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


Today we'll look at the coal loading sites that dot the busy CC Subdivision mainline through central Kentucky. This report will complete my coverage of the ex-L&N lines which are used to extract black diamonds from the Appalachian coal formations under Eastern Kentucky. As we'll soon see, the CC is an almost mirror image of its southern cousin, the KD Subdivision, minus the coal producing branchlines. This goes as far as also having pusher stations, concrete ties and only a single active loadout along its entire original 186.8 mile mainline length.

OK, you asked for it, you got it. This report marks the first time I've attempted to add photographs to help you visualize just what it is I'm talking about. I'll document in the text which photo goes where by adding the file names in parentheses such as (CC001.jpg) at the appropriate spot. At the end of this report will be a section describing each photo and the file size so you can decide which ones you would like to download. These are all prints, taken by yours truly, scanned on an HP ScanJet IIC at 150 dpi as a *.bmp file, converted to *.jpg and notes added with Paint Shop Pro, uuencoded with Wincode V2.6.1 and posted to the alt.binaries.pictures.rail usenet newsgroup. Unfortunately America Online has a 28K maximum transmitted file size, so most of these will have several parts. I'm still saving for a Nikon CoolScan which will increase the quality by allowing me to scan slides but that's still a few months away for now. The files also have a *.txt postfix so you may have to rename these prior to unencoding them; sorry but it's the only way I have to do this right now. All of these WILL NOT be posted the same day as you receive this post, I plan on uploading the first 6 with this report then 2-3 pic per day following the report with a note posted to the Railroad List. If anyone knows an address for or how to E-mail post to the alt.bin*** newsgroups, please let me know. I now must be online to post each section of the pictures, a time consuming and costly act under AOL. Thanks and enjoy!


As of January 23, Wolf Creek Collieries has ceased "all" operations at their large processing facility in Martin County including rail shipments. We have discussed this site several times recently as a result of the closing of the Wolf Creek No.1 mine, however, the prep plant had continued to operate on a very small scale by processing contractor-mined, truck-delivered coal. I ventured over to Martin County just after the announcement and talked to several Norfork Southern and mine workers at a nearby processing plant. The rumor in the area is that Wolf Creek is up for sale with the interested buyer being none other than Czar Coal, the same company which has just purchased the old Pevler Complex at the end of the Wolf Creek Branch. Everyone seems to have heard the plant will sit idle for one year in order to break a union hold on the mines and then reopen in 1997 using a non-union workforce. (CC008.jpg)

Tulsa, Oklahoma-based MAPCO Inc., the parent company of three operations on the Norfork Southern's Wolf Creek Branch and 4 other mines in Illinois, Maryland and Virginia, has sold 75% of its mining interest (MAPCO Coal, Inc.) to the New York-based Beacon Group Energy Investment Fund LP. MAPCO and Beacon will form a limited liability company which will manage the assets of the mines, now valued at about $310 million. MAPCO, whose founder once actually controlled (and made his fortune from) the Missouri, Kansas and Texas (KATY) Railroad, will now focus on its core business units of oil refineries and natural gas distribution pipelines. This announcement was unexpected as MAPCO had just invested over $30 million during 1994 to expand the surface operation at the Martin County Martiki Mine (Most of MAPCO's newer mines ended with "tiki", such as Martiki, Pontiki, Toptiki, Mettiki, etc.) to extend its life and had also recently closed a deal to purchase the Virginia metallurgical coal mines near Oakdale belonging to Koch Carbon. Profits for MAPCO during 1994 were $36 million on $425 million in coal sales and just $26 million on $2,169 million in petroleum sales. Looks to me like they were doing better in coal than oil so why they decided to dump the mining business is unknown? (CC009.jpg)

Lord Hanson, founder of Hanson PLC, the parent corporation of Peabody Coal Company and the union-free Eastern Associated Coal Corporation has announced that he will split his holdings into four separate companies to better serve the businesses. The four new companies will focus on energy, tobacco, chemicals and heavy equipment. This is predicted to trigger a new acquisition spree of mines in Appalachia as Peabody and EACC are allowed to operate under new management.

The Harlan and Bell County preparation plants belonging to New Horizons Resources remain idled and up for sale. A trip by the triple processing facilities on CSX's Merna Spur of the CV Subdivision found the normally full coal stockpiles completely empty and only a single car present belonging to the guard. A very sad sight indeed if you have ever seen the scale of this complex in full operation.

