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


Now go back to US-25 and continue north for 3 miles to an intersection with KY 80 and the Daniel Boone Parkway. Left is Exit 41 on I-75 while right goes to Hazard. You will have passed through downtown London and 7 stop lights on the way, of which turning right at any of them would have taken you to the tracks and nice photo locations. We'll need to continue straight through this intersection and continue north on US-25 for 2.6 miles to an intersection with KY 490. On the way, you'll pass both a heavy equipment dealer and the site of a removed coal processing yard on your right. Global Parts & Equipment always has a large selection heavy strip mining equipment sitting about for inspection while the old coal yard, which was never rail served, is gone, save for several concrete forms, junk equipment and scattered coal. The rails now rejoin US-25 as they pass through beautiful downtown Pittsburg (don't blink) on their way north. This section is visible from I-75 from the 42 to 43 milemarkers.

Take a right onto KY 460 and climb up and over the tracks on a concrete bridge. To your left are buildings which house the rail-served 84 Lumber. We'll now be looking for a junction with left-turning KY 30 which will be just about 1.1 miles north of here. After crossing the bridge, the only active coal loading facility on the CC will be visible just ahead on your left. (CC022.jpg) This small site now belongs to the Denham & Lewis Processing Company and sits directly at CSX's North Bourne CTC station on a short spur off the "East Bernstadt Industrial" siding. This small plant consist of a truck-dump, open-air equipment and several coal stockpiles. Large front-end loaders are used to fill the hoppers as this site lacks an actual rail loader. This busy little plant was operated by the J&A Processing Company as their "London Coal Yard" up until about 1990 when D&L gained control. Prior to J&A, the site was operated as Western Bulk Coal. Denham & Lewis, who are not in the actual mining business, now stays very busy providing transloading and blending services for several area contractors to the tune of 437,000 tons per year. Several mines near Hazard actually truck their coal up to seventy miles in order to get a break on rail shipping charges. CSX services the Coal Yard every night except Sunday with the London Switcher under cover of darkness by exchanging 13 loads for empties which are promptly filled the next day.

Continuing northward, we'll pass a new intersection with a right-turning KY 30 (not the one we're looking for), and then a small coal processing facility also on the right owned by J&B Coal Company. This site sales house coal for home heating an is not rail related. Next on your left will be Warner Fertilizer Company which had received covered hoppers of ANFO and were transloaded in a vertical storage bin on the "Warner" siding. With the depressed coal industry in this area, its been some time since Warner has seen any ANFO action. A CSX caboose used on all locals is normally stored directly behind Warner's main building and is visible from KY 490. Next you'll come to an intersection with KY 30 at East Bernstadt which we'll need in a few minutes. Just north of the crossing is the CSX office building which is home for the Crooked Hill Helper and London Switcher Crews. The Hill Helper engines are stored across the mainline on a separate siding while the London Switcher is normally tied up next to the office on an industrial track. (CC015.jpg) Backing up to the office building is the abandoned and rusting Margin Tipple. (CC021.jpg) This small structure had be owned by RBS Coal Company and loaded on a 25 car siding known as "Margin". Much of the siding is still in place except for a short section removed in 1993 to make room for the CSX office when the Hill Helpers were moved from Livingston (the bottom of the hill) to East Bernstadt (the top of the hill). You'll often find a bad-order car set out on the active section of the Margin siding.

Continuing north on KY 490 for 0.7 miles will get you to the entrance for Stanford Timber Products. This company turns cut logs into woodchips and loads them in high-sided CSX woodchip hoppers through a neat loadout device visible from the road. The loader is served by the East Bernstadt Industrial Siding which runs all the way back down to North Bourne.

If you now return to the Hill Helper station, turn right on KY 30, cross the tracks, then turn right on the first gravel road, you'll be at the location of the removed Laurel Tipple. The tracks for the 10 car, "Laurel" siding are still in place and lead from the engine storage track. The Laurel Tipple was removed about 1990 and I never learned who had operated the site in its active years.

