W+H Herald W+H Main Yards Herald

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


This installment will cover the coal loading sites which reside along CSX's mainline extending southward from Corbin, thru Knoxville, to Etowah, TN. Since the tracks actually exit the Appalachian Coalfields shortly after crossing into Tennessee, we'll stop at the pusher station for the Duff Mountain grade and leave further coverage to someone more familiar with the southern area than I am. Its been quite some time since my last post, (this is number 11 for anyone keeping count) so we'll begin this report with several updates and some recent news, then look at the history and statistics for this segment of CSX's vital coal artery.


The results are in and the people of Kentucky have spoken, Paul Patton, an ex-Pike County coal operator, has been elected Governor, edging out Republican Larry Forgey in what was the closest race in this state's history. Kentucky's eastern counties will now wait and see if Patton keeps his numerous campaign promises, one of them to widen a winding 2-lane section of the Mountain Parkway through to Prestonsburg. Patton is already being very public and made a December 22nd visit to CSX's Corbin Terminal to participate in a pre-Christmas outing for needy children from a Barbourville children's home. Patton took control of CSX's CW44-9AC #44 and piloted it up & down the yard tracks with each of the kids while under the watchful eye of a veteran engineer. He then escorted the children to a local K- Mart where they were each given $100.00 and allowed to go on a shopping spree. The money comes from annual donations taken up from the Corbin Terminal's employees and helps spread goodwill to some of the area's less fortunate. CSX employees have always been generous around the holidays and the activities at Corbin go hand-in-hand with identical outings all over the system. The most famous of these is the annual running of the Santa Claus Special, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, down the rails of the former Clinchfield through far Eastern Kentucky, Southwestern Virginia and East Tennessee.

The breakup of Addington Resources Inc. predicted in Volume 3B has become a reality. Three of the four Addington brothers have been successful in their bid to reclaim the mining and citrus operations and will return these companies to a private, family- held business. The brothers paid $30 million to the Ashland- based environmentally focused ARI for four coal mines in Eastern Kentucky and a mining equipment manufacturing & licensing subsidiary. In addition, one million shares of common stock were exchanged for the Caribbean citrus growing operation located on the island of Belize. At first this sounds like a weird mix of companies, but could you imagine the "business trips" down south in the corporate jet to check on the crops? The transactions leave the Addingtons with 4.2 million shares of ARI or 26% of the company stock, however, they will give up all control of the businesses which handle garbage disposal for such cities as Lexington and Huntington. Hopefully the brothers will rebuild the once-great mining company back into the top coal producer in the state and return several of Eastern Kentucky's idled tipples to full operation. One minor stipulation of the deal is that ARI will continue to receive $1.00 per ton royalty on coal delivered by the Tennessee Mining Company, one of the mines included in the deal, to the TVA while retaining that subsidiaries' net working capital. ARI also reserved the rights to $7 million in cash payments from the recent sale of a highwall mining system to BHP Australian Coal Pty, Ltd. Doesn't sound like quite the deal the brothers were after but they're mining coal again none-the-less.

An October 10th freak accident has resulted in a Western Kentucky miner's death. Richard Pickering, 25, had been working on a continuous mining machine at Costain Coal's No.1 Mine near Providence in Webster County when a sliver of metal struck him in the throat. The sharp fragment severed an artery resulting in unknown internal bleeding. This was the 10th mining-related death of the year.

The idled Wolf Creek Collieries underground mine which has been discussed several times in past post has also claimed the life of yet another miner. Timothy Penix, 40, was found dead on October 21st about 2 miles from the portal of the Wolf Creek No.1 mine, located on the Norfork Southern near Lovely in Martin County. Penix was a master electrician and came in contact with a high voltage cable at a junction box while removing equipment from the now sealed mine. Penix's death brought the number of Kentucky's mining-related fatalities to 11 for the year and prevented a tie with last year's record low number of 10.

