CONSOL had been supplying Mount Storm by conveyor from their nearby Grant County mine at the rate of two million-tons- per-year and a cost of $32.96 per ton while Mettiki supplied the power plant with 1.3 million tons by rail last year at a co st of $33.30 per ton. As of March, the Commission could find nothing wrong and gave the contract their stamp of approval. CONSOL now faces the task of closing the ex-Island Creek Coal Company Potomac Mine and handing out 300 pink slips to miners. Prior to 1986, the Mount Storm power plant had been partly supplied from a captive mine owned by Virginia Power and operated under their Laurel Run Mining Company subsidiary. The mine, known only as the No. 1 Mine, had operated a longwall unit in the 78-inch "Upper Freeport" coal seam since 1973 and recorded a peak output of 1.2 million tons in 1985. At that time, the mine had been rail served by CSX on an ex-Western Maryland branchline several miles from Mount Storm near Bayard. In an attempt to avoid the cost of opening a replacement for No.1, which was very near the end of its reserves, Virginia Power sold Laurel Run to the Lexington, Kentucky-based Island Creek Coal Company. Island Creek never released the actual purchase price but Virginia Power reported a $26 million dollar capital gain and had earlier stated that developing a new mine would have cost $70 million, pushing the estimated deal to near $100 million dollars. After securing the Mount Storm contract for 2 million tpy, Island Creek developed a new portal into the "Upper Freeport" seam and constructed a cleaning plant adjacent to the power plant called the Potomac Mine West Portal. Island Creek already had two other nearby mines in the Freeport seam near Bayard known as Dobbins and North Branch which they phased out. With 2 million tons now flowing by conveyor, the need for a rail spur was minimal and the No.1 Mine, which is still connected underground to the West Portal, was deemed redundant and abandoned, a move which has ultimately caused the closure of a twenty-plus year-old mine. CONSOL had acquired the site during the 1993 purchase of Island Creek Coal from parent, Occidental Petroleum.
On the CV Subdivision, the ex-Richlands Coal Company Barbourville Tipple, acquired by Gatliff last year, is in the process of being demolished. During March, all of the siding and conveyors had been removed and the dirt fill leading to the truck- dump was bulldozed level. The original wooden Barbourville Tipple, which sat just adjacent to the more modern version, has also been completely removed. I had high hopes in Volume 2A of this site returning to active service cleaning Knox County coal but this is just not to be. (CV002.jpg)
Just about two miles south of the Barbourville Tipple, Gatliff's high capacity Ada flood-loading site (a.k.a. The Bituminous Tipple) now also sits idled with its coal stockpile completely depleted. Closer inspection revealed rusted tracks, an open gate to the storage yard with no guards present and chained up control room for the loader. Gatliff may also have this site slated for demolition, however this would almost permanently end their presence in Knox County forever, a step they m ay not want to take after spending the money to acquire most of the loading sites here. (CV001.jpg)
In Middlesboro, on the NS & CSX jointly operated Harbell Branch off the CV, the Pinnacle Coal Company's Pinnacle Tipple at the end of the Middlesboro Yard is back in limited operation loading NS hoppers at the rate of about 5 cars per day. (CV003.jpg)
Just to the south, toward the middle of the Yard, Four Rivers Coal Company has idled their D&N Tipple and closed up the local offices. (CV004.jpg) Moving to the west out of town on KY 74 and up the Stoney Fork Spur, Lutterell Mining has completed the removal of their Ralston Bell Tipple and exited the coal business for good. On an up note for the Harbell Branch, both Apollo Coal and the Bell County Coal Corporation prep plants are running full tilt and keeping these rails brightly polished by mine runs.
Norfolk Southern is currently in active negotiations with CSX to actually purchase the trackage into Middlesboro Yard including the two active spurs to the west of town. This would end a long-held trackage rights agreement and give NS exclusive shipping rights from two large prep plants currently loading to NS only.
Over in Harlan County, all operations of New Horizons remain idled and up for sale. (Will someone please buy these!) On the Poor Fork Branch, which runs east from Loyall Yard, the tiny wooden Rhea Tipple has finally been demolished while Harlan- Cumberland Coal Company's Totz Tipple has picked up business at a fantastic rate. During early April, this older tipple was loading out at least 80 cars per day and keeping a mine run very busy. Finally, as usual, Arch Mineral's No.37 mine near Cumberland is also running at full capacity loading two unit trains every day (including Sunday) on Lynch Turns out of Corbin.
The Scotts Branch Preparation Plant and deep mine have been sold once again to an undisclosed buyer. This high-capacity facility, last controlled by Pentagram Mining, has been idled for years and continues to change hands.
Located on the Winn Industrial Track, Coal Preparation's Coon Prep Plant has been sold to Branham and Baker Coal Company. The on-site mines are now operated by a subsidiary called Standard Elkhorn Mining Inc. and are currently shipping to Consumers Power and Virginia Power.
Located at the very end of the Winn Industrial Track at Raccoon, Primary Energies Corporation has idled their PE Tipple due to lack of sales.
McCoy Elkhorn Coal Corporation is currently in the process of upgrading their Bevins Branch Prep Plant once again. When finished, the facility will include a high-capacity flood-loader fed from a new 40,000 ton, clean coal, ground storage stockpile. As of mid-May, the flood-loader has been completed minus the conveyor and the new concrete stacking tube, located on the eastern side of the facility, is about halfway poured.
Finally, Utility Coal Company suffered a disaster during March when welders sparked a coal dust explosion while completing repairs on equipment inside their preparation plant at Kilowatt. The resulting fire gutted the entire facility causing extensive damage to most of the processing equipment and the structure. Workers are currently attempting to bypass the cleaning plant to allow this site to ship raw coal through the loadout which was unaffected by the explosion. Utility Coal's future plans are still unclear as far as rebuilding. Both welders miraculously escaped serious injuries. This was the second incident to affect the Kilowatt plant this year. The first occurred when CSX derailed a shifter operating from the McCoy Elkhorn Loadout at Simmers on the Kilowatt Siding switch interrupting operations for several days while the mess was cleared.
It has also been reported that the L&O is using an ex-NS engine in the form of SW1 #1007 but I have yet to spot this locomotive even in Lexington. The L&O is based in Knoxville, TN and is privately owned by Pete Claussen who controls at least six other shortlines such as the Gulf & Ohio and the Yadkin Valley.
NS now has trackage rights on the CSX mainline from Lot to Hyde (just north of Holton, MP 205.96), where the "Clear Fork Branch" begins. This branch to Fonde is owned by, and maintained by, NS, but is dispatched by CSX under DTC rules. (Man y NS Transportation people think this is a CSX branch since that's who controls it.)
This arrangement dates from March, 1904, when the L&N and the Southern signed an agreement that would consolidate the two competing railroads they were building between Jellico and Fonde into one line, with joint usage by both carriers. Both railroads contributed right-of-way for the line with Southern being the owner and the L&N being the tenant. This arrangement continues today with NS and CSX. As for the ARCO Spur (a.k.a. The Tacketts Creek Branch) which departs the Clear Fork at ARCO Jct. (MP C 76.0), (Note the NS milepost prefixes due to their ownership) both railroads had the right to serve any industries along the line, yet there are no records of CSX/L&N rights along the spur making it a purely NS/SR operation. For more information on the ARCO Spur see the above update and pictures on the FTP sites.
Enter 1995 and the era of advanced surface mining technology. Arch Mineral has developed a new mountaintop removal strip mine to tap the remaining reserves which could not be removed by old deep mining methods and constructed Appalachia's newest coal loading facility. R.J. Corman, who has gained recent fame by purchasing ex-Conrail lines in PA, has done a wonderful job of retracking 12.2 miles of the old roadbed down to Red Warrior and installing a new rail bridge near Cabin Creek Junction with the Kanawha Subdivision. Arch's Catenary Coal Company subsidiary now operates a 2,300 acre surface operation known as the "Sample's Mine" and loads unit trains at Leewood from a large flood-loader fed from twin concrete storage silos. Catenary Coal had operated this site as the "Red Warrior Mine" since 1988, shipping about 750,000 tpy to their Paint Creek Terminal barge transloader. I'm not yet sure why the mine's name was changed but it could have been due to union hiring problems. Arch and CSX invested in the new rail line and loadout due to scheduled work on the Kanawha River's Gallipolis & Winfield locks and the 1994 installation of a new 100-cubic-yd dragline which boosted the mine's output capabilities up to about 3 million tpy. The new dual-track siding at Leewood can accommodate a 150 car unit train and sees at least three of these per week with the first being filled on April 21, 1995. These are powered by two GE units which utilize the downgrade Kanawha Sub to reach another Arch-owned barge transloader at Kenova near Huntington. I'm sure many of the old miners who spent their lives along the creek would roll over in their graves if they could only see what has invaded this remote little mountain area. Even the large, 7-track Traux- Traer Raccoon Tipple, which was located at the very end of the line, could never have matched the volume of coal now flowing from the Tom's Fork Loadout each week.
The roots of CSX's Big Sandy Subdivision can be traced back not to the Chessie System, the C&O Railroad or even a railroad company but to a set of canals, a desire to link the Ohio River with an Atlantic Ocean seaport and an unrelated man's obsession for control of a coast-to-coast transportation system. A master plan was envisioned around the turn of the nineteenth century to link the James River Canal with the Kanawha River Canal through the Allegheny Mountains and secure a link between the Ohio River and Richmond, Virginia. By the 1830's, the idea had been dropped as being impossible and an eye turned toward the small Lousia Railroad, a 23 mile line operating from Frederick's Hall to Hanover Junction which had been leased to the Richmond, Frederickburg & Potomac Railroad. In the twenty years that followed, the Louisa RR began pushing westward reaching all the way to Charlottesville and changed its name to the Virginia Central. By 1856, tracks were installed to the iron boom town of Jackson River Station, later renamed Clifton Forge after a nearby iron furnace on the James River, where interest turned to Virginia's state-owned rail line currently under construction westward from Covington with their sights also set on the Ohio River. Chartered under the name of the Covington & Ohio Railroad, the line was already surveyed through the Alleghenies and became a takeover target for the Virginia Central.
Starting in 1856, the enormous task of crossing the Alleghenies got underway by drilling some 12 tunnels and completing one of the largest fills in history (Jerry's Run containing between 1.1 and 1.5 million cubic feet of material) between Covington and Hinton. (Hinton, by the way, was named after a ferry boat operator and land owner who is said to have taken Collis P. Huntington down the New River in 1869 to look over the railroad's progress through the gorge prior to buying control of it.) Pushed across the mountains at fever pitch, this section of trackage require three abnormally long bores ( Lewis Tunnel at 4,033 feet, Allegheny Tunnel at 4,711 feet and Big Bend (a.k.a. Great Bend) at 6,450 feet) which cost many men their lives. Great Bend Tunnel is, of course, the site where the folklore of John Henry's race against the steam powered drill was born. Being the proud "driver" that he was, he challenged the new noisy machine to a race and the rest is unconfirmed legend. It's said that Henry, an ex-slave from Louisa County Virginia, beat the drill only to later lay down and die from exhaustion a short time after his victory. True or not, this only adds to the romance that is Appalachian railroading.
During a November, 1867 board meeting of the Virginia Central, a motion was brought up to change the name to the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Company to help people better identify the intended route of the soon to be completed road. The motion carried and on August 31, 1868, the Virginia RR faded into history. Short on funds due to the high cost of construction, the C&O began looking for investors and found Collis P. Huntington, who entered the game with huge amounts of capital and an obsession for owning a coast-to-coast railroad with which to show off to his friends. On July 15 of that year, the C&O signed over control to Huntington and pushed forward once again using their new found financing. On January 29, 1873, the first through train departed Richmond carrying a container of James River water and arrived in the newly named settlement of Huntington (named after guess who) where the water was ceremoniously dumped into the Ohio as a symbol of the ill-fated canal project to link these two bodies of water. On the return trip, January 31, a bottle of Ohio River water was taken to the James River as well as 4 cars of Kanawha Coalfield coal. Coal had already been flowing from this area since the 1820's, having been shipped down the Ohio by barge. Unfortunately, there were no connections with western railroads at Huntington during this time, making the entire railroad basically one big coal branchline and quickly causing cash flow problems. C.P. Huntington, who h ad over extended himself on other rail projects, found himself in deep trouble and the C&O entered receivership in 1876 only to be reorganized in 1878 and emerge still under his control.
