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

Volume 5b


Just for the record, listed below are the major milepost and stations for the entire 176.9 mile CC Subdivision as it exist today. We will only be focusing on the southernmost 50 miles from Berea to Corbin. 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 161.370 Mhz and give location, speed, length, number of axles and location again. Milepost prefixes of KC indicate the mainline trackage which had belonged to the Kentucky Central Railroad while C denotes the 1883 L&N extension from Sinks to Corbin. Branches and yards are shown in bold. Of special interest are the 16 derailment indicating lights located between the C144.5 and C154.4 milepost along Crooked Hill. These special lights will remain lit at all times unless a derailment or some type of dragging equipment is detected in which case all 16 will switch off. Just like on the Duff Mountain Grade, upon encountering dark indicators, the train must be stopped at once and a walking inspection performed before preceding. Due to several bad wrecks, a special operating instruction now requires that all hill helpers for the autoracks needing assistance up the grade be added only to the headend. I guess those 89 foot cars just don't like being pushed from behind.

NOTE: After passing to CSX control, many mile post markers were renumbered from the L&N days to reflect a re-alignment of CTC blocks. The first numbers listed below with a "KC" prefix belonged to the L&N while the second set are in use by CSX. Several stations have been deleted while several more have been added. Also, the CC no longer actually continues all the way across the river to Cincinnati. CSX has a brand new operating division call the "Cincinnati Terminal" which controls movements into and out of the Queensgate Yard as far south as Spring Lake. This includes the LCL Sub, the Newport Branch and the ex-C&O Ohio River Sub on the Kentucky side of the Ohio.

KC 110         Cincinnati
KC 110         State Line
KC 112         Covington---C&O INTERCHANGE
KC 112         Latonia---LCL SUBDIVISION
KC 113         Central Covington---NEWPORT BRANCH
KC 117         DeCoursey---YARD
KC       9.9   Spring Lake
KC      14.1   Ryland
KC      16.7   Visalia
KC 129         Kenton
KC 132  21.4   Morning View--Defect Detector
KC 136         Demossville
KC 139         Butler
KC      31.2   Lynn
KC      36.1   Catawba
KC 150         Falmouth
KC      43.7   Hayes--Defect Detector
KC      46.1   Uma
KC 158         Morgan
KC 164         Berry
KC      56.6   Robinson
KC 172  62.1   Poindexter--Defect Detector
KC 176         Cynthiana
KC      67.8   Licking
KC 179         Lair
KC      71.8   Oliver
KC 190  80.8   Paris--TTI INTERCHANGE YARD
KC      84.7   Clay
KC      89.2   Austerlitz--Defect Detector
KC      93.4   James
KC      96.1   North Cabin--OLD ROAD SUBDIVISION
KC 206  96.6   Winchester
KC      98.1   Sanderson
KC     101.8   Flanagan
KC     106.5   East Kentucky Power's Dale Steam Plant
KC 217 106.9   Ford--Kentucky River
KC     111.0   Red House--Defect Detector
KC 229         Richmond
KC 231 123.1   Fort Estill
KC 242 129.8   Berea--BEREA COLLEGE SPUR--Defect Detector
KC 247         Snider
KC     136.1   Gap
KC 252 141.5   Roundstone
KC 253         Wildie
KC 261         Mullins
KC 149.2       Dudley
*********NOTE: It's 2.5 miles from Dudley to Sinks*********
C 136.9  Sinks--SINKS SPUR
C 138.1  Calif
C 138.8  Livingston--Defect Detector
C 144.0  Perth
C 144.5  South Perth--Northernmost derailment indicating light
C 154.4  North Bourne--Southernmost derailment indicating light
C 156.8  Bourne
C 156.9  London--Defect Detector
C 158.0  London
C 159.0  Kaneb
C 163.0  Fariston
C 164.4  Frantz
C 166.2  Lily
C 171.7  Dortha
C 172.0  North Corbin