1995 was the first year in the history of Kentucky mining that more miners died above ground than underground. It was also the first time in history that no deaths were caused by under- ground roof falls, "bumps", or cave-ins. The Department of Mines and Minerals has been working hard to reduce accident rates through education programs but contributes the biggest reductions in recent years to a much older and experienced workforce. The downside is that this older workforce is the end result of layoffs which tend to weed out the younger employees. Mining remains the most hazardous occupation but is considerably safer than 20 years ago when an average of 45 employees would die each year.

James River Corporation has decided to exit the mining business by placing their mining subsidiary, James River Coal Company up for sale. All four of the prep plants falling under James River control (Bledso Coal No.1 & No.61, KEM Coal No.25 and Leeco No.64) have been idled while all 200+ employees are out of work until a buyer is found. James River was the corporate parent of the Leeco operations we visited at Jeff Junction in Volume 3C.

Eastern Associated Coal Corporation issued WARN notices to all 359 employees at its Tygart River mine and preparation plant located on CSX's Fairmont Subdivision between Fairmont and Grafton WV during early December. As of this posting most of the employees are already gone with a small crew still working to close the mine portals. This closing comes just a year after Martinka Coal Company, the mine's operating identity, made a September 1994 announcement that American Electric Power's Ohio Power Company had resigned a long term supply agreement for a power plant located on the Ohio River. The coal company had then invested $17 million to open the new Tygart No.2 mine in a 50 million ton block of reserves adjacent to the exhausted Tygart No.1 mine, preserving 200 jobs and creating about 100 new ones. Mining had just gotten started when severe roof integrity problems were encountered making it very unprofitable and dangerous to continue. Peabody Coal, itself owned since 1990 by Hanson PLC, a British-American industrial corporation, purchased this mine in 1991 from AEP whose Ohio Power Company had operated it under their Southern Ohio Coal Company Division as the captive Martinka Complex. Tygart No.1, known as Martinka No.1 during this time, had operated twin longwall panels in the 60-inch "Lower Kittanning" coal seam and ranked in the top 5 of WV's largest. Peabody paid $165 million and assumed $26 million in liabilities for the mine, prep plant, 60 million tons of medium- sulfur coal reserves and a 20 year coal contract with AEP's Mitchell plant. Less than three years into the contract, AEP announced that they were switching to lower sulfur coal to meet emission standards and would not accept further shipments from Martinka. A very dirty and possibly fore-thought move on AEP's part that resulted in mass layoffs during the summer of 1994. Eastern Associated Coal Corporation (EACC), the Peabody Coal subsidiary which operates all of their WV mines, had been shipping about 2.6 million tpy from this site which sits directly on the banks of a tight bend in the Tygart River a few miles northwest of Grafton at the community of Powell. EACC will continue to fulfill the AEP contract from other CSX-served southern West Virginia mines located along the ex-C&O Pond Fork, West Fork or Seth Subdivisions.

Martinka had been the source of CSX's so-called Benwooder unit coal trains which used the trackage between Grafton and the Ohio River by way of Shinnston. (Fairmont-Parkersburg Branch- Short Line-Ohio River Subs) This had always been a favorite operation to railfan due to the daily consist with power on both ends. (And since there has been some recent internet discussion about these lines, I'll throw in my two cents) Prior to 1989, the Benwooder would depart Grafton, load at Martinka, continue to Gaston Junction near Fairmont, turn south on the Monongahela River Subdivision to Haywood, take the Short Line Subdivision westward to Brooklyn Junction, then turn north up the Ohio River Sub to the Mitchell Plant located near Benwood, WV. Thus the "Benwooder" name. In January of 1989, a 200+ foot section of the MR Sub (about a mile north of Shinnston and just across the river from Viropa) collapsed into a deep sinkhole taking a good part of a southbound Benwooder with it. CSX decided the line did not carry the tonnage required to justify repair cost so the MR was abandoned from Gaston Junction down to Haywood. The Benwooders thus had to begin taking the remains of the Parkersburg Sub (now known as the Parkersburg Branch after trackage was removed between Wilsonburg and Walker) from Grafton to Short Line Junction near Clarksburg. This seems simple enough but it caused big problems with the loading process at the mine. CSX had to start using "Martinka Turns" with both headend and pusher units to run northward up the Fairmont Sub, load, then backup all the way to Grafton. At Grafton, both crews and the power on either end were switched out and the "Benwooder" would depart along the Parkersburg Branch. The double ended power was required for both the loading process on the Martinka Turn and four 1.0% grades along the PB and Short Line. The Benwooder pushers were almost always old GP30's in full Chessie paint and I used to make a special effort to try and catch these whenever in the area.