Since Crooked Hill is completely inaccessible by automobiles, we'll catch up to the CC mainline at Livingston by continuing away from the tracks on KY 30 for one mile to an intersection with US-25 once again. Take a right on 25 and head downhill toward Livingston. US-25 will cross over I-75 twice then come to an intersection with KY 990, 6.5 miles from KY 30. KY 990 leads uphill about half a mile to an interchange with I-75 at Exit 49. Continue north on US-25 for 5 more miles to the community of Livingston and the site of both an abandoned coal loader and the ex-Hill Helper station. As you crossed a bridge over the Rockcastle River a few miles back, we left Laurel County behind, entered Rockcastle County and began following both the Rockcastle River and the CC mainline which is located on the far bank and well hidden in the foliage. There is a right turning road (Herman Kirby Road which is named for the guy who lives at the end) at the south end of the Rockcastle River bridge which will allow you a distant view of Tunnel No.6 during the Winter. At Livingston, the tracks cross the river on a dual-track bridge (now single tracked) and come within a few feet of US-25. This had been the old Hill Helper location for years with the crew sheltered in old C&O or L&N camp cars.

Just across the tracks are the rotting timbers of the Benle Tipple. This very small wooden tipple is completely intact despite being abandoned for almost 20 years. Owned by the Benle Coal Company, this tipple had loaded hoppers on the 21 car, "Livingston" siding. (CC020.jpg) In addition to the area by the old tipple, an excellent photo location is the new KY 490 concrete bridge just a few feet north of here. This is the same KY 490 which passed through East Bernstadt but I highly recommend using US-25 for your travels.

Continue north on US-25 through downtown Livingston for exactly 3.6 miles to an intersection with a right-turning gravel road. The right turn is at the bottom of a hill directly across from the Pine Hill Holiness Church. If the church sign had an arrow on it, it would perfectly mark the turn-off. This very rough gravel road will wind back about a quarter mile before bouncing over a set of tracks at a grade crossing. These tracks belong to the Sinks Spur and the road will take us back to Tunnel No.18, an old tipple location and an old quarry site. Simply follow the gravel road for about a mile and a half, crossing the Sinks Spur two more times before coming to a dual-track grade crossing at Sinks. (Sinks was named after a unique feature of Roundstone Creek which "Sinks" down into a natural limestone cavern only to reappear several hundred feet later.) The Sinks Tunnel, L&N Tunnel No.5, is just around the corner to your right (short hike required), while the road will follow the rails northward for about a half mile until coming to an open area known as Mullins with the dual-track Tunnel No.18 visible to your left. This is one of the few sections of true double track mainline still in use on the CC and extends from Dudley at milepost KC149.2 down to Calif at milepost C138.1. There are several abandoned mine openings here which had belonged to the Mt. Vernon Quarry Company and can be quite dangerous to venture into as well as the original single-track Tunnel No.18. The area by the rail tunnel had been the location of the Mullins Station Tipple which was served by the 30 car, "Mullins" siding that still parallels the road. These tracks are active and used to store-bad order cars when needed. The tipple had been used to load ballast mined at the quarry and was a supplier to the L&N during its active life.

Get back to US-25 and continue the way we were going for 3 miles. You will now be coming up on I-75 and Interchange #59 at Burr. We need to start looking for KY 1004 which is the right turn just prior to the on-ramp for northbound I-75. Turn right onto KY 1004 and follow this road for 3.4 miles to a grade crossing at the bottom of a steep hill at the small community of Orlando. Just after turning onto 1004, you will cross directly above the east portal for L&N's Tunnel No.4 which takes the Sinks Spur under I-75 and on into Mt. Vernon. After crossing the CC mainline, you'll cross Roundstone Creek over a long concrete bridge then come to a intersection. KY 1004 turns right while we will need to take a left on KY 1912 and quickly cross a much smaller bridge over Brush Creek. Take the first left after this bridge and follow the one-lane paved road as it parallels Roundstone Creek back under the tracks. Just above you will be the southern portal of Tunnel No.15 while the abandoned abutments and supports for the removed No.2 mainline bridge will be visible to your left. The road will wind around a small hill then cross a new bridge over Cove Branch. Take the first right on a gravel road after crossing this bridge and you'll end up between Tunnels No.14 and 15 at a spot known to the L&N as Brush Creek. Tunnel No.14 has an abandoned twin (CC014.jpg) which is open and may be explored while the short 75-foot "Needle's eye" Tunnel No.15 stands by itself across Roundstone Creek. The old No.2 or northbound main had passed through this ridge by way of a deep cut. This is the ultimate CC Sub photo location as it's possible to get great pictures of a train stretched through Tunnel No.15 by shooting through the old northbound cut.