As discussed before, the Kentucky coalfields are divided into four groups for reporting purposes by the KY Department of Mines & Minerals and consist of the Cumberland Valley, Kentucky River, Big Sandy and the Western Kentucky Districts. The CC trackage being examined today passes through Laurel and Rockcastle Counties which both sit right on the edge of the Cumberland Valley District(CVD). The 437,000 tons shipped over CSX from Laurel County, however, also originates from mines in several surrounding counties including one some 70 miles east near Hazard. Laurel and Rockcastle are located on top of estimated original reserves of 408 & 102 million tons respectively, of which 70 & 16 million have been mined, or rendered unrecoverable by modern mining technology, during the last 200 years. Although there are 11 individually named seams underlying the area, only 4 support the 10 active surface mines currently in operation. These seams are the 18-inch "Unnamed", the 38-inch "Jellico", the 18-inch "Stearns No.2" and the 12-inch "Lily". The first record of coal production from Rockcastle County came in 1869 when 715 tons were surface mined while Laurel County's production opened up in 1886 with a whopping 148,000 tons of output. Last year, the largest producer in Laurel County was Whymore Coal Company, which recorded 65,233 tons from their No.5 mine to make up most of the county's total output of 94,137 tons. That's right, more coal was mined 100 years ago than during 1995. Laurel's boom days came during a ten year period from 1974 to 1984 when annual production averaged close to 1.4 million tons, with several deep mines contributing around 300,000 of those tons each year. 1981 became the all time record setting year when 1,991,279 tons were produced from 17 surface operations, three deep mines and loaded from 6 active rail sites.

Rockcastle County, on the other hand, has never been a heavy hitter in the coal mining business. Output topped 100,000 tons for the first time in 1979, peaked at 313,000 in 1983 and fell all the way to zero during 1989. During the nineties, most of the coal flowing from the area has come from seams unearthed during construction projects or small family operations mining on personal property. In 1995, the Jamieson Construction Company produced a total of 19,046 tons from 3 "mines" operating in the "Stearns No.2" seam and accounted for 100% of the total output. As can be seen from a comparison of these figures with previously reported statistics for the more eastern counties, CC originated coal is a mear drop in the bucket. One of the main reasons for the decline in the area's production is the coal's high sulfur content. Whereas Harlan County coal averages below 0.9% total sulfur content (compliance coal), Laurel County has an average of close to 2.9%. With the enactment of the Clean Air Act, Laurel and Rockcastle Counties now find themselves in the same boat with states such as Ohio, Illinois and Northern West Virginia fighting to sell to utilities equipped with scrubbers. New high sulfur coal contracts are almost nonexistent and the soft spot market for these coals has forced the area's operators out-of-business.


Since the southern terminus of the CC Sub is at Corbin, we'll once again start at the yards and work our way northward toward Berea. Take the southernmost Corbin exit (Exit #25) off I-75 and head east into town. Pass through two red lights and continue until you get to the KY26 intersection at a third light with the CSX yards and silos of Arch Mineral's Corbin Prep Plant visible directly ahead. (CC001.jpg, CC002.jpg, CC007.jpg, CC016.jpg, CC017.jpg, CC019.jpg) Instead of turning right and following the KD Sub southward as we did in Volume 4, turn left onto US25 and head into downtown Corbin. The West Yard will parallel the road for a little over a mile until you get to the next red light. Straight here will take you down Main Street(US25) while right (Lynn Avenue) will get us one block closer to the yard such that the road is only a few feet from what is known as the "Crossover" or the main switch which gives run-through trains (or "main- trackers") coming off the CV Sub access to the KD Sub. There is a CTC signal at this point visible by looking southward which is a good indication of trains to come. If this signal is green or yellow, a southbound off the CC Sub is only minutes away on the mainline and will almost always stop at the "Depot" about a quarter mile north of here.

Just across the yard to the east, the "Highline" and its bridge over the CV Sub tracks is clearly visible. (CC018.jpg) The Highline provides all trains moving south off the CC Sub access to the East Yards (or north from the East Yard to the CC) without blocking the busy CV Sub trackage and prevents congestion. This spot provides great photos should you be lucky enough to catch two trains moving at the same time.

Continue north and we'll quickly pass by the old Corbin depot which is now home to the Corbin Chamber of Commerce. This steam-era passenger station had originally been a two-story structure until it burnt during the early eighties while serving as a senior citizens center. The people of Corbin donated money to rebuild it into its present one-story configuration and moved the Chamber from an aging L&N passenger car to the more spacious building. (CC023.jpg) The Chamber's old passenger car had sat next to the mainline directly behind the Hardee's a few hundred feet south of here. CSX has a medium size office building just across the mainline from the old depot and uses this as a crew change point for the many autorack and intermodal trains running through Kentucky on the CC and KD Subdivisions. (Almost all coal & general merchandise trains enter the yards and have the power swapped before departure) You'll also find a 500-foot microwave tower next to the office which links Corbin with the CSX dispatching center in Jacksonville and is easily the tallest structure for miles. This area is another great photo spot as one can get within a few feet of the idling engines during a crew change while remaining on public lands. If you don't have a scanner, a good way to determine if a train is inbound is to look for a small white CSX pickup truck parked along the mainline between the old depot and the office building. This is the "Ice Man", who will show up about 5 minutes prior to a train's arrival for the purpose of servicing the lead engine with ice, water, towels, etc.