Coal from the three previously mentioned southern WV ex-C&O lines will now have to be funnelled onto and run north up the Coal River Sub, turn west on the Kanawha Sub to Huntington, then follow the Ohio River north to the AEP power plant. Traffic on the Ohio River Sub south of Brooklyn Junction, which had seen a rebirth recently after Plant Mitchell's switch to on-site blending of very low-sulfur southern WV coal with Tygart's medium-sulfur coals anyway, will now increase, while the northern ex-B&O lines may start to collect a coating of rust.

Some good news for a change, Beech Fork Processing Inc, no relation to either the Blue Diamond or Shamrock Coal Beech Fork mines, has finalized an agreement with Arch Mineral to purchase the assets of Cumberland Coal Corporation's Pevler Complex near Lovely, Ky. This combination deep mine and prep plant, located adjacent to Beech Fork's current mining operations in Martin County, has been idled for some time and is now slated to return to full production in early 1996. Pevler was originally built in 1973 then acquired in 1982 by a joint venture between Occidental Petroleum and Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi of Italy (the Italian government's department of energy) known as Enoxy Coal, Inc. After ENI left the US coal business, Occidental turned management and sales responsibilities over to their Island Creek Coal Company subsidiary which worked the site until its (Island Creek's) sale to CONSOL. Arch had picked up the large processing complex cheap in the frenzied reorganization but failed to turn a profit at the mine. The properties will now be operated as Czar Coal Corporation and gives the combined company not only several million tons of additional low sulfur reserves, but also access to Norfork Southern's Wolf Creek Branch. Production from this site is expected to top 1.8 million tpy by late 1996 with Pevler Coal Sales acting as the exclusive sales agent.

Westmoreland Coal Company is continuing to finalize its departure from Appalachia by resolving a boundary dispute with the Ark Land Company. Ark is the operating subsidiary of Arch Mineral which has opened a new mine along the ex-Interstate Railroad in Wise County, Va. Westmoreland has agreed to release about 1.5 million tons of coal in Letcher County, Ky and Wise County which lies under Black Mountain. Westmoreland will receive about $2.5 million in much-needed cash but retains the lease rights to the land after mining is complete.


The Kodak Mining Company's Emmons Tipple, which had sat at the end of CSX's EK Subdivision's Montgomery Branch and was discussed in Volume 3D, has been removed.

The Tolson FastLoad Tipple, which is located on the EK Sub's Whitesburg Branch and had belonged to the SouthEast Coal Company, is now loading coal for Kentucky Processing.

CONSOL of Kentucky has changed the name of the Kentucky Criterion Coal Prep Plant, which was acquired from Westmoreland Coal Company and discussed in Volume 3C. The entire complex, located near Deane at the very end of the EK Sub, will now be known as the Mill Creek Prep Plant.

Pine Branch Coal Sale's Dunraven Prep Plant discussed in Volume 3B and located along the EK Sub mainline near Hazard is now wholly owned by Coal Ridge Fuels, Inc.

Jericol Mining Company and their huge Glenbrook Tipple at Holmes Mill in Harlan County is now under Sigmon Coal Company's control. This tipple is on the Clover Fork Branch of CSX's Cumberland Valley Sub and was discussed in Volume 2E.

The New Ridge Mining Company, which operates a preparation plant complex on CSX's Coal Run Subdivision in Pike County is ultimately controlled by the A.T. Massey Coal Corporation, a point I omitted by mistake in Volume 1. Massey also controls numerous other mines which we'll visit on CSX and Norfork Southern in West Virginia and on NS served branches in both Pike and Martin County KY.