In 1881, Huntington finally solved his western connection problem by completing the independent Elizabethtown, Lexington and Big Sandy Railroad which ran westward to a connection with the Kentucky Central Railroad at Winchester, Ky. Still, Huntington's dream of controlling a coast-to-coast railroad simply would not die and he began pouring excessive money into the Newport News & Mississippi Valley Company. This neglect of his existing railroads and unchecked spending habits resulted in the C&O entering receivership a second time in 1888 at which point he lost the road to J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilt family. These people really knew how to run a railroad and placed M.E. Ingalls in the office of president. Ingalls immediately began a campaign of upgrades and short branchline expansion into coal regions in order to generate much needed revenue.
In 1889, the C&O purchased the Richmond & Allegheny Railroad which had been built along the old James River Canal and provided a much easier grade to the ocean seaport of Newport News and provided an easy outlet for West Virginia coal. In 1890, Ingalls built the Keeney's Creek, Hawks Nest, Cabin Creek and Paint Creek Branches in West Virginia and the coal money started rolling in. Mines in the New River Valley were soon opened into seams which actually outcropped only feet from the mainline, adding much needed tonnage to eastward bound trains. Later, in 1895, he negotiated trackage rights with the L&N for shipment of coal from Huntington to Louisville by way of Winchester and Lexington and thus opened up more markets. In 1900, control of the C&O once again changed hands and wound up as part of the great Pennsylvania Railroad with George Stevens now in the President's office. At this point, we should start looking at the Big Sandy line which joined the C&O's list of holding s about 1901.
By 1890, crews had completed 50 miles of trackage from what is today known as Catlettsburg down to Whitehouse and were continuing south. The depression of 1893 dried up most of Wilder's financial backing resulting in the sale of his CC&C Railroad to Charles E. Hellier who quickly reorganized the segments into the Ohio River & Charleston Railroad Company. Hellier continued construction but began trimming his holdings in several areas. By 1895, the Big Sandy Line had entered the targeted community of Pikeville, the largest town in eastern Kentucky, and the Edgewater Coal Company had begun initial excavation work for the area's first deep mine. Hellier held onto the Kentucky rails as long as he could, but around 1900, in desperate need of cash, he succumbed to pressure from new C&O President George Stevens to sale the 100+ miles to the expanding empire. Stevens had seen the preliminary geological reports from the area and realized the potential windfall profits awaiting his company from the great Elkhorn coal seams underlying the region.
Under C&O control, the Big Sandy Line was continued southward, ultimately reaching Elkhorn City on the Kentucky- Virginia border in 1907 where several mines were opened along the banks of the Russell Fork. The rails actually split at Marrowbone Junction, about 8 miles north of Elkhorn City, where tracks were installed along Marrowbone Creek for 8 miles to the mining camp of Manco (a.k.a. Hellier) where the large Allegheny Mine opened and began shipping in 1907 also.
In 1902, Hellier had lost his struggle with creditors, and sold his remaining holdings to George L. Carter. Carter once again had the company name first changed to the South & Western Railroad and later, in 1908, brought his other companies consisting of the Lick Creek & Lake Erie, Clinchfield Northern and Elkhorn Southern all together as the Carolina, Clinchfield & Ohio Railway. By 1909, trains were running between various mines near Dante, Virginia and Spartanburg, SC. Carter knew that if his railroad was to succeed, it would have to connect to the C&O and form a bridge route. Construction began in 1912 to close the gap between Dante and Elkhorn City resulting in what could well be one of the most famous of all Appalachian railroad sections. On February 8, 1915, the first train passed from Elkhorn City to Dante and opened up both the C&O's Big Sandy Subdivision and the CC&O (Clinchfield) RR as a through traffic linkage to the Carolina's.
As the years went by, branches were constructed up numerous hollers off the Big Sandy and mainline yards were installed at Paintsville and Shelbiania (Shelby). Some of these new branches were the Middle Creek, Elkhorn and Beaver Valley(E&BV) and Beaver Creek Branches. At Dawkins, just south of Paintsville Yard, the Big Sandy and Kentucky River Railroad opened a shortline coal branch along Jennys Creek which had reached Riceville by 1915. This line soon failed and ownership passed to t he C&O which extended the line 15 miles southwest to Vail where a new mine operated by the Pond Creek Pocahontas Coal Company was at full capacity by 1930. The B&O Railroad actually attempted to compete with the C&O for Kentucky coal by building the Sandy Valley and Elkhorn Railroad from Shelby to Jenkins along the banks of Shelby Creek. This didn't work out very well in the B&O's favor for obvious reasons and control passed to the C&O about 1931. By 1944, the C&O served a total of 58 mines along the Big Sandy Subdivision which soon became the railroad's top dollar and tonnage producer. During the late 1940's, the Elkhorn and Beaver Valley Branch was extended southward 23 miles from Wayland to serve a new mine at Deane while the competing L&N pushed their Rockhouse Creek Branch some 17 miles east to serve the same site although a connection between the two was never completed until the CSX era. In 1948, an extension of the old B&O line was completed to Meade, Virginia which required the construction of a million dollar tunnel under Pine Mountain on the Kentucky-Virginia border just south of Jenkins. Known as the Meade Subdivision, this line served several small loaders and a Clinchfield Coal Company (No legal ties to the railroad but controlled by James L. Carter) prep plant until 1957 when a new plant (Moss No.1) was constructed on the Clinchfield RR's Freemont Branch and all production shifted to the new site. The C&O sealed the Pine Mountain Tunnel and retreated back into Kentucky to lick her wounds. In far southern Pike County, a branch was pushed along the Levisa Fork to reach a large mine at Dunlap. Just as at Deane, a rival railroad, the N&W, had a competing line along the Levisa, running northward out of Virginia's Weller Yard, that served the same site on adjacent rail sidings but were never connected. In the 1950's, the Big Sandy boasted a total of 14 branchlines which were long enough to be operated as C&O subdivisions. These included the: Millers Creek, Levisa, Road Creek, Beaver Creek, Marrowbone, Dawkins, Middle Creek, Stephens, Jones Fork, Elkhorn & Beaver Valley (E&BV), Long Fork, Clear Fork, Sandy Valley & Elkhorn (SV&E) and the Meade Fork. Modern day expansions include the Johns Creek Branch, completed in 1966 only to be rerouted in July of 1979 and renamed the Coal Run Subdivision, and more recently, the Bates Branch Spur completed in 1988 and the Jones Fork Extension of 1990.
During the 1960's, the C&O gained control of both the B&O (Baltimore & Ohio) and the Western Maryland and operated these independently until 1972 when all three were merged into the Chessie System. As we know from previous reports, this lasted for exactly ten years at which time the Chessie System merged with the Seaboard System to form today's CSX. Under CSX control, the operating responsibility for the Big Sandy Subdivision has bounced around a few times. From 1982 until about 1992 , these rails fell under the Huntington Division with interchange points at Deane and Elkhorn City with the Corbin Division. In 1993, the Big Sandy was moved to the Corbin Division resulting in a single interchange point at Big Sandy Junction with the Huntington Division. This move was suppose to decrease the time required for trains using the Big Sandy to access the EK Sub at Deane and the ex-Clinchfield at Elkhorn City. Prior to this move, crews had to stop their trains and use a stationary call box to contact the Jacksonville dispatcher for permission to move between divisions. 1994 saw the Big Sandy moved under the control of CSX's new C&O Business Unit, an operating unit formed after the success of the Cumberland Coal Business Unit . (KW001.jpg, KW002.jpg) These BU's are responsible for all aspects of coal movement in a set area with the C&O BU now covering all the ex-C&O lines from the Big Sandy to the Coal River Sub over in West Virginia. Recently, the Corbin Division itself has been abolished with the CC and KD mainlines moved to the Louisville Service Lane, the ex-Clinchfield rolled into the Blue Ridge Division and the ex-L&N coal branches slated to join the C&O BU shortly. In typical CSX fashion, by the time you read this, everything will probably have changed again. :-)
Traffic on the Big Sandy Sub is pretty much 95% coal as one might assume. The volume of these trains vary from day to day but can be as high as twenty sets both north and southbound in a 24 hour period. Currently, almost all of the traffic from Shelby to Russell utilize two of CSX's newer generation GE locomotives which enjoy an easy downhill run northbound or gentle climb southbound. Track elevation at Elkhorn City is 795 feet while at Big Sandy Junction, the tracks have dropped to 556 feet. That's only a 239 foot elevation change spread evenly over 126 miles making pushers unheard of until one ventures south of Elkhorn City on the ex-Clinchfield. (Pushers are actually attached at Shelby Yard and perform very little pushing until the train exits Pool Point Tunnel, just south of Elkhorn City, on the old Clinchfield. These units are then required for the entire 32 mile, 1.5% torturous climb through countless reverse curves up to Sandy Ridge Tunnel. The grade peaks inside the tunnel at about 1,800 feet with the pushers removed less than a mile to the south at Dante Yard.) Overall traffic density on the three track mainline between Big Sandy Junction and Russell Yard is the highest on the entire CSX system so one can expect non-stop action on any given day. During last Thanksgiving weekend for example, I witnessed a total of eight moves into Shelby Yard in just over an hour's period. The exceptions to the hopper movements are two dedicated merchandise trains running between Cincinnati and Waycross, GA each day which are symboled Q690 northbound and Q691 southbound. Although these are due at Russell around midnight and 8:00am respectively, you can catch them just about anytime or anyplace up and down the line. In addition to the "Q" trains, unit movements of grain in solid consist of covered hoppers also utilize these rails on a random basis. They keep no set schedule, are dependent on harvest season and often catch one by complete surprise. Most of these run as extras so keep your scanner on at all times and your camera ready!
This cut shaved a little over 2 miles off the mainline, thus reducing this three mile distance to just 4,160 feet. The maximum speed for the entire subdivision is 40 mph. Branches, interchanges and yards are shown in capital letters.
(C&O prefix RUS. CLS is also currently used along with CA) MP STATION CA 527.8 CLS 3.6 RJ Cabin-West end of Russell Yard and connection with the Northern Subdivision CA 526.1 CLS 2.1 526.1---Raceland Car Shops CA 525.4 CLS 1.4 RC Cabin CA 524.2 CLS 0.2 RE Cabin-RUSSELL CA 524.0 CLS 0.0 RU Cabin--East end of Russell Yard
(C&O prefix KAN) MP STATION CA 524.0 RU Cabin CA 521.0 NC Cabin CA 519.8 Ashland CA 516.7 Clyffeside (Yes, that's the correct spelling) CA 514.6 Catlettsburg CA 513.9 Big Sandy Junction-Kanawha Sub continues east toward Huntington, WV.