Continue along Lynn Avenue for a few hundred feet to the next red light. This is an intersection with Main Street(US-25) which drops down to pass under the CC Sub's tracks. You can either turn right, pass under the tracks, then take a left at the next light to follow US-25 or continue straight, cross the tracks at a gated grade crossing, then take a left back onto US-25 at an unsignaled intersection. Either way, you'll now be on the east side of the mainline and headed north on 25. There is yet another bridge under construction here which is the northern part of the Corbin traffic-flow improvement project. This bridge will ease congestion at the underpass by taking downtown traffic up and over US-25 and the CC mainline while providing a new elevated photo location.

Staying northbound on US-25, we'll quickly cross Lynn Camp Creek directly beside a higher elevation dual-track railroad bridge. (Great action photo spot during morning hours.) Just ahead, we'll pass a Marathon gas station at which point the rails will part company with US-25 until several miles north of here near Lily. Due to the number of trains running into the Corbin Terminal, the section of double track between Corbin and Lily is usually filled with crews waiting on their turn to enter the yard or fight their way north. I'm going to give directions for finding these holding spots but if you're only interested in the coal loading sites just stay on US-25 until we come to Lily.

Using a scanner, if you hear a train holding at or passing Dortha, turn left and cross the tracks on the paved road just prior to the Marathon gas station. There is another paved road which turns right immediatly after the crossing and will closely follow the rails northward. Turn right and watch for a left turning intersection about a block from here. Stay straight until you get to another intersection which features an overpass crossing the tracks on a one-lane bridge. This is Dortha and the waiting engines will normally be visible directly below you. Turn right, and, after crossing the bridge, keep to the right at the next intersection to get back to US-25 at the location of the very first Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant. That's right, good ol' Colonel Sanders was from Corbin and used this little eatery to start his worldwide chicken empire which now even has outlets in Japan and Russia. (Believe it or not, I lived in Corbin for 18 years and never once set foot inside this place. I hate chicken!)

Turn left (north) on US-25 and go about a mile to a very dangerous (it's been called Malfunction Junction for years) intersection with the 4-lane US-25E, better known as the Cumberland Gap Highway. (Now this can be confusing, US-25 runs north-south across the state while US-25E runs east- west from I-75 at Corbin over to Middlesboro.) Turn left onto US-25E and go about 1 mile to a red light at the bottom of the hill just prior to a Walmart on your left. Turn right onto KY 3431 then take the very first left onto KY 1223 which will parallel US-25E westward before turning north. Stay on this road for about 0.6 miles until you come to a grade crossing over both a switching lead for the CTA Associates (Certain Teed) plant (This plant manufactures fiberglass insulation) and the double-tracked CC Sub. Trains heard to be waiting at "Certain Teed" can always be found sitting just clear of this crossing. Many crews violate the hours-of-service-law here and must be taxied back to Corbin while a fresh crew is brought out resulting in some trains remaining parked here for up to an hour at a time.

Come back to the KY 3431/1223 intersection and turn left, heading away from US-25E. This road will take you by several rail-served industries such as American Greeting Card and National Cash Register (NCR) at which point the road curves 90 degrees right and passes an intersection with KY 1223. Stay on 3431 which will quickly get us back to US-25 at which point you should turn left and head toward London. It's been 2.5 miles from the US-25E intersection to the US-25 intersection.

Once back on US-25, go 1.9 miles to an intersection with Lily School Road at Lily. There is a Conoco Gas Station just past the turn. Turn left, then take the first right onto KY 552 about a quarter mile later to cross a short bridge over the Laurel River (Although it doesn't look like much here, Laurel River turns into a beautiful, 26-mile-long hydroelectric-recreation lake about 5 miles to the west.) then pass under the CC mainline through an automobile tunnel to enter downtown Lily. Take a right onto KY 552 (Storms Road turns left) after the underpass and follow the tracks north for a mile to a grade crossing. Both north and southbound trains heard to be waiting at "552" will be sitting here just clear of the crossing. US-25 will once again be within sight of this crossing and we'll need to cross the tracks and take a left to get headed north once again. The CC will now creep back next to the highway where it will remain all the way to London. From the KY 552/US- 25 intersection, it's approximately 3.4 miles to a highway bridge which climbs up and over the mainline next to Jasper's Scrap Iron Yard.