The roots of what was to become one of this country's most heavily used coal routes east of the Mississippi may be traced all the way back to the summer of 1883. It was during this time that the L&N Railroad completed laying a section of track which extended south from Sinks, through London, Lynn Camp (Corbin) and Williamsburg to the humble little mining community of Jellico, directly on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. The reason for this trackage was to open up a second north-south mainline from Louisville to Atlanta. In reaching Jellico, the L&N accomplished this task by linking up with the rails of the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad that extended further southward to Knoxville and ultimately Atlanta. This northern end of the ETV&G, which was later part of Southern RR and today's Norfork Southern, was a very busy coal hauling railroad serving the numerous mining camps operating in the east Tennessee mountains along Elk Creek. If you have ever traveled south on Interstate 75 between Jellico and Lake City, these rails lie in the valley to your right or west and the scars on all the visible mountains are the end results of this mining / railroad relationship.

This arrangement was used for nearly twenty years until problems caused by having to depend on trackage rights in order to move freight southward prompted the L&N to begin construction of their own right-of-way into Atlanta. In 1902, the L&N purchased a majority of capital stock in the Atlanta, Knoxville & Northern Railroad, which ran from Knoxville, through Etowah, to Marietta, GA. That same year, a charter for the Knoxville, LaFollette & Jellico Railroad was drawn up and construction began in an effort to tie the A,K&N with the existing tracks into Jellico. The most difficult and costly section was encountered just two miles from Jellico as the rails attempted to follow Hickory Creek through a deep gorge in Pine Mountain. The 21 miles between Highcliff and LaFollette required some 3 tunnels, 14 bridges (including a high trestle spanning Davis Creek), many deep cuts and two long grades up both sides of Duff Mountain. Following the gently flowing creek provided a nice 0.3% climb from the state line for about 7 miles to Chaska. At Chaska, the rails began the assault of Duff Mountain with a 3-mile-long, 0.8% grade to Habersham which increased to 1.0% for the 4.6 miles to the summit at Duff. It was then downhill for 1.4 miles at 1.15% to Kilsyth and 5 miles at 1.0% to La Follette. Construction of this scenic section was completed in 1905 and, after securing trackage rights over the Western & Atlantic Railroad, gave the L&N their own direct line into Atlanta after 1906. (The W&A RR had been leased to the NC&StL Railroad which in-turn had very close ties with the L&N. The NC&StL was merged with the L&N in 1957) This entire route became known as the Knoxville & Atlanta Division or "K & A" eventhough it included the trackage all the way northward to Corbin.

It's interesting to note that many people have suggested that it was the construction of the K&A which caused the eventual downfall of the L&N and provided the basis for what is today's CSX railroad. Heavy borrowing and financing for construction cost allowed the Atlantic Coastline Railroad (or really J.P. Morgan and Company) to acquire a 51% majority interest in the L&N and gain control in late 1902. This was the groundwork for later expansions which included combining the L&N, ACL, Seaboard Air Lines, Clinchfield RR, Georgia RR and the West Point Route into 1974's Family Lines Systems. In 1982, the Family Lines gave way to the Seaboard System and permanently erased the L&N as an operating identity exactly 80 years after the K&A's construction. As we all know, Seaboard System and the Chessie System were then combined to form the giant CSX Transportation. What would have happened if J.P. Morgan had never gained control of the L&N? I like to imagine that the L&N would have grown fat from its Appalachian coal lines and gone on a buying spree itself. Can you visualize what a new GE CW4400AC would look like in a light grey and yellow paint scheme?

In 1970, the K&A and the Cumberland Valley Divisions were combined to form the "Knoxville Division" with offices moved to the more central location of Corbin. With the upswing in coal during the early seventies, the L&N formed a super division to better service the coal industry by joining the EK, CV, the K&A as far south as Etowah, TN and the trackage from Cincinnati to Corbin known as the KY into the Corbin Division. From this time on, the K&A has been referred to as the KD Subdivision. Under CSX, the Corbin Division absorbed not only the ex-C&O rails in far Eastern Kentucky and the old Clinchfield, but also the lines from Etowah to Atlanta and from Wauhatchie to Atlanta which both meet in Junta, Ga. Although the "K&A" was once again intact, the KD Subdivision has retained its pre-CSX mileage and designation.