(C&O prefix BIS) MP STATION CMG 0.0 Big Sandy Junction---KANAWHA SUBDIVISION CMG 2.0 Leach (Old BIS 3.0)---Ashland Oil Refinery Plant No.1 CMG 3.0 Leach---Ashland Oil Refinery Plant No.2 CMG 5.0 Calgon (Savage Branch) CMG 7.6 LW Cabin CMG 9.2 WD Cabin CMG 13.0 Buchanan CMG 15.8 Zelda---Defect Detector CMG 17.3 Big Sandy CMG 18.5 Kentucky Power---Big Sandy Power Station Loop- track CMG 24.5 Louisa CMG 27.3 RB Cabin CMG 29.9 Torchlight---Weigh-in-motion scales---No.1 Main CMG 32.5 CH Cabin CMG 32.6 Chapman---Defect Detector CMG 37.4 KX Cabin CMG 41.8 RN Cabin (Richardson) CMG 43.5 JB Cabin CMG 46.9 Ray CMG 49.8 Whitehouse Defect Detector CMG 51.2 Whitehouse CMG 54.3 GC Cabin CMG 57.3 SK Cabin CMG 58.5 BU Cabin CMG 59.1 West End of Paintsville Yard---YARD CMG 60.2 Paintsville CMG 61.5 Dawkins---DAWKINS SUBDIVISION CMG 61.8 Van Lear Junction---MILLER CREEK SUBDIVISION (Removed) CMG 66.9 Johns Creek CMG 68.3 OX Cabin CMG 69.7 OX Defect Detector CMG 73.4 Middle Creek Junction---MIDDLE CREEK SUBDIVISION CMG 73.5 Prestonsburg CMG 80.1 EM Cabin CMG 83.4 Beaver Junction---BIG SANDY EXTENSION (E&BV SUBDIVISION) CMG 83.9 Allen CMG 88.0 Ivel---Costain Coal Prep Plant CMG 90.0 Tram CMG 90.5 Betsy Layne---Defect Detector CMG 93.6 Harold CMG 98.5 Wagner CMG 99.0 Big Shoal CMG 100.0 Coal Run Junction---COAL RUN SUBDIVISION CMG 102.1 Pauley CMG 102.3 East End Pauley CMG 103.0 Distance between CMG 103 and CMG 106 is 4,160 feet CMG 106.0 Pikeville--- Cut trimmed about 2.2 miles off the original BS mainline CMG 107.0 Patton---Costain Coal Prep Plant CMG 109.1 FO Cabin CMG 111.2 Fords Branch CMG 112.8 Shelby---YARD---SV&E SUBDIVISION CMG 114.0 East End Shelby Yard CMG 114.9 Sutton---Defect Detector (AAR Channel 66) CMG 116.1 Levisa Junction---LEVISA SPUR (Old Levisa Subdivision) CMG 119.5 Marrowbone CMG 120.2 Marrowbone Junction---MARROWBONE BRANCH (Removed) CMG 121.9 RC Junction---ROAD CREEK SPUR(Abandoned) CMG 126.3 Dunleary CMG 126.7 Dunleary Junction---BEAVER CREEK SPUR(Leased to Branham & Baker Coal Co) CMG 128.0 Elkhorn City---YARD BLUE RIDGE DIVISION--ex-CLINCHFIELD RAILROAD
CSX rails pass through all but two of counties included in today's Big Sandy District, these being Elliott and Martin, with Greenup being served by the northern end of the Kanawha Subdivision mainline as they near the Russell Terminal. Unlike the ex-L&N EK Subdivision, which has exclusive rail rights to the Kentucky River District with the exception of a new prep plant operating in Breathitt County at the very end of the Dawkins Subdivision, CSX shares the Big Sandy District with Norfolk Southern's ex-N&W rails which reach into both Martin and Pike Counties on branchlines extending across the Tug Fork from the Pocahontas mainline. With the completion of the 4-lane US 23 from Pikeville to Ashland, CSX and NS have both come to realize yet a third competitor for coal transport from this area in the form of highway trucks headed to as many as 20 barge transloaders near Ashland and Huntington. Southbound CSX trains departing Big Sandy Junction must pass ten exclusively truck-served transloaders during the first ten miles of their trip while just across the river, NS has rail access to four different sites. CSX-hauled coal must first cross into West Virginia prior to being dumped into barges for a ride on the Ohio.
The Big Sandy District, sits on top of estimated original combined reserves of almost 26 billion tons, of which only about 3 billion have been mined, or rendered unrecoverable by modern mining technology, during the last 200 years. Prior to the arrival of the C&O at Huntington in 1873, coal had been produced from Boyd, Greenup, Lawrence and Carter counties and moved to markets on the Ohio. Greenup opened up the coal production industry in 1824 with 500 tons of recorded production closely followed by Boyd and Lawrence in 1838 and Carter in 1866. Mining started to catch on and began migrating southward, with both Johnson and Martin counties reporting small amounts of production (less than 200 tons each) in 1879. The discovery of the Great Elkhorn Seams in 1889 and the predicted arrival of the railroad brought the last four holdouts into the mining business. Pike County, which sat on over 300 combined feet of coal seams, recorded 1,962 tons that year as opposed to Magoffin County's 5,404 tons. This was a balance which quickly tipped in favor of Pike County and has never changed. Annual production from Pike now averages over 33 million tons, easily Kentucky's top producer and more than double No.2 Harlan County's 14 mil lion tons. Combine all ten Big Sandy counties and you get 61.6 million tons of production shared between CSX, NS and the Ohio River. CSX and NS recorded moving 43.4 million tons during the last year while the balance is transported down the Ohio River or moved to nearby power plants by truck. Unlike all other Appalachian states which have local power generation stations, Eastern Kentucky does not use a conveyor system to supply a single utility.
Underlying the Big Sandy District are 71 major coal seams of which 52 supported operational mines last year and a host of thinner or "rider" seams which are often mined during surface operations and the resulting production combined with the major seam. (Rider seams usually "ride" anywhere from a few inches to a few feet above or below a major seam and range from several inches to several feet in thickness. Many times, these seams are of poor quality and are discarded as refuse along with the overburden while some are actually named, such as the Lower Elkhorn Rider, and fully support a mining operation themselves. Counting the rider seams would place the Big Sandy seam count well into the 150+ range.) Listed below in tabular form are the 71 major seams, the maximum reported seam thickness, the number of licensed operating mines, total yearly production in tons from the seam and the largest producer operating in the seam. (I'm adding this as a request from at least 6 people who want realistic names for their model railroad layouts.) (Please note that several of the following companies have changed names or idled operations during the past year. These will be discussed later.) (Data is from KCMIS)
SEAM NAME THICKNESS # MINES PRODUCTION COMPANY Alma 78 37 4,988,782 A&A Francis Energy Amburgy 72 15 724,421 Kodiak Coal, Inc. Broas 84 21 1,398,190 Addington, Inc. Bruin 14 0 0 IDLE Brush Creek 14 0 0 IDLE Buffalo Creek 28 0 0 IDLE Cedar Grove 36 2 95,530 Carbon Management Chilton 85 4 341,709 Buccaneer Coal Co. Clarion 60 6 387,843 Mountaintop Rest. Clintwood 38 10 387,285 D&L Coal Company Coalburg 120 13 3,203,405 Martiki Coal Co. Eagle 35 1 23,259 KYV Coal Company Elswick 72 1 202,842 Federal Mining Fire Clay 68 28 1,480,613 Coal Mac, Inc. Fire Clay Rider 36 0 0 IDLE Glamorgan 72 10 758,897 A A & W Coals Grassy 14 0 0 IDLE Haddix 40 5 344,991 Addington, Inc. Hagy 40 3 177,005 Triple S Coal Co. Hamlin 45 3 137,314 Burning Ridge Coal Hazard 50 3 845,262 Branham & Baker Hazard #4 72 3 227,169 Sun Glo Coal Co. Hazard #5A 50 4 60,373 Francis Coals Little Caney 32 6 52,174 N F C Mining Little Fire Clay 14 0 0 IDLE Lower Banner 14 0 0 IDLE Lower Broas 21 2 54,840 Sunny Ridge Coal Lower Cedar Grove 59 9 640,790 Sweet Water Coal Lower Elkhorn 200 47 4,777,333 Big Fist Coal Co. Lower Elkhorn Rider24 2 54,870 Carbon Management Lower Peach Orchard87 17 1,209,499 Prater Creek Process Lower Whitesburg 30 0 0 IDLE Millard 41 1 30,518 Red Dog Coal Corp. Mudseam 35 6 81,780 Addington, Inc. Number 5 Block 124 9 2,462,457 Martin County Coal Peach Orchard 105 23 2,726,197 Branham & Baker Pond Creek 72 43 8,377,743 Pontiki Coal Corp. Powellton 14 0 0 IDLE Prater 24 1 5,643 Rifle Coal Co. Princess #3 40 2 432,184 Addington, Inc. Princess #4 28 0 0 IDLE Princess #5 60 2 30,732 Prichard Energy Princess #5B (Laurel) 14 0 0 IDLE Princess #6 28 0 0 IDLE Princess #7 36 5 689,289 Addington, Inc. Princess #8 36 0 0 IDLE Princess #9 20 0 0 IDLE Raven 26 0 0 IDLE Richardson 89 3 61,106 Hi Energy, Inc. Splash Dam (Mine Fork) 51 8 443,443 Dotson & Rifle Coal Stockton 71 38 3,332,039 Martiki Coal Corp. Taylor 50 6 146,074 Dukane Energy, Inc. Thacker 50 11 966,050 Quality Coal Co. Tiptop 50 2 52,454 Belfry Coal Corp. Upper Banner 25 0 0 IDLE Upper Broas 60 2 301,088 Hawkeye Coal Co. Upper Chilton 57 2 135,634 Buccaneer Coal Co. Upper Elkhorn #1 90 36 2,183,709 Kinney Branch Upper Elkhorn #2 72 72 5,434,427 Danmar Coal Co. Upper Elkhorn #3 72 79 6,630,991 A A & W Coals Upper Elkhorn #3 1/2 44 10 580,571 Gap Fork Fuels, Inc. Upper Elkhorn # 42 2 49,077 Koch Carbon, Inc. Upper Peach Orchard 43 10 796,959 Addington, Inc. Upper Whitesburg 20 0 0 IDLE Van Lear 36 13 207,825 Mayo Resources, Warfield 40 1 4,471 Marine Coal Corp. Warm Fork 30 0 0 IDLE Wheelersburg 56 0 0 IDLE Whitesburg 38 5 47,288 Wellmore Coal Williamson 108 19 1,749,190 Tall Timber Coal Winifrede 60 10 1,050,166 Addington, Inc. Other Unnamed Rider 2 0 Addington, Inc. (Idled)As can be seen from the above data, the Big Sandy District has 675 producing mines operating in a wide range of coal seams. Many of the listed companies are operating subsidiaries of larger mining operations and ship directly to prep plants or loading points. There are a total of 30 companies or corporations which produced over 500,000 tons either independently or by subcontract with smaller operators and 9 companies which produced well over 1,000,000 tons of coal. These top producer s are: Addington, Inc.--4,391,158 tons, Martin County Coal Corporation--3,118,861 tons, Wolf Creek Collieries--2,966,698 tons, Branham & Baker Coal Corporation--1,632,337 tons, Pontiki Coal Corporation-- 1,640,253 tons, Martiki Coal Corporation--1,345,281 tons, McCoy Elkhorn Coal Corporation--1,211,341 tons, Coal Mac, Inc.-- 1,096,051 tons and A A & W Coals Incorporated--1,037,304 tons. Of these nine top producers, five utilize the Norfork Southern exclusively with four of them shipping off the Wolf Creek Branch. Heavy competition for CSX which makes up for it with at least 4 times the number of rail loaders spread through-out the district. As of May, three of the CSX shippers, Branham & Baker, McCoy Elkhorn and Coal Mac are currently expanding existing operations, acquiring or building new prep plants and developing new mines.
Unlike their more western cousins, the Big Sandy counties did not experience the same "Coal Boom" as did the area served by the ex-L&N Railroad during the seventies. This was due in part to Georgia Power and the other southern utilities', which are mainly supplied by the Cumberland Valley and Kentucky River Coal Districts, significant increase in stockpiling and power production during this time. Instead, the Big Sandy has enjoyed a near constant growth in demand for the ultra-low sulfur coals underlying mainly Floyd, Martin and Pike Counties. While production has increased each year, overall employment has steadily decreased in all Kentucky counties. Comparing miner employment figures during 1980 verses 1990 for these three big gest producers looks something like this: Floyd, 3,264 down to 1,450; Martin, 3,052 down to 1,675; Pike 9,113 down to 5,794. From this we can see that in 1980 it took 15,429 miners to produce 44,065,456 tons from these counties and just 8,919 miners to produced 62,484,872 tons in 1990. These statistics are often taken and/or reported the wrong way. Ask most people, and you'll find they have the impression that Appalachian coal is dead with the Powder River Basin now supplying the US market. While it's true that Wyoming has now surpassed both Kentucky and West Virginia to land in the number one producer position, very little has made its way into southern markets. Several exceptions are Georgia Power's Plant Scherer and Detroit Edison in general who have switched, or are switching to, the cheap sub-bituminous flow from the West. Appalachian coal is currently being produced at record levels for both eastern customers and the export market by increasingly larger and larger coal corporations from consolidated mines. The era of the small, privately-owned coal company may be very near an end but the future of Appalachian, and especially Big Sandy, coal is as bright as ever.