Ashland Coal has announced that they will soon recall 140 miners and reopen their idled Hobet No.7 mine and No.12 prep plant in Mingo & Logan Counties in West Virginia on a much scaled back basis. No.7's sprawling mountaintop removal project is to be discontinued with operations resuming by use of highwall, deep and small scale surface mining methods. Twenty-nine of the 260 furloughed miners had already been transferred to Hobet's No.21 mine located in Boone County. The massive Marion 8200 dragline, which had been truly awesome to watch in action, is now in the process of being dismantled and moved to Ashland's Dal-Tex surface operation in nearby Logan County. A move which will take the better part of a year to complete. CSX's rusting Pine Creek Subdivision will thus return to active service while the heavily used Coal River Subdivision will soon see the increased output which the "New Horizons" dragline will bring to the Dal-Tex mine. (CC010.jpg)

Both of the Cyprus-Amax surface operations (Lost Mountain & StarFire Mining) in Perry County have recalled all furloughed miners and are now back in operation. This has returned the two idled loadouts on CSX's EK Subdivision to full capacity and revived the action around the Hazard Yards. One minor setback occurred during early January when all 200 members of UMWA Local 5890 walked off the job at the StarFire Mine in protest of a grievance filed by a laid-off worker. This person claimed that StarFire had rehired a co-worker with less seniority and had wrongly required him to requalify for his old job. The dispute was quickly resolved within a 24 hour period with CSX never feeling the effect. This just goes to show how highly volatile the Appalachian mines, and thus the railroads, can be. (CC026.jpg)

There are a few corrections for the Volume 4 report thanks to several fellow railfans and some additional information thanks to my father and Richard Hosker.

1) The CSX defect detectors operate on a frequency of 161.370Mhz not 160.370Mhz. My typo, sorry!
2) The TVA Bull Run Steam Plant is one large single-unit facility not a dual- unit plant. When opened in 1966, this complex was the largest single- unit, coal-fired plant in the world.
3) The concrete tie installation on the KD actually began during the late 1980's and was completed in the early 1990's.
4) The radio-controlled hoppers which served the Bull Run plant were owned by the L&N. These gave way to TVA company hoppers (TVAX) after problems were encountered with the L&N cars such as stray radio signals causing premature bottom door openings, usually while in route and at speed.
5) The Cow Creek Branch does not actually serve the Kingston Steam Plant. The original L&N line was submerged with the flooding of Watts Bar Lake and now only extends as far as a connection with the NS at Oliver Springs. CSX uses trackage rights to reach the TVA's unloading looptrack or sets cars out at the old L&N Cane Creek Yard where TVA switchers shuttle the loads to the dumper at their convenience.
6) The Oak Ridge Spur serves a lumber yard in Oak Ridge and the Department of Energy's Y-12 Plant. The spur sees two trains powered by GP40s originating and terminating at the yard in West Knoxville, symboled C740 & C741 respectively, which normally consist of tank cars carrying a wide variety of cryogenic gases and MHAX helium cars.
7) Willoughby, at KD milepost C275.8, is an interlocked crossing with the Norfork Southern's Knoxville-Chattanooga line. This is NS's Tennessee Division and sits at their milepost 132.3A.
8) The Tackett Creek Branch (which I still have yet to find the end of) is alternately referred to as the "ARCO Spur". This line apparently serves a loadout known as ARCO which had held a contract with Georgia Power until a few years ago when the contract was bought out, thus idling the mine. David Clarke reports that a unit train also known as the "ARCO" ran on the NS by way of Clinton and Knoxville using bathtub hoppers sporting a large emblem stating "Quality Fuels for Electric Living" on their sides. Searching all my data, the only reference to an "ARCO" mining company is with Atlantic-Richfield's ARCO Minerals subsidiary which operates several mines in Colorado and has never had direct ties to Appalachia. I'm still trying!


The history for the northern end of the CC Subdivision has been covered in Volume 3A where we discussed the mainline, the Paris-Maysville Branch, the Old Road Subdivision, the LCL Subdivision, and even some history behind the Ohio River bridges. Now lets take a quick look at the rails south of Winchester's Patio Yard and the EK Subdivision interchange. Let me first recommend an excellent article by Garland McKee which appeared in the January 1991 issue of "CTC Board" magazine and covered the CC Subdivision from end to end along with very detailed track diagrams. The current issue of "Trains" magazine also has a feature article on the Corbin Division's CC & KD Subdivisions which is well worth a look.

