Creek Portal of Eastover Mining Company's Number 3 Mine. The L&N's Bailey's Creek Spur served not only Eastover's Jack #1 Tipple, but also the smaller Jack #2 Tipple owned and operated by the Coal Corporation of America. Only the Jack #2 Tipple remains today, mostly hidden in the thick underbrush. Coal had been trucked to a bin on the hillside and a short conveyor leads directly to the twin-track chutes with no storage capability. The guard shack and gates for the Eastover operation, along with a large company sign, are still in place preventing further exploration.

Go back to KY38 and continue the way we were going before we visited Evarts. The next facility is a short 1 3/4 miles from the crossing at Evarts and will be the Combined Coal Corporation prep plant and flood-loading facility near Short Town. This had been the very active Tom's Coal Company just a few years ago, shipping coal mined from the 4-5 foot-thick "Creech" and "Darby" seams nearby. From the bridge looking into the properties, the blue, 150 TPH prep plant will be on your right with a steel- framed, single track coal loader a few feet away. Conveyors will cross from the plant over to a stacking tube on your left. Looking down past the ground storage area is a newer, blue & red flood-loader which replaced the small, low-capacity loader at the prep plant and now spans the 100 car long "Dartmont #1" siding. These loaders were not being used on my March '95 trip, and the plant itself looks abandoned.

Stay on KY38 for just over 2 miles and you'll pass by an old yellow painted loader near the town of Gano (a.k.a Lejunior). This small loader, which looks like it might have been one of the first steel structures in Harlan County, sits just behind someone's trailer, yet is clearly visible from the road. I'm working on identifing this one and presently have no idea who owned it, even the person that lives in the trailer says it's been idle since he can remember.

About a mile from here, at the town of Highsplint, is one of the larger capacity (1,200 TPH) coal processing facilities in Eastern Kentucky. The HILO Tipple, named for the towns of HIghsplint and LOuellen, sits out-of-sight about a 1/2 mile up Seagraves Creek on what had been county road CR5123, and is served by CSX's Seagraves Spur. This plant had originally been owned by Eastover Mining Company before being acquired by Manalapan Mining Company and also saw some of the same violence that the 1970's strike brought. Old miners claim there had been two tripod-mounted machine guns hidden on either side of the valley which randomly fired upon the picket lines. Eastover had called this the Highsplint Prep Plant and moved huge volumes from here to Duke Power plants in the Carolinias. Manalapan now holds long term contracts with TVA, suppling coal to both the Bull Run and Kingston Plants near Oak Ridge and Knoxville, TN. I have never had trouble gaining access back to the mines as long as I tried during the week. On weekends, the guard will not allow anyone to go past the gate alongside KY38.

Back on KY38, it's about 2 miles to Louellen and 3 1/2 miles to Closplint. Just beyond Closplint, you should see mining structures located high on the hillside to the left and a nice stone company sign for the Karst-Robbins Coal Company. At this site had been the 33 car "Brenda" siding passing under the Brenda Tipple. The tipple has been removed and all that remains is the newer coal processing equipment serving a deep mine to the left and the abandoned wooden structures surrounding an older, sealed deep mine just below it. The new mine operates in a coal seam that's about 90 feet higher in elevation than the sealed mine and ships it's coal by truck back to the HILO facility. This is the last RR related spot until we get to the end of the line about 9 miles from here. On the way will be several deep mines and related surface support structures on the left side of the road so keep your eyes open. The Clover Fork Branch has had many tipples operating along it's tracks that are now gone without a trace. Some of these that I have not already mentioned were located at Kildav, Shields, Ridgeway, Louellen, Slope Hollow (Which sported it's own spur up Fugitt Creek just past Louellen and the small lake on the left), Closplint and Clover-Darby. Some of the older topographical maps from the 1950's, if you can find them, are useful for spotting these tipple's exact locations. University libraries are very good starting places to look. The University of Kentucky archives maps from as far back as the 1920's in the Geological Survey Library and has a copy machine to reproduce them.