A complete list of the markets for all this production reads like a who's who in the world of electric power generating companies and would take a good size report all by itself. Lets just take a quick look at the major customers and destinations for the larger recipients of the steam or utility portion of the Big Sandy's output. The top five states burning BS coal, the percentage of total District steam coal output and the tonnage shipped last year are as follows: North Carolina received 23% or 7,491,300 tons, Michigan bought 19% or 6,099,866 tons, Ohio burned 17% or 5,559,200 tons, Kentucky used 14% or 4,647,016 tons and finally number five Virginia imported 7% or 2,197,613 tons. (These percentages are for percent of utility coal only. Only about 53% of this region's coal actually moves to power generating plants. The balance is consumed by the metallurgical market and is converted to coke for steel production at northern steel mills or exported for foreign steel production.) These rankings are subject to change this year as Florida has increased their purchasing by some 2 million tons while the closure of a large Martin County mine will reduce Norfolk Southern loadings bound for North Carolina. Some of the most distant rail shipments go south to several different Florida utilities and as far north as the Rochester Department of Public Utilities' Silver Lake Power Station in Minnesota.
In terms of the actual utilities which buy over a million tons each year, North Carolina's Duke Power has the largest appetite for the bituminous, taking large contract shipments at the Belews Creek and Marshall Power stations while Dan River , Cliffside, Buck and Lee made several spot market buys. The number two spot also belongs to a North Carolina company, Carolina Power & Light, which fires its large Roxbora Plant with contracted coal and Cape Fear, Lee, Sutton, Weather Spoon and Ashville stations on a combination of contract and spot market purchases. Coming in third is Dayton Power & Light taking deliveries at the Stuart, Killen and Hutchings Power Plants. Michigan's Detroit Edison ranks number four with soon-to-expire contract tonnage going to Monroe, Trenton Channel and the River Rouge power plants. In Kentucky, there are five different customers competing for tonnage: American Electric Power likes to burn regionally mined coal in their plants and does so by taking in over 2 million tons each year at the Big Sandy Plant, located along the river bank at CSX's milepost 18.5. Kentucky Utilities follows close behind AEP by using Pike County coal at their Ghent Plant and East Kentucky Power burns Floyd County coal at both Spurlock and Dale. Honorable Mention goes to Cincinnati Gas & Electric's East Bent Station, located on the Kentucky side of the Ohio burning over 600,000 tons of Floyd County coal and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for moving 750,000 to ns way over to the Shawnee Plant in Western Kentucky to aid in meeting emission standards. Lastly, in the number six position, is Virginia Power, distributing close to two million tons between Chesterfield, Possum Point, Yorktown, Bremo Bluff and the Chesapeake Generating Stations.
To locate the Yard, take I-64 east from Lexington or west from Charleston to Exit 191 for US 23. Coming west from Charleston, the exit is just after crossing the Big Sandy River and passing by Ashland Oil's Catlettsburg Refinery operations while arriving from Lexington, the exit is marked by several huge oil storage tanks high on the hillside. Take US 23 north and head toward downtown Ashland. Approximately two miles from the interstate, US 23 will begin to parallel the 3-track mainline of the Kanawha and Big Sandy Subdivisions with numerous spots for pictures. Big Sandy Junction should actually be in sight on your right. Simply look for a modernized interlocking tower on your right, just after passing a Super America gas station, which would have been to your left. (BS001.jpg) After passing through 3 stop- lights and traveling 2 more miles, we'll enter Ashland's city limits and come to AK Steel's large coke plant and it's rail yard. This plant originally belonged to Armco Steel and ranked as one of the C&O's largest on-line customers. (KW009.jpg) The plant still receives a large volume of metallurgical coal which it converts to coke for shipment a few miles northward to the blast furnaces in high-sided coke hoppers lettered "AK". Less than a mile ahead, US 23 splits into one-way streets through Ashland's downtown section and we'll need bear right and take KY 2360 as it continues to parallel the tracks, Ohio River and many industrial operations which obscure the trains from sight. When KY 2360 rejoins US 23 at an intersection, turn right and continue north.
As the road begins to gain altitude and traverse a large hill, we'll pass over what remains of C.P. Huntington's Elisabethtown, Lexington and Big Sandy Railroad. Just like the old L&N's Lebanon Branch to Louisville, the formation of CSX doomed these rails as a through route to Lexington. Although the EL&BS had been a coal producer in years gone by, the on-line mines have all played out and not much is left. A short, 11.5 mile section still remains in place to Coalton by providing service to a steel mill operated by Kentucky Electric Steel Corporation. (KW004.jpg) The actual mill may be accessed at Exit 118 off I-64 and sits in full view of the interstate while the tracks have now been removed between the mill (Coalton) and Lexington. The Lexington Industrial Track (or Lexington Branch to some), as it's now known, features two intact tunnels and host daily trains of scrap metal to feed the mill. CSX actually sells KES quite a lot of scrap generated by the Raceland Car Shop s as they strip old coal hoppers and rebuild them into aluminum, 120-ton capacity, bathtub cars. (RS004.jpg) As of last year, most of this trackage was leased to KES who now holds the responsibility for the line's maintenance.
Continuing north, we'll next pass a small rare gas refinery operated by Airco and then come to the sprawling AK Steel Ashland Works Complex. (KW007.jpg) This rather large steel mill includes two operating blast furnaces which tower over a maze of industrial trackage and barge transloaders. Although I'm personally unfamiliar with the train schedules for the site, I do know that it receives several turns from the coke plant powered by AK's private switchers (KW005.jpg), unit trains of iron ore and scrap metal, and ships out loads of steel each day on R221 bound for AK's Middletown, Ohio mill. Empties return to the plant on R220. There is also a long yard on-site which stretches about a mile to the north. Just at the northern end of the steel mill yard is a small abandoned coal loader which hasn't seen action for years. 1.2 miles from AK's main entrance is a small road to the right which winds behind a hill. The right turn is just past a red light and bridge for AK's "Steel Shipments" entrance. The operators of this facility are hard to pin down but the Leon Coal Company name keeps coming up. This is also a good spot to photograph trains in the afternoon while keeping away from the main flow of traffic on US 23. Continuing north on US 23 for just about a mile, there will be a sign welcoming you to Russell and an intersection with KY 244 which crosses the "Russell Bridge". You can turn here but I recommend going to the next light and taking the tunnel underpass under the tracks and into the downtown area. On your right just prior to the underpass is an operational interlocking tower known as RU Cabin which controls movement into and out of the yard's east end. Passing under the tracks and re-e merging in downtown Russell, you will be looking directly at old C&O caboose #3191 in the "C&O For Progress" blue paint scheme. Before you go any further, take a hard left onto the brick-paved street which follows the rails westward. This road will quickly get you to the best morning photo spot in Russell. Just ahead are the remains of the old roundhouse (RS002.jpg) which is now down to about 4 stalls but still boast an operating turntable. This old steam-era building is now only used for very lite engine repairs and not much else. On your right is the now-closed C&O YMCA which had housed road crews needing a bed for the night and to your left is remote fueling location No.1. There are several of these spots marked around the yard and are used to refuel engines such that they don't need to cut off their train and run to the fuel racks (RS003.jpg). Amtrak likes to stop at No.6 which is directly across the yard from No.1 and allows you a good shot if the yard is empty.
Taking the road which passes between the old YMCA and the roundhouse will get you to an intersection with KY 244 again. Turn left and parallel the Ohio River and Russell Yards westward, quickly passing the fueling racks at a distance to your left and the river dock for fuel barges to your right. Russell receives most of its diesel fuel by river and transfers it to large above- ground storage tanks near-by. Staying on KY 244 for about 2 miles, you should pass the old Creo Yard to your right which is currently unused but features several heavy cranes and derelict buildings. The road will finally turn left and come to a long, one-lane underpass which cuts under all the Coal Class Yard tracks. Taking a left prior to entering the tunnel will take you to the Coal Hump yard office, the Coal Hump and the Heavy Side Car Operations Yard but this is railroad private property so beware (RS001.jpg). Take the tunnel road, which will emerge back into daylight only to quickly pass through a second tunnel under Fitzpatrick Yard, and then a single track bridge before coming to an intersection by a gas station. Taking a right will allow you to follow beside Fitzpatrick Yard on "Old 23" for about another mile to the Raceland Car Shops a nd its associated yard or you may continue straight to an intersection with US 23 once again.
Traffic through Russell is VERY heavy so you should never be bored for long. By all means bring your scanner and keep it tuned to 160.230 and 161.520 for keeping one step ahead of the action. Russell is a 3.6 mile long subdivision all by it self and is protected by RU Cabin at the eastern end and RJ Cabin at the western end of the yard. There are two sets of currently reported milepost prefixes valid in the Russell Subdivision and I assume both may be used. The first is "CA" which carries the continuation of the Kanawha Subdivision mileage through the yard from RU Cabin and then there is the "CLS" prefix which starts with 0.0 at RU Cabin and runs through 3.6. Somebody must understand this? Most trains will call out the Cabin a nd milepost to the Russell Yardmaster on the way in so for tracking purposes be aware that trains on the Kanawha Sub, east of Russell, will call out RU Cabin at 524.0, NC Cabin at 521.0, Ashland at 519.8, Big Sandy at 513.9 or KV Cabin at 511.8 while trains west of Russell on the Northern Subdivision will use RJ Cabin at 527.8, Greenup at 532.4 or DG Cabin at 539.4.
Yet another term we'll run into today is "Critter". Individual mines which do not have high speed flood-loaders often purchase older engines and use these to pull empty hoppers under the coal chutes. These old engines are referred to as mine critters and can be anything from old SW1's to GP40's and are often painted in bright colors matching the plant structures. The cost of maintaining the engine is recovered in savings by not requiring a CSX crew to spend two or three shifts shuffling hoppers around the site. Although these critters may be found on the ex-L&N(i.e. Golden Oak Mining and CONSOL), they are more prevalent at ex-C&O mines and fun to photograph in action. I have included three examples of these in the picture section of this report. (BS031.jpg, BS045.jpg and BS046.jpg)
Let's go back to the I-64 interchange at Exit 191 and this time take US 23 south instead of north. Just about a quarter mile south of the interstate intersection is a red light at the entrance to Ashland Oil's Catlettsburg Refinery (BS002.JP G) and what had been the old 2-lane US 23. Take a left and pass the 1.5 mile long length of the refinery complex. The tracks of the Big Sandy Sub will quickly move to within a few feet of the road as you pass by distillation and cracking towers and two sets of sidings (BS003.jpg) with oil loading and unloading platforms. If you need to get close-up shots for a modeling project, this is the place to do it. Ashland Oil requires such a degree of switching moves that CSX assigns a unit to the pl ant each day. Called the Mill Crew, this engine may always be found shuttling cars up and down the switching leads or moving cuts of tank cars to the facilities on the northern side of I-64. This crew always uses hand radios such that their every move may easily be monitored.
Continuing south, we quickly pass one of the barge transloaders I previously discussed. None of these have any connection to the railroad whatsoever and are actually in direct competition with CSX in this area. The completion of the US 23 4 -lane project allowed the low cost, high speed movement of bulk coal in highway trucks directly from mine to river and cut CSX completely off from several areas we'll visit in the future. Since these are such a big part of the coal industry and reside along the mainline anyway, let's take a look at each of them.