During the mid to late 1800's, an assortment of trackage running in various directions over Central Kentucky were molded into what CSX now likes to call their CC Subdivision. The history behind this heavily used mainline begins something like this. The Kentucky Central Railroad Association laid the basic groundwork for what would later become the CC by acquiring tracks running between Covington and Lexington by way of Paris from the Covington & Lexington Railroad Company in 1861. This section of trackage, which was built in the early 1850's, was reorganized into the Kentucky Central Railroad in 1875. The KCRR then specialized in passenger service to Lexington and transportation of burley tobacco from Central Kentucky farms to other rail connections at Cincinnati.

As discussed in Volume 4, in an effort to gain access to Atlanta, the L&N had extended rails from Louisville, southeast to Sinks, then due south through Corbin to the small community of Jellico and an interchange with the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad. Known as the Lebanon Branch, this feat required the construction of nine tunnels, eight of which sit between the 25 mountainous miles from Mount Vernon to East Bernstadt (a.k.a. Bourne), and a six mile, 1.35% grade which also crest at Bourne. The grade, known as "Crooked Hill", is the most torturous on the former L&N due to the 37 curves along its steep six mile length (twenty of these being reverse curves) and has been a pusher district from day one.

During 1885, the Kentucky Central completed construction of a line from Paris to Sinks for the purpose of connecting to and interchanging traffic with the L&N. This trackage also traversed the same mountainous region as the L&N's Lebanon Branch and required boring some 16 tunnels, 7 of these being between Wildie and Sinks. Two 1.1% grades were required to cross the Kentucky River Valley with both starting near the river itself at a station referred to as Ford. The ten mile northbound grade runs from the bridge at Ford up to a small yard at Patio, while the 11 mile southbound grade known as Richmond Hill actually begins a little south of Ford, cresting at Fort Estill.

After all this work, the mighty Kentucky Central, which now boosted around 150 mainline miles, only lasted about 6 more years. The much larger L&N acquired the KC in late 1891 and named the entire line through to Corbin the Kentucky or "KY" Division. This move opened a second through route across the state (The first being the namesake 187 mile Louisville to Nashville line by way of Bowling Green completed on October 27th, 1859.) and provided a gateway at Cincinnati for the bituminous which began flowing off the CV Division by way of Corbin after that line reached the coalfields around Middlesboro in 1889. The purchase of the KCRR by the L&N was thus actually prompted by our old friend, KING COAL.

The L&N already had a roundabout route from the newly developing coalfields into Cincinnati by way of the Lebanon Branch to Louisville then eastward on the new LCL Subdivision. The LCL Subdivision had been acquired in July of 1881 to gain access to Cincinnati but this route required a long 282 mile journey for coal trains starting at Corbin. The KCRR purchase shortcut this route and reduced the northbound trip by over 100 miles in time to handle the traffic predicted to start rolling off the upcoming 1907 CV extension into coal-rich Harlan County. It also doomed the Lebanon Branch; traffic dwindled on this line through the 1970's and was then used only to shuttle locomotives from Corbin to the heavy repair facilities at Louisville. Under CSX, a new locomotive shop was constructed at Corbin with the Louisville facilities closed and finally removed in 1993, resulting in the line being deemed of little value and abandoned with trackage removed between Mount Vernon and Lebanon. There is currently a single plastics industry at Mount Vernon which keeps the tracks down to Sinks open, but, with the high cost of maintaining four tunnels along the way, including one under I-75, how long will this last? Railroads usually hate to maintain tunnels on even the big dollar producing coal branches, much less on a spur which sees about 25 loads per week at most.

During the period from 1906 to 1928, the section of trackage between Corbin and Winchester was double-tracked to aid what soon became a tidal wave of coal flowing from mines located on the many new branches of the CV as Harlan County was developed. All of the previously single-track tunnels now had a twin, were daylighted (KC tunnels 7, 13 & 17) or were abandoned (KC tunnels 12 & 18) in favor of boring a wider dual-track tunnel. (NOTE: The tunnels from Cincinnati to Sinks were numbered 1-18 by the Kentucky Central while the tunnels from Louisville to Corbin were numbered 1-9 by the L&N. This can be slightly confusing since coming south, the tunnel numbers jump from 18 to 6, 7, 8 instead of 18, 19, 20....) In some areas, a new right-of- way was constructed to ease some steep grades or tight curve sections.