About 9 miles from the old Brenda Tipple location is the community known as Glenbrook and the Jericol Mining Company's Glenbrook Prep Plant. Now this really is a big structure, having been expanded many times in the past. If you are familiar with model railroading, the New River Mining kit from Walthers resembles this plant on a smaller scale. Now before anyone corrects me, I said it "resembles" it. The kit is a model of the Edna Mine in Colorado. It would take about 3 of the kits to come close to the actual physical size of the Glenbrook Tipple. In the past, some tipples used long conveyors, exiting from the side of the plant directly over the tracks and supported by a gantry crane, to fill hoppers. The Glenbrook Plant was one of 'em and the crane still exist today, albeit unused. Plant upgrades have included a flood-loader, wash plant expansions, concrete storage silos, and ground storage stacking tubes. Conveyors run up the side of Black Mountain in several spots and terminate at drift mine openings at different elevations taping the various seams. These are long conveyors as you are at the base of the highest mountain peak in Kentucky at 4,139 feet above sea-level. During last year, 5 of these underground mines supplied the Glenbrook Tipple with approximately 882,948 tons of coal. These were Creech #1 & #2, Darby, Refuse Hollow and Wallins, all but one being named after the coal seam in-which they operated. There has been some rumors that the processing facility may be idled due to low demand during the summer, however, as of the first of June, it was still going strong. KY38 will climb up and over Little Black Mountain and end up in Keokee, VA. A good fact to know when we visit the old Interstate RR lines in the future. As KY38 climbs uphill past the prep plant, look to the left and you can see the mountains of refuse that has been cleaned from the raw, mined material. Looking at the size of these "gob piles" and knowing that at least twice as much coal has been removed from the seams, should make you wonder why Eastern Kentucky doesn't just fall in and disappear.


To get to Hagan's Switchback, we could follow KY38 over the mountain. KY38 becomes VA624 at the state line and descends the south side of the mountain to the town of Keokee, Va. At Keokee, take VA606 for 11 miles to an intersection with US421 at Pocket, turn left and go about 2 miles to the intersection with US58 at Pennington Gap. If you are going to explore the Interstate RR lines and enjoy the twistingest (is this a word) road in the east, then this is the way to go. A much smoother ride will come from taking US421 south from Harlan, cross the mountain, pass through Pocket and gain access to US58 at the town of Pennington Gap. From here go west on US58 for about 20 miles until you get to the community of Smiley and an intersection with VA621. Smiley, by the way, was named for the L&N's chief engineer in charge of building Hagans Tunnel. Follow VA621 as it parallels the lower tail tracks of the switchback until you get to the crossing. Continuing straight will take you to the top of the hill and the upper tail track while turning right at the first road will let you cross the tracks just in front of the southern tunnel portal and then climb uphill to parallel the CV mainline as it heads east toward Big Stone Gap. This parallel road is VA621 and will closely follow the CV for about 15 miles until it turns south to meet US58. VA621 leaves much to be desired in the form of a road and should be followed only if you are dead set on seeing every inch of the railroad. I recommend getting back on US58 and driving down to Big Stone Gap where you will most likely see CSX trains waiting on clearance from the NS dispatcher to gain access to the line into Frisco TN. Just follow US58 to BSG where the tracks are easy to spot on the north bank of the Powell River. CSX has built a new connector bridge here to link up with the NS line on the opposite side of Wallen's Ridge. When US58 intersects the 4-lane, US23, turn south again and you can chase both CSX and NS trains as they follow the interstate through Virginia for miles.

And that's it for CSX's ex-L&N Cumberland Valley Subdivision. Topographical maps for the areas covered are: Harlan, Rose Hill(VA), Hubbard Springs(VA), Pennington Gap(VA), Keokee(VA), Big Stone Gap(VA), Evarts, Nolansburg, Louellen, and Benham. As I've stated above, the next Volume will cover CSX's ex-L&N Eastern Kentucky Subdivision and will also be composed of several parts due to the number of sites. Although it's not been started yet, we should be able to cover all of the trackage from Winchester down to Hazard in the first post.