Just a quarter mile south of Placer is the P&C Dock, owned by Pen Holdings, Inc. and operated as Pen Coal Corporation. This is another small operation with crushing and blending capabilities, 40,000 tons of ground storage and a yearly capacity of 1.80 million tons. The barge loader is a fairly modern device with an average loadout speed of 1,200 tons-per-hour. The site is always kept in very clean condition and appears to be almost brand new due to frequent paint work. (BS005.jpg) Continuing south for another mile on the 2-lane road, we'll come to what looks like part of the Ashland Oil Complex. This is the Calgon Carbon Corporation which (I think) produces carbon black. The facility is rail-served by the Savage Branch Siding, named after the nearby creek, and receives hoppers of coal on a routine basis. Looking south from Calgon, you should be able to see the largest transloader on the Kentucky side of the river. This is the huge Tri-State Terminals Complex which is now an operating division of the Ashland Coal Company. Ashland Coal is owned by Ashland Oil and is a sister to Arch Mineral which has been discussed several times in past reports. In addition to an on-site coal analysis laboratory run by Standard Labs, this complex consist of a full blown coal cleaning plant and has stacking tubes providing about 100,000 tons of clean coal storage. At 4.0 million tons per year of capacity, this site sits at the Big Sandy 6.0 milepost and gives CSX a big headache. The single-barge loader is capable of 1,500 tons per hour and seems to be constantly running at full capacity. Every time I have past by on my way south, several highway trucks are waiting to dump their loads while at least 6 barges have been tied up at the dock being pulled under the coal chute. A very busy facility which requires great care should you attempt to get close due to the truck traffic. (BS006.jpg)
Old US 23 now intersects new 4-lane US 23 so take a left and continue south. Located just about two tenths of a mile further south are two sister operations both owned by the Lakeway Fuel Corporation. These are known as Riverway North and Riverway South, both of which are permitted for 100,000 tons of ground storage and have crushing and blending capabilities. I'll leave it up to you to figure out which one is first. Riverway North is a 1.0 million tpy site with a small 500 tph barge loader while Riverway South ships 1.8 million tpy through a 1,500 tph coal chute. Lakeway has recently closed the smaller northern site and placed the property up for sale or lease.
Receiving incoming shipments from the same intersection off of US 23 is the much larger operations of Kentucky Coal Terminal's Marigold North Dock. This site operates under the identity of Marigold Docks, Inc. and is a more modern, 3.00 mill ion ton per year loadout. Marigold also marks the northern end of coal storage yards which stretch for almost a solid mile to the south and serve as holding areas for the next several transloaders. The amounts of coal stored here can often boggle t he mind especially in the winter when barge traffic is slowed on the Ohio and inventories start to back up. This large facility had recently belonged to the Kentucky May Coal Corporation as their River Division which is the mining subsidiary of Florida's Electric Fuels Corporation (ELFX). (BS007.jpg)
The next site is just four-tenths of a mile south of Marigold and belongs to the River Eagle Corporation as their Whites Creek Dock. Whites Creek is currently a 3.00 million ton per year operation and claims over half a million tons of ground storage capacity. Barges are loaded through a single chute at a rate of 1,500 tons per hour.
South of Whites Creek is the Ashland Materials Terminal, yet another good sized plant locally owned by the Ashland Materials Corporation. This dock shipped over 1.0 million tons last year through two independent loadout systems capable of moving 3,000 tons per hour. All three of the preceding sites have custom blending and crushing equipment and are currently fully operational. Rounding out this series of road-to-river transloaders are two small abandoned sites which sit rusting and overgrown. Both of these are still owned by Kentucky May Corporation but were purchased only for control of local loading capacity and have not been used in many years.
Continuing down US 23 for 1.5 miles, we'll pass by yet another abandoned Kentucky May-owned processing facility. This site sits directly beside CSX's WD Cabin which marks the southern end of a long double track section. The long-idled structure is in such a sad state of neglect that any return to action is very doubtful.
Once again lets keep heading southward as the highway follows the tracks and river every inch of the way. The Big Sandy mainline is all single tracked along this stretch and signals are clearly visible from the road to indicate impending act ion. Just about 4.2 miles from WD Cabin is another abandoned processing tipple also owned by Kentucky May. This little structure is very hard to see as it sits slightly behind a hill but.... there is only a single conveyor and a coal bin remaining so you really wouldn't miss anything if you don't catch it. Another 3.3 miles further and we'll pass a storage yard on the left owned by Kentucky May which is used for storage of drilling equipment and other mining related hardware, looking to the right will be a large substation for the upcoming power plant.
Peeking out from the hill behind the substation will be the single smoke-stack marking the location of AEP's Big Sandy Generating Station. This is a single-unit plant which features twin cooling towers and two coal storage yards. One of these is used for truck-delivered coal while the other is fed from a rotary car dumper spanning the northern leg of a loop-track which comes off a 7,459 foot passing siding. The plant, sitting at milepost CMG 18.5, consumes well over 2 million tons of coal each year of which over 1.5 million tons are delivered by rail in AEPX hoppers. This means the Big Sandy Plant sees about 3 trains each week which are simply dropped off by CSX. CSX engines will then run lite back to Russell while AEP switcher s are used to power the coal cars through the dumper. The plant sits slightly lower than the highway providing excellent views of any action, the dumper itself being less than 100 yard away.
And that's just about all the excitement we'll run into for some time. South of the power plant, the rails continue to follow the Big Sandy but venture far out-of-sight for most of the next 6 miles until we get to Louisa. Stay on US 23 until you come to a red light at the intersection with a 4-laned KY 3. This is the second most deadly intersection in Eastern Kentucky having claimed 8 lives at last count since the 4-lane projects were completed. Sitting at the bottom of a long hill a nd often referred to as "Death Valley", loaded coal trucks from area mines often lose their brakes and run through the intersection at well over 60 mph. You can imagine what happens when a car and 80 tons of coal and steel attempt to occupy the same space at the same time. Be very careful and always check for these trucks which often just simply run the light to keep from having to stop. Turning left onto KY 3 will take you into downtown Louisa where you may sometimes find a train on the short 5,500 foot passing siding located through the middle of town. Otherwise there really isn't much to see. There is a long road bridge crossing over the river here which is the last chance to get into West Virginia for some distance. Louisa is also the headwaters for the Big Sandy, at this point the Tug and Levisa Fork branch off with the Tug following the stateline and the Levisa flowing more westward into Pike County. The C&O chose the Levisa as an easy route into the mountains of Eastern Kentucky while the N&W used the Tug to venture into deep southern West Virginia. Up to this point it has been possible to spot NS trains moving on the Pocohontas mainline for almost the entire trip south. We must now say good-by to this veteran Appalachian coal hauler and continue south on our own.
South of Louisa, there is still not much to see in terms of coal operations. There are many fantastic photo locations but the coal industry has all but abandoned the rails as a means of transportation north of Prestonsburg. The only remaining site worth a side trip sits abandoned at the community of Patrick. (Patrick now has 3 houses.) To get into this remote and rugged area, take a left onto KY 645 about 15 miles south of Louisa off of US 23. Within a mile, 645 will come to an inter section with KY 581, then cross a long bridge over the Levisa Fork and a dual track section of Big Sandy mainline. This is near the end of a 5.1 mile double-track section between KX and JB Cabins. After crossing the bridge, look for the first right which will be KY 1690. Take this road and keep to the right at the following intersection. This is a badly broken paved road with potholes big enough to swallow a compact car. 1.5 miles from KY 645, 1690 (some call this 2922--just keep right) will meet up with the rails at JB Cabin and the powered switch for the return to single track. The road is now mostly dirt and gets squeezed between the tracks and a high cliff. (Which gets a little un-nerving if a train is passing at speed!) A few hundred feet from here, there is what looks like an old road crossing to the right and a home directly ahead. (There is a fenced in area with cows and chickens around.) Pull off the road next to the tracks and look down the mainline toward the south. In the distance can be seen the one and only coal loading site in all of Lawrence County in the form of a rusting flood-loader belonging to the Ridgeway Fuels Corporation's Central Preparation Plant. The old Ridgeway Siding has been partly removed making it easy to navigate a 4-wheel drive closer to the plant although a hike is nonetheless required if you want to see anything. (BS008.jpg) The haul road leading to the prep plant is now part of the barn yard for that house we just passed so by -foot is the only way in. What you'll find is a very large truck-dump with conveyors leading to both the flood-loader and prep plant which indicates that much of Ridgeway's coal was shipped raw. (BS009.jpg) The actual cleaning plant is a good sized facility which has had some of the siding stripped away allowing you a look inside. South of the plant is a steel stacking tube for ground storage and a refuse conveyor snaking up the hillside to the mine dump. Although Ridgeway no longer operate s in Lawrence County, the company still ships over the Big Sandy from a new facility on the Coal Run Subdivision and owns a rail-to-river barge transloader near Huntington off the Kanawha Subdivision. Ridgway was purchased in 1986 along with the H.K . Coal Company by United Coal Company which promptly consolidated operations into Pike County and changed the name to New Ridge Mining. United, in turn, has since been acquired by A.T. Massey which has invested a good deal of money in a new prep plant (See Volume 1) and has become one of the largest shippers on the Coal Run Sub.
There are now several little communities between Ridgeway and the Paintsville Yard that can provide interesting photo opportunities. Getting to them can be even more interesting especially if you attempt to take the back "roads" as I enjoy doing. I'm only going to suggest that you get a good set of topographical maps and invest in a sport utility vehicle before committing yourself to finding the likes of Whitehouse, Offutt or Ray. The time wasted getting into these remote areas could be better spent elsewhere. I've been to all of 'em so if you must visit just send me some private e-mail and I'll guide you in. For the rest of you, get back to US 23, cross into Johnson County and continue south for about 15 miles to an intersect ion with US 460 at Paintsville. (KY 581 will also get you to Paintsville by following the Levisa but is not a very enjoyable road to be on. 581 will ultimately end up at Thealka, a spot we're headed to anyway by way of US 23)
Upon arriving at the US 23--US 460 intersection near Paintsville, stay straight as the 4-lane road now becomes a combination of 23/460. Just about a mile from the intersection will be a junction with KY 40 near the Paintsville-Johnson County Medical Center. Take a left onto KY 40 and follow this road through downtown for just over a mile until you come to a railroad bridge which carries the Big Sandy mainlines over the road and Paint Creek. (From which Paintsville was so named) Just after crossing under the tracks is an intersection with KY 581 to your left. Turn left and we'll quickly come to a grade crossing belonging to a very short spur leading to the Hi-Grade Mining Company on your right. This is a very old and fairly small privately-owned business which loads about 10 hoppers per day on the 15 car, "Hi-Grade" siding. The site consist of a covered truck-dump, crushing and screening equipment and a unique little hopper loading chute. (BS010.jpg)
Keep following KY 581 as it parallels the mainline northward for about a half mile before coming to a double track grade crossing. After crossing the tracks, there is an intersection with KY 1145 which will continue to parallel the mainline for about a mile to BU Cabin. Running up to BU Cabin, which is the northern end of a double track mainline section through Paintsville Yard, will get you in good position to see the only mainline tunnel on the Big Sandy Sub. This brief little bore allows the rails to shortcut a tight turn of the Levisa Fork and switch banks in the process.
Go back to the KY 581 / 1145 intersection, which is known as Thealka, and turn right, following 581 away from the mainline. You will now be alongside the Muddy Branch Spur. Years ago, this spur had continued due north for almost a mile up Muddy Branch to serve a small mining operation and featured a spur of its own branching off to the west which ran along the banks of Boyd Creek. The Muddy Branch tipple and all evidence of the spur are completely gone just past the first left turning road you come to. Turning left on this road, which I have forgotten the number of, will allow you to follow Boyd Creek and the idled rails to a still-intact tipple. (BS011.jpg) The large wooden tipple is visible from the intersection and sits over a small four-track yard. Known as Belfry #3 & #9, the facility consist of the tipple with three load tracks, a fourth loading area for slack material, a truck-dump and two scale-houses. This old structure had been modernized in later years with a the new truck-dump and siding after the on-site #3 mine played out and the #9 surface mine opened but succumbed to corporate take-overs and downsizing of it's operating company. United Coal, the same company which purchased the Ridgeway Plant up i n Lawrence County, began acquiring mines owned by the Belfry Coal Company in 1977 and reorganized the holdings into the Paintsville-based Belfry Coal Corporation to operate the properties. Later renamed United's Tri-State Division, this site was idled as a result of high mining cost and the opening of a new surface mine in Magoffin County. The tipple survives as a result of near-by coal reserves. The C&O had called this siding, "Castle No.1" after the original owners, the Castle Coal Company.