Now get back over to US-25, turn right, pass under I-75 and go two miles to an intersection with KY 150 at a stop light near downtown Mt. Vernon. There should be a BP station on your right. Continuing straight on KY 150, the Sinks Spur will once again come within a few feet of the road and quickly pass by structures belonging to an active Mt. Vernon Quarry which has conveyors crossing over both the road and tracks. There is a long rail siding which ends at the quarry and runs back to an inactive fertilizer company in downtown Mt. Vernon that's now used to store cars destined for the plastics plant just ahead. One mile from the 25/150 intersection is Old Somerset Road which turns right at an old blue house and crosses the Sinks Spur. Turning here will get you a good view of L&N Tunnel No.2, one of four still active on the Sinks Spur. One half mile on KY 150 from the tunnel is the entrance to MVP Technologies Inc., better known as Mt. Vernon Plastics. There is a switch just past the driveway which leads to the twin storage tracks at the plant. The Sinks Spur continues about 300 yards west of here and is used as a switching lead for the plant. Beyond that point, the rails have been removed all the way to Lebanon. MVP currently receives about 20-30 cars per week of plastic pellets or chemical solvents in covered hoppers and tank cars.

Now get back to the I-75 interchange and turn northward on the Interstate (toward Lexington) for three miles to Exit 62 (Mt. Vernon/Renfro Valley). On your left, the Sinks Spur tracks, which have just exited Tunnel No.4, are visible as they climb uphill northward then curve westward to pass through Tunnel No.3. (Tunnel No.3 is not visible from the Interstate and requires a hike) At Exit 62, get off the interstate, turn right on US-25 once again, pass by the Renfro Valley Entertainment Complex, and go 4.5 mile to the community of Wildie at an intersection with KY 1617/KY 1786. (If you like country music, Renfo Valley is the site of many big-name concerts and a nightly barn dance. Not really my style.) The CC mainline has once again made an appearance and there is a small propane storage tank located on a short spur right next to the road. Parson's Gas Company currently receives about one car spotted here each week or as required to serve the area's needs. Turning onto KY 1786 will let you follow the tracks back to the south for several miles but there is nothing of real interest back that way.

Continue north on US-25 for 3.7 miles as the road follows the longest section of tangent track on the CC. This is a great area for pacing trains with a video-recorder if you can keep up with them. The speed limit for autoracks is 60 mph while US-25 is often backed up with slow moving cars. Often worth a try!

We'll soon pass by the northern-most coal tipple on the CC Sub. This abandoned tipple had belonged to RBS Coal Company as their Plant No.4 and still stands fully intact. (CC024.jpg, CC025.jpg) A fairly simple structure, a 150-foot-long conveyor moved processed coal from the crushers southward to a tall, twin chute loader. The 25 car capacity, "Snider" siding is still in place and currently used for MOW equipment storage or as needed. Late last year, a long cut of welded rail cars were stored here for quite some time.

Continue north on US-25 for 2.5 miles to the location of Albert R. Mooney's Jewelry Store on your right. In passing by the 27 mile marker for US-25, you'll have paralleled KC Tunnel No.11 at Gap. Parking at Mooney's, one can hike down a gravel access road to track level and get some great tunnel shots as trains speed through the bore.