The following section has been included for those people who have asked for more history behind some of the old mining towns in Kentucky. I have also included the words to a favorite ballad that is well know in the state if no where else. Let me know if you enjoy this short historical tale of a strike torn community.


Let me preface this section with a statement concerning my views on both parties involved in the following story. I do not and will not take sides with either the United Mine Workers, the Bituminous Coal Operators Association or other independent coal operators. I do have many friends & relatives on both sides and have heard their biased opinions for years. Having been in many no-win debates, I now find it far better to keep a lid on my personal opinions. I will, on the other hand, fully respect all picket lines and would never attempt to cross one. In fact, if there is a strike in progress, I highly recommend you stay as far from the coalfields as possible, those trains will be there tomorrow. With that said, here are the events of the 1973-1974 strike between the Eastover Mining Company and the UMW miners at the Brookside Mine as taken from local papers, television reports, and several people who lived it.

The trouble actually began back in 1972 during election year competition for the presidency of the United Mine Workers' Union. Current president, W.A. "Tony" Boyle, who union members accused of being in bed with coal operators, had his challenger, Joseph "Jock" Yablonski, his wife and a young daughter, murdered on January 4th, 1972 while they slept in their Washington, PA home. The December elections put Yablonski's replacement challenger, Arnold Miller, at the helm of the nation-wide union, defeating still unconvicted Tony Boyle. Boyle was later arrested, much to his surprise, on September 6, 1973, then tried and convicted of masterminding the murder plot on April 11, 1974. Promising to give miners a new voice, Arnold Miller sparked a trend of union support throughout the coal industry. During the summer of 1973, wishing to improve their quality of life, the workers at the Duke Power owned Eastover Coal Company's Brookside Mine and Prep Plant voted to join the union. Eastover's upper-management refused to sign the contract and the men walked off the job on strike. They were quickly followed by others at the Eastover mine near Louellen. The 11 month strike was one of the most reported on events in Kentucky history and showed just how far Duke's corporate head, Carl Horn and Eastover's president, Norman Yarborogh would go to break the workers will. Since this was the peak of the '70's energy crisis and thus the coal boom, Duke Power had to keep receiving coal from these company owned mines and brought in replacement, non-union miners who would not respect the picket lines. Seeing these men taking over their jobs naturally angered the strikers and the violence began. During the first few weeks, the state police were used to control the situation, which often landed several miners in the Harlan County jail. The local judge, whose last name was Hogg and a coal operator himself, (no relation to the Duke's of Hazard) would always side with the coal company and was accused of being paid off by Eastover. In a flashback to the mine wars of the '20's and '30's, Eastover's mine foreman, Basil Collins, soon began a campaign of terror that included the use of machine guns and arson. He was shown on national television several times, gun in hand or hidden behind his back, forcing his way past the picket lines to get his "scab" workforce into the mines. All the while, Judge Hogg refused to issue any warrants for persons working with Eastover, regardless of what they did or the number of witnesses which stepped forward. With these "untouchable" men working the mine, Eastover developed a war of attrition, hoping the striking workers would simply give up. The daily gauntlet and picket line troubles only seemed to bond the strikers tighter together. The miners even traveled to New York City during the ninth month of the strike to picket Wall Street and come face-to- face with Horn during a Duke Power shareholders meeting. Horn still refused to sign a contract, even after embarrassing presentations in front of the upperclass stockowners revealed the deplorable conditions of the company owned homes that families were forced to live in. In a show of support, miners from several states converged on the tiny town of Harlan to rally and parade up and down the main-street while Norman Yarborogh sat at the Eastover office without a care in the world. After everyone had left, the miners were still in the same shape they were in before, only a little bit broker. During these last months, the now-desperate wives and children of the miners had joined the picket lines. With the men's will to strike almost broken and many wanting to give up, their wives held motivating meetings, gave speeches and stayed on the picket lines all night long. Many times they were arrested, shot at, attacked with baseball bats and hit by cars. Up to this point, the mines had remained open, using Basil Collin's out-of-state miners and the L&N's refusal to suspend service. One day, late in August '74, the women undertook a bold act and blocked the main road & tracks leading to the mine with an old car and themselves, refusing to move even after Harlan Sheriff Billy G. Williams threatened to bring in the state police. One of the women presented an arrest warrant for Collins that had been obtained in a nearby county and the mass demanded his incarceration on harassment and several terroristic threatening charges. Williams then stated he was "off duty" and refused to work without pay. Claiming they would pay him for his time, the women took up a collection, which amounted to $7.00, and presented it to the Sheriff telling him he was now on the clock for an hour. Williams reluctantly told Collins he was under arrest and offered to let him drive himself to jail. With this, the long, backed-up line of scabs turned their cars around and left. Eastover's production dropped to zero for the first time since just after the strike began. Later that night, Bill Bruner, one of Collins' "gun thugs" approached the picket lines and, while attempting to enter Eastover property, got into an argument with 19 year old Lawerence Jones. Jones received a shotgun blast to the head which widowed his 16 year-old-wife and left his newborn daughter without a father. The word spread quickly and soon every miner in Harlan County started looking for weapons with the intentions of killing anyone remotely associated with Eastover. Knowing he now had a price on his head and fearing more bloodshed, Carl Horn agreed to sign the contract the next day while union organizers pleaded with the men to hold back for 24 hours. The high priced victory was short lived. Three months after returning to work, the UMW's national contract expired. Under President Arnold Millers' leadership, the miners or "rank and file union members" now had, for the first time, the right to vote on and ratify new contracts. In an attempt to deal with the UMW, coal operators had formed their own "type" of union, known as the Bituminous Coal Operators Association or "BCOA". On November 12, 1974, the UMW and BCOA failed to reach an agreement and over 120,000 miners nationwide walked off the job in protest of coal company abuses of their grievance procedures. This time the strike remained bloodless and a tentative contract was approved 3 weeks later opening the mines and reactivating the railroad haulers in time for Christmas. This strike basically shut the L&N down, and I can remember long lines of grey and yellow engines stored in Corbin's West Yard. I really wish I had been interested in photography during this period!