With the flood of coal which began flowing down the KD to southern utility plants in Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and even Mississippi, came some welcome upgrades to the physical plant. In 1978, using funds from a 22% rate hike on coal shipments, 132 pound welded rail was installed to replace the original 100 pound jointed rail over the entire line. During the next few years, the line was double tracked between Faber and Corbin to aid congestion and smooth the flow into and out of the yards. Double track was also installed at three other locations: Between Chaska and Habersham with a crossover to aid the pusher operations up Duff Mountain, from Clinch River to Edgemoor and between Fagin and Madison. Ten sidings were also extended or installed to better facilitate meets between unit trains and now total a combined 65,371 feet in length. During the early nineties, a concrete tie replacement program began that has resulted in what is now a super duty section of mainline railroading.

Several branches radiate from the northern part of the KD Sub and were built to wind up the valleys and tap coal reserves. These were the Nancy Spur, a mile-long stretch which serviced a single loader near Woodbine, Ky. The 18-mile-long Pine Mountain West Branch, which follows the Cumberland River east from Williamsburg to reach the Gatliff Coal Company operations near Nevisdale. The Jellico Branch, which is really the original mainline trackage from Lot to Jellico and the NS yard interchange. The 12-mile-long Clear Fork Branch, which features a wye at the KD main with a tunnel on its northern leg, runs eastward along the banks of Clear Fork to reach a valley carved in the Log Mountains and served numerous tipples in the process. The Tackett Creek Branch, Straight Creek Spur and Valley Creek Spur all off the Clear Fork Branch which also service coal operations. The mile-long White Oak Creek Spur, which ran eastward from the small yard at Morley. The two-mile-long Hog Camp Branch that ran from Ilford to Westbourne, Tn. And finally, the mile-long Crooked Fork Branch from Kilsyth to Roosevelt, Tn.

The last item of interest in the Appalachian part of the KD is the pusher station which is home to the engines and crews needed to assist loaded unit trains up Duff Mountain. The station is at the community of Chaska, Tn and resides on the site of a still-intact, steam-era coaling tower. For years, pusher crews had to endure the elements in a wooden shack or seek shelter in their idling diesels until CSX finally installed a nice prefab office. Power of choice today is either twin SD40- 2's or twin GE dash 8's which hook on at Chaska and shove all the way to the summit at Duff.

As one could surmise, traffic on the KD Sub is mainly unit coal trains which share the rails with several daily autorack (Q209, Q210, Q211, Q212, Q213, Q215, Q228), intermodal (R141 & R142) and general merchandise (R542, R548, R549) freights. Most of the unit coal trains are destined for plants outside KD territory with the exception of two TVA-owned steam generating facilities. The first is the Bull Run Steam Plant located on the Clinch River near Oak Ridge, TN. This plant was completed in 1966 but began stockpiling on September 7, 1965 using new radio- controlled hoppers(TVAX). This smaller, two unit facility presently uses around 2.5 million tpy, all of which comes from CSX mines in Harlan County. The second TVA plant is the massive nine unit, Kingston Plant located on Watts Bar Lake off the Cow Creek Branch west of Knoxville. This plant consumes around 5 million tpy of which about half is originated from ex-L&N east Kentucky mines. Many of the trains on the KD rattle down the rails in hoppers (GALX, GGPX, GUAX) bound for various Georgia Power plants such as Bowen, Harllee, Yates, McDonough, Mitchell, Hammond, Arkwright and Wansley. Others move much further south to utilities such as Florida Power(ELFX & KPXX), Lakeland FL City Utilities(LAKX), Jacksonville City Power(SJRX), Orlando Utilities (OUCX), Alabama Power(ECGX, JHMX & APOX), Mississippi Power(DEGX) and South Carolina Power(SCWX). Additional tonnage can be found moving in CSX company hoppers(the 100 ton ex-L&N, Chessie, B&O, C&O and WM hoppers are becoming rare, having been replaced recently with new or rebuilt CSX bathtub rotary dump hoppers), leased hoppers (with just about any and all reporting marks such as TILX, UPM, WSOX, URDX, NIHX, HELX, SPSX) and, every now and then, in RWSX hoppers to the Scherer Electric Generating Facility, eventhough that plant mainly burns Powder River Basin coal from Wyoming. Like you'll see should you decide to visit, there's never a dull moment on the KD. For each southbound loaded train exist a northbound empty counterpart which often causes near gridlocked conditions, but always results in a great show.