Located just to the south of the bridge and adjacent to the junk yard had been a small tipple belonging to Elmo Greer & Sons Coal Company. The small G&G Tipple had loaded on the 16 car "G&G" siding until its removal in the late eighties. Elmo Greer is now officially out of the coal business, however this was a stepping stone for his son, James Mel, to open MELCO Construction Company. MELCO is responsible for many heavy construction projects in Eastern Kentucky such as the 4-lane KY 80 between London and Somerset, the floodwall at Pineville, the redirecting of the ex-C&O rails through Pikeville and several projects in Harlan, Jackson & Jenkins. Looking south while on the bridge, the G&G siding is still in place and extends north from the No.1 main up to the bridge while a second spur is also visible running south from the No.2 main to service Jasper's. MELCO now has an asphalt plant just across the tracks from Jasper's on the old G&G property.

The first remaining coal loading site will now also be visible to your right (north) while on the highway bridge. (CC003.jpg, CC004.jpg) This is the idled Unit Train Coal Sales Tipple which is currently owned by the Interstate Coal Company. If you'll remember, we've visited other Interstate- owned tipples located on the CV Subdivision's C&M Branch in Clay County, the Right Fork of Straight Creek Branch in Bell County and on the EK's Whitesburg Branch. This site consist of a truck-dump, twin stacking tubes and a flood-loader spanning the "Fariston-Interstate" siding. The double switched siding itself only holds about 5 cars, however, 90 car unit trains would load here by using the No.2 main as a long switching lead. The L&N would thus give up this section of track about three times per week but the tonnage more than made up for the inconvenience. This tipple has been idled since about 1988 but is kept in good shape should the Laurel County coal industry ever rebound. Better views may be had by either taking the gravel road to the right just prior to crossing the highway bridge or taking the first paved road to the right after crossing the bridge, then taking the very next right and crossing a wooden one-lane bridge over the tracks. (This is another great photo location and is also used for getting us over to a removed tipple site described below.)

The next site can be seen by taking the first right (Fariston Road) after crossing the US-25 bridge (look for a Wilson Oil Company sign), taking the first right off this road to cross the one-lane wooden bridge, then turning left to parallel the tracks until the road turns right. This had been the location of Kentucky Blue Coal Company's Kentucky Blue Tipple. This tipple had been little more than a "truck-dump to screening device to hopper loading chute" type tipple, however it was painted a bright "Kentucky Blue" color and sported the University of Kentucky logo on one side. The operators went to great efforts to keep this site in top condition and it was always a welcome sight while traveling down US-25, up until 1985 that is. The 25 car "KY Blue" siding actually remains with the exception of the mainline switch and there is a large "mound" which looks slightly out-of-place here. This mound is a reclaimed refuse dump which is now covered in grass and used by local kids as a place to play with their 3 and 4 wheelers. This abnormal bump in the terrain is also identifible from US-25 directly behind a metal building housing the Owens Welding Company. An old trailer, which had served as an office, now houses a local family.

Get back on US-25 and continue north for 1.4 miles to a red light at the entrance to Levi Jackson State Park. The single track mainline, which has only been a few feet from the road, will now curve toward the east and out- of-sight while US-25 passes through some of London's business sections. Keep going straight and begin looking for the huge Laurel County High School on your left, quickly followed by a McDonald's at the intersection with KY 192, about 1.4 miles. Left here would get you to Exit 38 on I-75. Turn right on 192 and go 0.3 mile to an intersection with KY 229 at a red light. Continue straight through the light until you cross a bridge over the CC mainline about a half mile later. To your left (north) will be the idled structures which make up the Interstate Coal Company's transloading facilities known only as Kaneb. (CC005.jpg, CC006.jpg) This site takes up a large tract of land and consist of truck-dumps, enclosed processing equipment, two tall stacking tubes for ground storage and a small flood- loader. The site is currently not-in-use but remains in top condition due not only to the fenced-in property but the fact that this is also home to Interstate's corporate headquarters for all Kentucky operations. The structures are thus kept in immaculate condition and look good in bright blue & yellow paint. Unless you would like to hike, the best view comes from parking on the wide shoulder of KY 192 at the bridge as you head back toward US-25.

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