Strikes continue to occur today and can be almost as violent as the Brookside tragedy. In 1993, the UMWA declared a strike against selected BCOA members accusing them of "double breasting" or shifting production from unionized mines to non-union subsidiaries. Eddie York, a non-union contract worker for Arch of West Virginia, was shot to death on July 22nd as he passed a picket line at the Orion mine near Man. Seven UMW members have since be sentenced to serve 120 days for rock throwing in a plea bargain that has indicted a picket line captain for the actual shooting. Strikes in the coalfields always bring about a flood of ballads and songs to tell of the hardships being encountered. One of the local favorites, written by Florence Reece during the 1930 strike and modified for the Eastover strike, is called "Which Side Are You On?" Imagine these words being sung slowly and slightly off key, by an old woman who has seen too much death and violence during her hard life. Unfortunately, I have never figured out who D.H. Blair was.

Come all you poor workers,
Good news to you I'll tell.
How the good old Union,
Has come in here to dwell.
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
If you go to Harlan County,
There is no neutral ground.
You'll either be a Union man,
Or a thug for D.H. Blair.
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
They say in North Carolina,
Duke Power runs the show.
Carl Horn would like,
To break the Strike,
But the miners tell him no.
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Going up to New York City,
We've got to spread the news.
Been fighting hard,
For many months,
And we're not about to loose!
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
Hope you found this interesting? There is also a book which shares the song's title available at bookstores. This books covers the Harlan County strike of the 1920's & 1930's and is very good reading. Enjoy!

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