Now lets get back to the KY 581 / KY 40 intersection and turn right back toward town. Pass back under the mainlines and take a left at the very next red light. This should be KY 1428 and there will be a Super America gas station to your rig ht marking the turn. KY 1428 will take you right alongside the Paintsville Yard for its entire 1 mile length. As you come to a red light, there will be several old tracks crossing the street which had been part of a locomotive turning wye and led t o local business years back but are no longer used. Turning left at the light is the yard office and several storage structures for RR equipment. Up until just last summer, the wonderful old coaling tower had stood at the southern end of the yard a nd provided a welcome reminder of days gone by. Most of the trains found stored in the yard today are from mine runs operating on the Dawkins Subdivision, which leaves the Big Sandy at the southern end of Paintsville Yard, or from the Middle Creek and E&BV Subdivisions further south. Paintsville no longer has any type of engine service facilities so, should you catch more than 3 or 4 units idling , consider yourself one lucky individual.
Continue to follow KY 1428 southward past the yard. As the road starts to wind up hill and curve away from the tracks, you'll come to a junction with KY 302. Turn left onto KY 302 and cross Lick Creek and the tracks of the Dawkins Subdivision. Just to your left on the mainline had been the coal loading facilities of the Adams No.3 Tipple. A very small truck-dump to conveyor structure, this site was purchased from the Adams Mining Company by Coal Mac, Inc. about 5 years ago and demolished. The short, 15 car capacity siding had been know as "Adams 3" and has also been removed.
Stay on KY 302 until the road crosses over the mainline. This had recently been the location of a 30 car siding which had served the Old R&C Processing Tipple. This tipple was removed about six years ago along with the upcoming Van Lear Branch (Millers Creek Subdivision). The new bridge directly ahead of you is a replacement for a span which had been a combination road/rail bridge that took the Van Lear Branch across the Levisa Fork and up Miller Creek to Van Lear. Several mines had once operated in this area, mining coal from the Van Lear Seam and shipping from several tipples. Most of these were owned by the Whitten or Whit-Ham Coal Company with the last remaining site having been the Witten #8 Tipple. Everything is now completely gone and not worth looking for.
Go back to the KY 302 / KY 1428 intersection and turn left onto KY 1428 again. The road will quickly pass by a coal tipple, however, I'm going to leave this site alone until Volume 7 which will cover the Dawkins Subdivision. Continue to follow the tracks of the Dawkins Sub until you come to an interchange with US 23 less than a mile away. Get back on US 23 and head south toward Prestonsburg.
US 23 will quickly pass the birthplace of country singer Loretta Lynn, better known as the "coal miners daughter", then cross over the BS mainline and Levisa Fork such that the road is on the eastern bank while the tracks use the western bank and hides behind heavy foliage for the next few miles. As you continue south, you should pass the entrance to an American Standard plant to your right, cross into Floyd county and come to the community of Auxier. In the distant past, Auxier had been the location of a very large tipple and small yard, however these are long gone leaving no reason to cross the river and explore the town unless you wish to set up for run-by photos. Just south of Auxier, US 23 will once again cross the river and enter a brand new section of 4-lane which is a bypass around Prestonsburg. You could have taken the intersection just prior to crossing the river and continued to follow the tracks south but US 23 is a much faster route. Take US 23 at the next lighted intersection, left turn, 0.8 miles from the bridge then continue for 2.4 miles to another intersection with KY 1428 South. Turn left onto KY 1428 and enter downtown Prestonsburg after crossing yet another 2-lane bridge. We'll get back on US 23 in a few miles after checking out a few coal sites. Had you stayed on 23, the road would have come to an intersection with KY 114 which is the eastern end of the Mountain Parkway from Winchester. We'll use the Mountain Parkway in Volume 7 in-order to explore both the Middle Creek and Dawkins Subdivisions.
After crossing the bridge into Prestonsburg, you'll come to an intersection with KY 321, take a right and stay on KY 1428. (Had you taken a left and located KY 1427, you would have been able to explore the now-removed Abbott Creek Branch which had departed the Big Sandy mainline at Cliff and followed Abbott Creek for about 2 miles due west to mines operating on Workman Branch. These tracks were in full operation during the period from 1910 to 1930 but were thereafter abandoned and removed prior to 1960 so there is absolutely nothing left to see.) Follow KY 1428 through downtown Prestonsburg and through about 4 red lights. The road will soon make three 90 degree turns, first to the left, then right then left again prior to passing a Chevrolet dealer. Just past the dealership is an old deep mine to your left which is idled but open and in full view. Operated by the Old Style Mining Company, this site is unusual in that it is so close to downtown and a busy public road. Less than a mile from the mine, you should come to an intersection with KY 3 at Lancer. We'll need to go right and cross the Levisa in a few minutes, but first lets check out a coal loader. Continue straight through the intersection for 0.8 miles until you get to the first road and bridge to your right. This is the community of Goble-Roberts which is about the size of a football field with roads crisscrossing in a checker board pattern. Cross the bridge and work your way back to the far northeast corner at an apartment complex. Parking here and climbing the embankment up to the mainline roadbed should give you a good look at the old Cabin Coal Tipple. (BS012.jpg) This facility has recently seen a rebirth after Southlake Processing purchased the structure from Cabin Coal Company, opened a new deep mine on the property and constructed a small cleaning plant. (BS013.jpg) The old Cabin Tipple is now being used to load coal from the new plant into hoppers on the 58 car, multi-track "Lancer" siding. For a closer look at the cleaning plant, we can get back to KY 1428, turn left, return to the KY 3 intersection, turn left onto KY 3, cross the Levisa, then take the first left onto a dirt road just after the mainline grade crossing. T his road will cross a spur, pass a small sawmill in the process of being demolished, then come to the Carl D. Perkins Job Corp Center. Southlake has setup operations on the Job Corp property and uses the area just to the south as an office site while the cleaning plant and deep mine should be visible from the parking lot. Just across the mainline and directly opposite the Job Corp building is an old tipple now used to load sand. Currently operated by Blue Cat Sand Company, I'm not sure of who owned or operated this structure during its coal loading days. (BS014.jpg)
Getting back to KY 3, you will be wondering where the spur we crossed goes to. Looking due south, you should be able to see the Bull Creek Prep Plant. Just follow KY 3 and the road will pass down the entire length of the complex which is currently idled. This is not a large complex per-say, but is stretched out over quite some distance giving the impression that it is. The old Bull Creek Tipple had been built and operated by the Blackhawk Mining Company for years until the on-site deep mine played out. (The coal seam didn't play out, the company exhausted their reserves. Southlake now operates in the same seam but on the opposite side of the mountain.) Arch Mineral purchased the facility during a period of interest in Pike an d Martin Counties and operated the tipple under the Cumberland River Coal Company subsidiary, loading coal from area strip mines. Arch did not realize the envisioned profits from these holdings and sold both Bull Creek last year and Martin County's Pevler Complex a few months ago after their new Cabin Creek, West Virginia operations started loading successfully. Bull Creek Processing Company now claims ownership of the facilities, which includes a small cleaning plant and a good sized flood-loader, and reportedly plans to resume loading within the year. You may also find a stored, company painted (Blackhawk) GP7 here that is normally hidden behind evergreen trees making photography difficult unless you get permission to enter the property. The layout of the plant in general makes getting a good picture difficult and I recommend using the church parking lot just across the street which sits at a good elevation above the road. Presently, the plant's shop building is serving as a garage and service center for a fleet of coal trucks. (BS015.jpg) (BS016.jpg)
We can now continue on KY 3 to an intersection with US 23 at which point turn left and head toward Allen or go back and use KY 1428. KY 1428 will follow the Levisa and the mainline but the rails are normally hidden by dense foliage year-round. I recommend the US 23 route. This way, as we cross the highway bridge over the Levisa and the mainline, we can look toward the right and see the remains of the May Tipple at Dwale. This tipple is only visible from the highway overpass, so get in the right lane and go slow. Not much remains with the exception of a rusting conveyor and a crumbling truck-dump but the May Brothers Mining Company had once loaded out about 10 cars per day on the "Dwale" siding. The siding has been completely removed.
Take a right onto KY 1428 at the intersection immediately after crossing the US 23 bridge and follow this road up and over another bridge which also crosses the tracks and the Levisa. The road will curve to the right and then make a 90 degree left turn in the middle of downtown Allen. Continuing straight at the 90 degree curve, you'll come to a set of tracks. These belong to the Elkhorn & Beaver Valley Subdivision better known as the E&BV or Big Sandy Extension which have just departed the mainline at Beaver Junction, milepost 83.4. Just across the tracks, you should be able to see a freshly cleared area which had been the location of the Virginia Tipple. Comparable in size to the May Tipple, this structure was demolished about 4 years ago and the 8 car "Virginia" siding removed. This is a great place to watch trains as you can catch mine runs headed out the E&BV or complete unit trains as they use these tracks to access the EK Subdivision at Deane many miles to the south. Trains enroute to the EK Sub from the ex-Clinchfield or vise-versa must stop and run the engines around to the opposite end in-order to get pointed in the proper direction for the E&BV due to the lack of room for a wye here. This action is best watched from the US 23 bridge. In addition to Beaver Junction, Allen's second claim to fame is being the home of R/S Truck Bodies, a manufacturing company responsible for producing most of the large coal trucks you have been sharing the roads with. We'll revisit the E&BV Sub in Volume 8, for now let's keep exploring the Big Sandy.
Back at that 90 degree left-handed curve on KY 1428, had you stayed on KY 1428 and turned left, you would have passed a hard-to-spot intersection on your left after about 200 feet. This is Allen-Banner Road which turns left between two homes and looks for all the world like someone's driveway. Just look for the street sign, turn left, and follow the one-lane road up the hillside and back down by the Big Sandy mainline on the other side. At the top of the hill is an excellent view of Allen and Beaver Junction especially during the Winter months. After returning to track level, take the first left and you'll quickly come to a medium-sized prep plant. (BS048.jpg) This 450 tph heavy media plant had been operated by Adams Coal Enterprises as the Allen Prep Plant until Coal Mac, Inc. purchased the facility about 1988. Coal Mac, a profitable $10 million a year company, was purchased by Ashland Coal during January of 1989 and the site idled. The plant features the washing structures, several conveyors for ground storage and a dual-track loader spanning the 70 car, "Adams 1" siding. Looking further to the south, you should be able to spot the loadout used while the prep plant was being constructed. (BS044.jpg) This structure remains completely intact and consist of a simple truck-dump and twin-track hoppers loading chutes. A short hike is required to get closer to this area. Also located on this property is a small concrete and stone company operated as Summit Processing. All three of these are currently idled.