In 1931, the tracks officially became the Kentucky Central, "KC" Subdivision of L&N's new Cincinnati Division and continued to host a parade of steam-powered coal trains operating from both the CV Division and the new (after 1912) EK Subdivision. Installation of CTC began in 1963, reducing much the dual trackage to a single mainline with long passing sidings. With the 1970's energy crisis and the increasing demand for black diamonds to supply the south with electric power, coal started moving south from mines located on the EK Subdivision. The CTC project, which seemed like a good idea at the time and resulted in single track sections up both Richmond and Crooked Hills, now created bottlenecks that tied up the new unit trains as they had to wait on pushers to assist them to the summits or double the hills. This situation still exist and is made even worse today with additional traffic originating from CSX-served West Virginia mines bypassing the ex-C&O's Big Sandy Subdivision and diverting down the CC by way of the Ohio River line from Russell. CSX has acknowledged this increased traffic flow with concrete ties along certain sections which were installed about 6 years ago to handle the repeated pounding these trains deal the roadbed. The CC is now the route of choice for anything headed into Georgia, Mississippi or Alabama while many Florida or Carolina-bound trains may choose to utilize the old Clinchfield by way of the Big Sandy Sub some 100 miles further to the east.

During 1976, the KC Sub was officially renamed the "CC" after being handed over to the Corbin Division (see Volume 4) where it has existed ever since. As I mentioned in Volume 3A, you'll never hear the term "CC" used by any of the older railroad employees; crews still to this day refer to this trackage as the "KY" just as (to steal a few quotes from Garland McKee) "God and the L&N had always intended". "Die-hard L&N people would rather swear off Moon Pies, RC Colas and Red Man chewing tobacco than call this line anything but the KY."

Traffic on the CC is a mirror image of the KD Subdivision by way of the autorack (Q209, Q210, Q211, Q212, Q213, Q215, Q228), intermodal (R141, R142) and general merchandise(R542, R548, R549) freights which simply change crews in Corbin. Further north, the CC is utilized between Cincinnati's Queensgate Yard and Latonia (LCL Sub) by two additional autoracks (Q214 & Q231) and a number of general merchandise (Q270, 510, 511, 512, 515, 518, 519, 571, 572, 573 and L512) freights running east-west over the LCL Subdivision to Louisville. Unit coal trains moving from West Virginia or the EK Sub usually terminate in Corbin upon entering the yards for service and fresh crews. Most of the same utility owned unit trains listed in Volume 4 as roaming the KD may also be found on the CC. Several additions include a Detroit Edison train (DEEX), many spot-market customers (such as Louisville Gas & Electric, Cincinnati Gas & Electric and Ohio Edison to name a few) and a three-day-per- week Kentucky Utilities (KUCX) train which moves from Arch Mineral's No.37 mine to KU's Brown Generating Facility near Danville on the Norfork Southern. These KUCX hoppers use the CC only as far north as Winchester where they take the Old Road Sub west to Lexington and the NS interchange. The CSX engines then remain on the train as it makes the 60-mile round trip down the ex- Southern RR's CNO&TP Division to the power plant near famed High Bridge.

One interesting train set operating over the CC Sub had been the dedicated unit trains moving from the old US Steel prep plant at Corbin to the steel mills near Gary, Indiana each night except on Sunday. These trains began running in 1964 after the L&N purchased two hundred, 100-ton hoppers from Beth. Car Shops and used these to shuttle raw coal from the mines at Lynch in Harlan County to Corbin. From 1964 to the early 1980's, the L&N ran two trains each day from Corbin to Lynch which included about 60 of the orange painted hoppers along with 30-40 company hoppers destined for other mines in the area. Upon their return to Corbin, the coal was processed at the rate of 12,500 tons per day and loaded back into the same hoppers. The CC part of the "Steel Train", as they were known, usually departed Corbin with around 72 loaded cars about 9:00 pm each night, arriving at the large Decoursey Yard near Cincinnati about dawn the next day. After a crew change, an L&N transfer would deliver the set to either the New York Central's Riverside Yard or the Pennsylvania Railroad's Undercliff Yard across the river depending on which carrier had been contracted to forward the loads to Gary. The L&N engines and caboose would then run lite back to Decoursey. This system worked so well that the L&N purchased an additional 200 hoppers in 1970 to cover the increased demand for coking coal by US Steel. This second order was identical to the first except for being one foot shorter and having black lettering as opposed to the original white. Today, the orange hoppers are all gone (you can still spot some here and there on bad-order storage tracks around the system), the Lynch mines sealed and the Corbin prep plant closed. Arch Mineral having replaced these with new or leased 5-bay rapid discharge (URDX) hoppers, the No.37 mine in Cumberland and a new prep plant at Cave Branch. Arch still holds a long-term contract to supply USX Corporation (US Steel) with a large portion of their 1.8 million tpy Kentucky purchases which, along with the northern utilities' regular spot market shipments from other Eastern Kentucky mines, results in the CC moving coal in both directions as opposed to the KD's south-only flow. Yet another very busy section of CSX Class 1 railroad action.

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