Just for the record, listed below are the major milepost and stations for the entire 161.4 mile KD Subdivision. We will only be focusing on the northernmost 38 miles from Corbin to Chaska. The location of the talking defect detectors are also shown and are helpful for tracking train movements if you own a scanner. These operate on the old L&N road channel 1 of 160.370 Mhz and give location, speed, length, number of axles and location again. Milepost prefixes of C indicate the mainline trackage while CO now refers to the Pine Mountain West Branch; beginning to end. During the L&N years(L&N has controlled this line since 1905), the Pine Mountain RR used milepost prefixes of CO from the junction switch at Savoy to Nevisdale, sixteen miles away, where the Patterson Creek Spur continued 2 miles further to a new mine with a prefix of CZ. After being officially absorbed by the L&N during the 1980's, the CZ was dropped in favor of just adding 2 miles onto the CO prefix. South of here is the short Jellico Branch which runs from Lot to Jellico with a prefix of KN and the much longer Clear Fork Branch which uses KM. Both of these are shared with the Norfork Southern whom prefers to use their own milepost prefixes of C and can be confusing so I'll stick with the CSX preference. Major branches and yards are shown in bold while branches off of branches are shown in lower case. Of special interest are the 26 derailment indicating lights located between the C201.6 and C218.0 mile markers along Duff Mountain Grade. This section of trackage is highly dangerous due to the many back to back reverse curves as the rails climb uphill. These special lights will remain lit at all times unless a derailment or some type of dragging equipment is detected in which case all 26 will switch off. Upon encountering dark indicators, the train must be stopped at once and a walking inspection performed before preceding. A pain in the rear, but this has prevented several major mishaps since being installed. In addition to the Duff Mountain lights, audible defect detectors have been installed on the slight grade (no helpers required) between milepost C230.0 and C237.7. This system is called an "Integrity System" and broadcast an "Integrity Message" to the engineer at both Jacksboro and Lake City after the train has exited the grade. If the engineer either can't understand the message or fails to get one at all, the train must be stopped and a walking inspection performed. All part of the task of moving these 9,000 ton unit trains through the mountains.
C 172.0   Corbin Terminal
C 174.8   Bacon Creek
C 178.0   Faber
C 185.9   Wofford
C 194.3   Pleasant View--Defect Detector
C 199.3   Saxton
C 203.0   Highcliff
C 206.0   Holton--CLEAR FORK BRANCH---Tackett, Straight and
--------------------------------------Valley Creek Spurs
C 207.0   Morley--YARD--WHITE OAK BRANCH
C 210.1   Chaska
C 212.0   Oaks
C 213.1   Habersham
C 214.0   Ilford--HOG CAMP BRANCH
C 217.6   Duff
C 219.9   Kilsyth--CROOKED FORK BRANCH
C 226.7   Lafollette--Defect Detector
C 229.2   Jacksboro
C 244.2   Granite
C 246.3   Leinarts--Defect Detector
C 250.0   Dossett--COW CREEK BRANCH
C 252.0   Clinch River
C 254.9   Edgemoor
C 265.5   Defect Detector
C 268.5   Amherst--THIRD CREEK SPUR
C 275.8   West Knoxville
C 283.9   Singleton
C 289.0   Armona--MARYVILLE BRANCH
C 292.0   Defect Detector
C 296.6   Binfield
C 311.3   Defect Detector
C 312.8   Fagin
C 316.0   Madison

On to part 4b
Back to the Index

Coal Tower
Back to the Main Yards
W&H Herlad
Back to the W&H RR Co.