Back on US 23 headed south there's not much to see until we get to Ivel. Continue south on US 23 for 2.4 miles until you come to the community of Ivel and the site of one of the largest coal processing facility on the Big Sandy mainline. Located on your right will be the structures belonging to Costain Coal Company's Ivel Unit Train Loadout which sits at the CMG 88.0 milepost. This site has seen drastic upgrades during the past three years since Costain acquired it from the Prater Creek Processing Company and continues to be expanded today. The original prep plant was constructed by the Diamond Coal Company in the early seventies and includes a three bay truck-dump, cleaning plant and dual-track loader. Ground storage was available on the west side of the mainline while the plant structures were squeezed between the tracks and the Levisa. (BS017.jpg and BS018.jpg) Ownership of the plant passed to the Transcontinental Coal Company around 1980 and, a few years later, to Prater Creek Processing. Access to the plant and the community of Ivel had been either over a low bridge used only by the coal trucks or across a unique swinging bridge large enough to support automobile traffic. Driving across this suspension bridge in a wind was an experience all by itself! After being purchased by Costain, a new, high- capacity concrete bridge was constructed replacing both the swinging bridge and the truck bridge, which was out of commission any time the Levisa rose a few fee t. You may now turn off of US 23, cross the new bridge and drive down the entire length of the plant on a county road which leads to several nearby homes. Costain has been very busy investing in upgrades which have included tripling the ground storage capacity by adding 4 new stacking tubes and installing a high-capacity flood-loader. (BS019.jpg)
Last year, the company entered negotiations with several Florida utilities to buy back fly-ash in return for lucrative, long-term coal supply contracts. The first of these was a 20 year deal signed with the U.S. Generating Company for 1 mill ion tons per year shipped to the 250-MW Cedar Bay cogeneration plant in Jacksonville. Costain closed the agreement prior to securing landfill permits at their 65-acre site on the banks of the Big Sandy several miles from Ivel. As a result, the fly-ash started arriving in Kentucky but had no place to go. Costain began paying individuals to haul the material away which resulted in many people piling the white pellets in their back yards, driveways, fields, etc. One company took delivery of several tons of the ash and used it in place of gravel at a new horse track near Prestonsburg. On opening day, several people notice the "gravel" just didn't look right and started asking questions. When they found out what they were walking on, they complained to the EPA which promptly closed the track until it could be determined if the ash posed any environmental hazards. Luckily for Costain, the EPA ruled the material harmless, despite containing trace amounts of heavy metals, and soon approved the landfill permits. Yet another local upstart company has now purchased 150,000 tons of the material as fill at a proposed 29-acre housing complex and dumped 45,000 tons around an old tipple on Shelby Creek which now looks to be roof high with an American Legion building. Unit trains currently depart the Ivel plant with as many as ten leased covered hoppers in the consist which are filled at the utility plants and returned loaded to Kentucky for disposal. Costain also owns a fleet of private, rapid discharge, bottom-dump hoppers lettered as CCXX which are used to supplement utility owned or leased cars. In addition to the new flood-loader at Ivel, Costain had built an enclosed car dumper and ground storage area for the ash directly beside the access bridge. (BS047.jpg) These piles of white ash are now a sharp contrast to the hundreds of thousands of tons of black coal in the adjacent stockpiles.
The granting of the landfill permit quite possible saved this company from exiting the Eastern Kentucky coal industry. Prior to March of last year, all of the London-based company's US mines were on the selling block. Costain had suffered several financial setbacks recently with the biggest being criminal fines imposed after the company pleaded guilty or no contest to 29 charges stemming from the 1989 methane explosion at the Williams Station Mine, a Western Kentucky deep mine, which killed 10 miners. Costain's operating subsidiary, Pyro Mining, was ordered to pay $3.75 million dollars in what was the largest fine ever levied for MSHA-related violations. After accepting bids on their Dolet Hills Mining subsidiary in Louisiana an d receiving promising offers on their Alabama holdings, Costain suddenly withdrew their remaining sites from the market. The company now intends to fully develop the remaining Eastern Kentucky mines, open new operations in West Virginia and increase production from the Baker and Wheatcroft deep mines in Western Kentucky. We have already covered one of the other Costain facilities in the Volume 1 report on the Coal Run Subdivision while we'll soon run into the third site just after we pass Pikeville in a few moments.
Continuing south on US 23, we need to go just a little over 3 miles to the community of Betsy Layne after passing by Tram, Stanville and Justell. We'll be looking for a long, baby blue-painted , one-lane truss bridge crossing over the Levisa . This road bridge looks for all the world like a rail bridge and runs at a very sharp angle to US 23 such that you will need to almost turn 360 degrees around prior to gaining access to it. There's really nothing left to see at Betsy Layne, however, this had been the site of one of the oldest mines on the Big Sandy. Opened by the Pike-Floyd County Coal Company about 1906, the deep mines here have long since played out and the tipple structures removed. Two smaller operations succeeded the Pike-Floyd tipple and were the Justell Prep Plant, last operated by the Hayes Leasing Company on the 6 car, "Betsy Layne" siding and the Beach Corporation's tipple served by the 17 car, "Dunes" siding. Today, the Dunes siding is long gone while the Betsy Layne siding remains in use by serving as a loading point for a lumbering operation.
Get back on US 23 and drive about 1 1/4 miles south to a red light at the intersection of KY 979 near the community of Harold. Turning right on 979, you should immediately see our intended targets. As 979 crosses the Levisa and then the tracks, you'll come to an area with three existing tipples. All three of these are just to the left of 979 after the grade crossing and you may park and explore the old structures. The first and most visible had belonged to the Clark Elkhorn Coal Comp any and was referred to as the Red Cedar Tipple. This old, rusting structure had actually been a deep mine and the bath house and office buildings are still standing. The cleaning plant itself is now in a battle with mother nature as she attempts to overgrow and hide what remains. (BS022.jpg)
Just to the south of the Red Cedar Tipple and also located on the western side of the tracks is the small Floyd County Tipple which had belonged to the Harold Fuel Company. A more modern steel truss supported structure, a truck-dump is located high on the hillside to the west and a long conveyor brought the coal slowly down to the single-track loader. The 17 car, "Harold No.1" siding runs slightly upgrade to the south such that cars were gravity fed under the coal chute. All of these structures remain intact but unused for years. (BS024.jpg)
Directly across the tracks (on the eastern side) from Harold No.1 stands a more modern site which features a covered truck-dump, enclosed processing equipment and a scalehouse. This is the Superior Valley Tipple which had been operated by the Superior Valley Coal Company and shipped out coal from near-by contractor deep mines. This site also has a single track loader which filled hoppers on the 9 car, "Hale 1-2" siding. Idled for about ten years now, this facility could still be reactivated if needed. (BS023.jpg)
The next site we'll visit is actually located north of these three tipple although you could never see it from US 23 which causes most people to overlook it. Simply continue straight on KY 979 until you get to an intersection with KY 1426. Right on KY 1426 for about a quarter mile will bring you to a road on the right which follows Mud Creek back to the east toward the Levisa. Turn right and follow this road for less than a half mile to the Bebe Tipple. Sitting on a long spur which snakes around the hillside along the creek makes this structure a well kept secret. The site consist of a good size heavy media cleaning plant, stacking tube, settling pool and a dual track loader. Currently owned by Coal Mac, Inc. and idled for several years, the Bebe Coal Company had built this structure to clean coal produced from mines near Amba, Dana and Honaker. The 86 car siding here can fully support unit train loading and is known as "Hale No.3". (BS021.jpg)
Once again heading south on US 23, go exactly one mile from the KY 979 intersection to yet another bridge over the Levisa at Boldman on Hurricane Creek Road. This bridge may be easily spotted by looking for a very large Columbia Natural Gas pumping station which sits on the western bank alongside the mainline. This facility includes a maze of pipes, valves and compressor buildings as well as a large storage yard for equipment making it hard to miss except during the summer. During the winter when the outside temperature falls below freezing, huge clouds of steam billow from the compressors and act as a beacon for the next two sites. Cross the bridge over the river and take a left on a recently paved road (prior to a grade crossing) which passes behind the Columbia Gas facility and parallels the track south. Do not cross the tracks yet. About a quarter mile past the pumping station had been a small truck-to-rail tipple standing idle over the 27 car, "Peter Fork No.2" siding. This very small tipple had been built and operated by the Peter Fork Mining Company during the late seventies to early eighties period as they worked several nearby strip mines. As the mines played out, Peter Fork kept moving south and ultimately resorted to shipping from their original loader a few miles from here. Consisting of a truck-dump, crusher and hopper loading chute, the facility was simple, completely intact and easy to photograph until about 2 months ago when it was razed. (BS026.jpg)
Now go back to the grade crossing and get over to the western side of the tracks. Taking the first left and watching the hillside to your right will quickly allow you to view the ruins of an old wooden tipple. This overgrown site is simply known as the Boldman Tipple and had been served on a now-removed, 15-car spur also known as "Boldman". Who had operated this tipple remains a mystery to me so if anyone has any information please pass it along. (BS025.jpg)
Worth mentioning at this time had been a third small coal loader at the community of Broadbottom less than a mile from where you are now. This had been the Clark Elkhorn Coal Company's Clark Elkhorn No. 4 which had loaded on a 10 car siding sharing the same name. Completely removed and not worth wasting time looking for, the site survived into the late eighties until A.T. Massey acquired Clark Elkhorn and consolidated operations a few miles to the south near Millard.
Get back to US 23 and continue south to the community of Coal Run. We visited this community once before in Volume 1 when we explored the Coal Run Subdivision which departs the mainline at milepost CMG 100.0 and runs over to the Johns Creek area through a long tunnel. The tracks leave the mainline, cross the Levisa over a deck bridge, then extend over US 23 on a second deck bridge just prior to entering the Coal Run Yard. Use this rail bridge as a landmark and pass under it to a red light at the intersection with KY 3227 about 100 feet further south. We're now looking for the first right turn off US 23 past the lighted intersection which should be on the far side of a used car lot. Turn right onto this un-named road and cross t he Levisa. Take the first right after the bridge and follow this uphill to an overpass crossing the Big Sandy mainline and the Coal Run Passing Siding. The next loader is located on a spur just about a half mile north of this overpass. Looking nor th while on the bridge, the mainline curves around the hillside just past the visible northward-facing switch for the Coal Run Subdivision making the switch for the spur invisible. (BS027.jpg) The best way to find Peter Fork Mining Company's Kentucky Coal Tipple is to hike down the right-of-way and follow the rails back up Right Fork Creek until you come to the structure which is now idled. This, of course, can be very dangerous so take a scanner such that you'll have advanced warning of an approaching train. Track speed is 40 mph through this area so they can sneak up you really fast! There is a way into the area by vehicle but this requires a 4-wheel drive and I don't mean one of these little go-to-the-store versions either. You nee d a manly truck with good mud tires and plenty of ground clearance so be warned, it's a long walk back out and very few wreckers will come in to tow you. The road which continues straight across the overpass will quickly climb uphill and enter an area that has been extensively deep and surface mined. Mud holes average about 200 feet long and up to a foot and a half deep where huge off-road haulage trucks have worn deep ruts in the road. Several areas have very large rocks across the road which were placed there to keep out cars during a period when the area was abandoned. Addington has recently acquired the remaining mineral rights to this property and now often keeps a gate locked thus restricting access. The loader and dual-track , 3 0 car "Big Shoal" siding is the first right turn which winds down the hillside after you have gone 2 miles from the overpass. Just remember: I warned you, last time I went into the area it took five bucks at the car wash just to get the muck off the Blazer. Regardless of how you get to the site, what you'll find is a simple dual-track coal loader and a rusting truck-dump higher on the hillside. This steel structure had replaced a wooden tipple of which the remains can still be seen next to th e newer loader. The loader itself is slightly unique in that it is composed of tubular steel instead of the standard I-beams found on most tipples.
While sitting on the overpass bridge at Coal Run Junction, look to the south and you'll spot a long siding on the eastern side of the mainline. These tracks are unused, badly rusted and the roadbed has washed out in several locations. There has obviously been some type of tipple or small loader here at one point in the past but I can find zero information on it. The adjacent area has recently been bulldozed level but there hasn't been anything here for years as far as I can remember. Once again, if you have any information, please pass it along.
Back on US 23 again, we'll travel just about 1 mile south to an intersection with US 119. US 119 turns left here and may be used to get into the Johns Creek region or over to Williamson, West Virginia. A new expansion project is currently underway on a massive mountain cut near Sidney which will complete the 4-lane section through to Belfry and cut about an hours travel time between Pikeville and Williamson. I can't wait on this to be open, it'll make rail fanning both CSX and NS much easier in this area.
Continuing south on US 23, it's about 1 3/4 miles to the first Pikeville exit. The "Pikeville Cut", which redirected both the Levisa and CSX's mainline by blasting through the mountain between Poor Farm Branch and Coal Hollar is now clearly evident. The new section of trackage may be seen by looking over the high concrete barriers to your right. There is an overlook located on top of the mountain which allows a great view of trains passing through the cut. Simply get off US 23 at this exit, turn right, then turn quickly left at the signs and drive up to the park. Pass through the cut on US 23 and you'll come to the second Pikeville exit. Getting off at either one of these will allow you to drive through downtown Pikeville and wind up at the other exit. They make a big loop.