Continue north for 2.5 miles to a Tee intersection at Berea with KY 909 and KY 21. KY 909 turns left and takes you over to Exit #76 on I-75 while KY 21 and US-25 turn right and heads into Berea. Turn right and go just about 0.3 miles to an intersection with Lester Street to your left. There will be a sign for Foley's Florist & Gifts and Parker O-Ring Division marking the turn. The CC mainline tunnels under US-25 at this point and the tall fences on either side of the road just ahead protect speeding trains from falling debris. Turn left on Lester and drop downhill to track level. The old Berea Station and freight house are still intact and located just to your right. (CC013.jpg) Looking south will be the northern portal of KC Tunnel No.10.

And this is where we'll stop. You can follow US-25 northward through Berea to downtown Richmond then take a right on KY 388 at the courthouse as that road follows the tracks over to Boonesborough on the Kentucky River. At Fort Estill, just south of Richmond, is the Bluegrass Army Ordinance Depot and one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the United States. This site has an extensive rail network which is VERY off limits to the public. Some of the trackage and many of the small "igloo's" used to store nerve gas are visible from the road but be warned, the use of deadly force is authorized and enforced so KEEP OUT. Other rail served industries near Richmond include Phillips Lighting, American Tape Company, 84 Lumber, Sherwin Williams Paint, Madison Grocery and Okonite Cable Company. All of these are just off US-25. East Kentucky Power has a small coal-fired plant at Ford known as the W.C. Dale Power Station which is rail served but currently only receives coal shipments by truck. (CC011.jpg, CC012.jpg) As KY 388 intersects with KY 627 at Boonesborough, turn right, cross the Kentucky River, then take the first right to follow the river back to Ford. KY 627 can later be used to get you over to Winchester and Patio Yard.

Topographical maps for the region covered today include: Corbin, Lily, London, Bernstadt, Livingston, Mt. Vernon, Wildie, Berea and to some extent, Richmond North and South. Listed below are file names, file size and short descriptions for the accompanying photos. After that is an attempt at a track plan for the complex little community of East Bernstadt. In the next post, we'll move east to visit CSX's Russell Yard and the ex-C&O trackage along the Big Sandy River. As always, I enjoy feedback, so contact me at RDV2@aol.com with any comments, corrections, additions or criticisms.

GUIDE FOR PHOTOS POSTED TO atl.binaries.picture.rail

NOTE: Some of these pictures were taken on my last trip to Corbin on February 11th. Unfortunately, it was getting late and very overcast with snow flurries resulting in some less than ideal pictures. Next time I go south, I'll retake these and repost. They are marked (Hazy) and are good enough to see the intended subject but not up to scanning standards.


A short word about the trackage in this interesting little area. Just behind the D&L facility is the North Bourne CTC cabinet which marks the north end of a 19,234 foot passing siding. North of here is the single tracked grade down Crooked Hill. A few feet north of the passing siding switch is a switch leading to the East Bernstadt Industrial Siding (EBIS) which starts here and runs about two miles north to a woodchip facility on the east side of the main. D&L is served by a 13 car siding which comes off on the east of the EBIS and runs back southward. Next is the siding for Warner Fertilizer which begins north of the KY30 crossing and runs south to the ANFO storage bin on the east side of the EBIS. South of the KY 30 crossing is a switch on the mainline leading to the Hill Helper tracks on the west side of the main. Just north of the KY 30 crossing is another switch which comes off the Hill Helper tracks on the west side and runs north to the old Laurel Tipple site. Just south of the CSX office is a switch for the northward running Margin Siding. The EBIS then parallels the main northward for about one mile to the Stanford woodchip plant.
                             EAST BERNSTADT
<---Corbin                      NORTH--->                  Cincinnati--->

_________Laurel Siding
Main             84    ____         Main                  ___/__________
Hill Helper Track
  \_________________/ \___________________________________________
   Bourne Passing    ___________/   ___/     \__________                 
EBIS    Stanford
                                D&L Siding    ANFO       Margin Siding    

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