Now watch your odometer and go 3/4 of a mile south on US 23 to a red light at an intersection with KY 1426 and a sign for Island Creek Road. Turn right and cross both the Levisa and the tracks. There will now be a large blue sign for Costain Coal's Chapperal Plant and a dirt road known as Marion Branch Road to the left which follows the tracks south. Continue south on this dirt road for 1 1/2 miles until you pass the rather large prep plant. (BS028.jpg) There's no way to miss it. This impressive 700-tph heavy media cleaning plant had been constructed in 1974 by the Chapperal Coal Corporation and has operated continuously ever since. Costain Coal purchased the facility in 1993 and continues to load coal produced from their Re d Cedar Strip mine operating in the high-quality Elkhorn and Peach Orchard seams just off KY 122. The processing site is served on a long siding known as "Umet" or "Patton" which is capable of filling unit trains and has room for 100+ hoppers on two tracks. During 1993, this plant shipped 383,670 tons, down from 467,000 tons the year before due mainly to the purchase of the Stonecoal Tipple at Coal Run. Several unique features are the twin steel clean coal storage silos, which are painted bright blue and sport a large "Chapperal Plant" sign visible from US 23, and the refuse loader. The facility currently does not have flood-loading capabilities such that trains can require as long as 10 hours to complete the loading process. Most of Costain's volume orders for steam coal are thus filled at the Ivel Plant while metallurgical shipments or production which requires cleaning moves out of Chapperal. Refuse from the plant is loaded from a large steel bin and hauled by off-road trucks up the mountainside to a mine dump. This is the dirt road leading uphill directly behind the plant and should be avoided at all cost except on Sundays due to heavy traffic.
Go back to US 23 and continue south for approximately 4 miles until you come to an intersection with US 460/80 and signs for Elkhorn City. Take a right off of US 23 and turn left on US 460/80 at the bottom of the ramp to pass under US 23 and head toward Shelbiania. US 23 continues south along Fords Branch as a 4-lane highway to Dorton where it shrinks back down to two lanes. A major project is currently underway to widen and link this section with the 4-lane section at Pound, Virginia on the southern side of steep Pine Mountain. When completed, one will be able to travel from Norton all the way to Ashland on a 4-lane highway. Something many in the area never thought would happen due to the cost restrictions.
Continuing on KY 2552 past the yard office allows us to pass the full length of the yard through downtown Shelbiania. Believe me, "downtown" is a very generous term. There are now only homes dotting the street with the only grocery store having closed up shop as a result of competition from new minimart gas stations on KY 80. This little store had been known as the "L&N Market" which I always found to be sort of ironic being located next to the C&O yards. Either this stood for someone's name or somebody had a great sense of humor! About midway through the yard is an old tipple clinging to the hill between the road and the tracks. (BS053.jpg) This is still located to your left just past the L&N Market. The owner is unknown ( to me at least) and the site has almost completely fallen down. Many years back, there had been a long conveyor dropping down the adjacent hillside from a small drift mine. This was removed as the mine played out and the tipple modified with a truck-dump to receive coal from off-site mines. Directly below the tipple is an area owned by the Adams Corporation and has been used to store various equipment for years. About a year ago, the company constructed a nice blue hopper car dumper and promptly ceased work. (BS051.jpg) What the intention of the structure is (or was) is also unknown but it had appeared that there was going to be a new cleaning plant built on site. A long cut of empty hoppers have been stored on the dumper tracks for several months now. Just past Adams, is a left turn into the yard which leads up to several homes! That's right, people live in the middle of the yard. How would you like to have this as a second home? Straight at this intersection leads to a dirt road which continues to follow the yard south to its end, albeit at an elevation of about 50 feet. There are several more homes at the very end of this road which can be used to locate trains ready to depart southbound. (BS055.jpg)
Get back to US 460/80 and continue toward Elkhorn City. About 4 miles from Shelby, we'll come to the community of Millard and the site of a brand new cut and bridge spanning the Levisa. Along the way, the Sutton defect detector may be seen by taking a right onto Greasy Creek Road and crossing the Levisa. This unit operates on the Clinchfield frequency of 161.100 (AAR 66) and allows easy monitoring of movements at the yards south end. Just as you enter an easily identified section of new highway, look to the right for a rather large mining complex. (BS032.jpg) This site belongs to the Tennessee Construction Company (TCC), which had been an operating subsidiary of Addington, Inc. and was recently repurchased from Addington (A publicly traded company) by Larry Addington (Operator of Addington Mining Company) and moved back to private ownership and control. The facility includes a 400-tph cleaning (prep) plant, on-site deep mine and related support equipment, ground storage stacking tubes, and a twin-track loader. Due to the lack of a flood-loader, the plant uses a colorful switch engine (critter) to pull hoppers under the loader which are then picked up by CSX on a turn out of Shelby. (BS034.jpg) The plant actually sits across the river from Millard at a little community known as Nelse, however the siding is referred to as McVicker. People have been know to alternate the name of the mine which is sometimes called McVicker and sometimes called Nelse. I guess both are correct but this can get confusing. Making matters even worse, the Clark Elkhorn Mining Company has recently entered into a co-partnership with TCC and now refers to the mine as their "Ratliff Mine". A very odd arrangement which I have yet to fully understand.
To get closer to the facility, do not cross the new US 460/80 bridge. Take the first right turn after entering the new highway section at an intersection with KY 1789. This road should curve under the new bridge, parallel a long railroad truss bridge which had brought the old Levisa Subdivision across the river, then come to a second intersection. Right at this intersection would take you back across the Levisa on a 2-lane bridge which had been the main 460/80 bridge prior to the new construction. There is a dirt road just prior to this intersection which looks as if it drops down into the river. Turn here, there should be a "TCC" sign, and follow this road under the railroad truss bridge to an even smaller one-lane bridge which crosses over the Levisa only a few feet above the water level. This bridge is often submerged during periods of heavy rains and the guardrails are always littered with garbage trapped as the river washes over. After crossing the bridge and entering the community of Nelse, take a right at the baseball field and climb uphill to a grade crossing. This road will now parallel the mainline back to the prep plant, passing the switch for Levisa Junction in the process. This is a county road and leads to a private home just past the loader which allows us to get a nice close-up view if desired. (BS033.jpg) Another slightly confusing route but its the only way to get here!
In addition to being the location of three road bridges and one rail bridge, Millard is the spot where the Russell Fork River joins the Levisa. The Russell Fork flows northward from Elkhorn City while the Levisa extends almost due eastward t o Fish Trap Lake. The Big Sandy mainline will now follow along the west bank of the Russell Fork while we're going to take a quick look at a coal loader on the remains of the Levisa Subdivision.
The Levisa Subdivision had continued east along the banks of the Levisa for about 15 miles to a mine located on the Second Fork of Big Creek near Dunlap, KY with two short spurs along the way. This particular mine was jointly served by the Norfolk and Western on their Levisa Branch out of Weller Yard. The N&W referred to the trackage up to the mine as the Second Creek Spur. About 1966, the C&O constructed a new rail line into the fabulously rich Johns Creek watershed by branching off the Levisa Subdivision about 3/4 of a mile east of Levisa Junction and following Lower Pompey Branch northward toward Meta. In July of 1979, the C&O completed construction of a tunnel near the town of Coal Run and redirected the Johns Creek Branch t o intersect the Big Sandy mainline at milepost CMG 100.0. This is covered in the Volume 1 report on the Coal Run Subdivision, however, at the time I posted it, I was unsure why the C&O felt they needed to redirect the branch. Closer inspection of t he old roadbed up Pompey Branch last year, which you may access by taking KY 1441 off of KY 1789 just past the Clark Elkhorn plant, revealed the severity of the grade encountered between the Levisa Sub and the community of Racoon. Checking a topo ma p shows a track elevation of 699 feet at Levisa and an elevation of 1,400 feet at Racoon. That a 701 foot climb in less than three miles which also traversed a horseshoe curve. The grade through the new tunnel must also gain the same altitude to reach Meta and Racoon, however, trains now have over 15 miles on fairly straight track in which to complete the climb. The trackage from Racoon to Levisa was removed about 1981 with a short section of the original branch remaining in service between Meta and Racoon serving two coal loading operations. (Volume 1)
As for the Levisa Subdivision, starting in 1962, construction of a new dam on the Levisa Fork was begun less than a mile past the location of today's Clark Elkhorn plant in order to form Fish Trap Lake. This was undertaken by the Army Corp of Engineers mainly to control flooding on the Ohio River and to regulate silt discharge from numerous strip mines. The area got a nice little recreational lake for fishermen in the bargain. Dedicated on October 26, 1968 by Lyndon B. Johnson himself, the 16 mile long, 85 foot deep, 1,131 acre lake completely covered the roadbed of the Levisa Subdivision during late 1967. The C&O was thus forced to give up their rails into Dunlap which the N&W happily took control of at the lake's eastern terminus. The jointly served mine on Second Fork has since closed and the original wooden tipple removed leaving nothing but concrete footers marking its old location. G.M. Mining now controls the property and has several mine entrances still open and active. (BS029.jpg)
We'll get back to this area in much more detail when I cover the N&W lines in the future. For now, the NS rails remain very active serving several loaders on their (N&W's) Levisa Branch. This includes one of the originally exclusive C&O tipples along Island Creek which is the only surviving structure on the ex-C&O trackage past the lake. The old C&O Levisa Subdivision rails have been removed from the Clark Elkhorn plant eastward to the dam with nothing remaining to see but the overgrown roadbed. On the eastern side of the lake, NS completed the removal of old Levisa trackage from Bane to Bama during 1993 and removed the Second Creek Spur and a related rail bridge in 1994. It is also interesting to note that prior to the filling of Fish Trap Lake, KY 1789 had been US 460 which was the major highway in this area. Looking at the width of 1789, you can well imagine the difficulties in getting around Pike County up until about 10 years ago.
These small tipples started disappearing during the eighties with the final customer on the line being the Clark Elkhorn Coal Company which operated at Wolfpit, less than a mile from the intersection until 1987. The rusting Clark Elkhorn No.5 (a.k.a. The Wolfpit Tipple) had existed just to your left as you topped the hill and consisted of a small cleaning plant and several unusual storage bins. (BS034.jpg) After the removal of a small tipple at Ratliff, about a mile south of Wolfpit, some started referring to the No.5 structure as "Ratliff" thus giving this old site at least three names! The No.5 Tipple was finally removed in late 1995. CSX abandoned the Marrowbone Sub shortly after Clark Elkhorn moved to the new plant we visited earlier but the lines true demise was caused by the inability to load unit trains intact due to numerous grade crossings and the tight valley that restricted on-site coal storage and stockpiling. Redirecting the road and rails would have been way too expensive so the line fell victim to it's design and geography. CSX began ripping the trackage up in late 1995 and piles of ties may still be found along the creek banks. The area continues to hold vast coal reserves and there remains a small non-rail prep plant located near Lookout on Big Branch Road. This is a good sized, 450-tph plant built by Henry Clay Mining and now operated by the Citation Coal Corporation as the Hurricane Elkhorn Prep Plant. Coal from the Hurricane Plant is trucked about 16 miles to Elkhorn City where Citation uses the Elkhorn No.5 Dock to ship their production by rail. As of late 1994, Citation has idled both facilities and faces an uncertain future.
Back at the KY 80 crossing, you'll first notice a loadout between the river and the road, but what's now missing are two smaller sites that had been located next to the road just to the east of KY 80. The first of the two sat on the northern side of the tracks and was owned by the Marathon Coal Company. Known as the Little Beaver Tipple, the structures consisted of little more than a conveyor and truck-dump and loaded on the 28 car, "Little Beaver" siding. (BS035.jpg) Sitting directly across from the Little Beaver Tipple was the larger Dunleary No.4 Tipple, which had been owned by the Alma Coal Corporation and finally by Middlestates Coal Company. This more modern tipple consisted of a covered truck-dump, enclosed crushing equipment and a loader with an enclosed control room. A second siding known as "Dunleary No.4" served this tipple and was also capable of holding 28 cars. (BS036.jpg) Both of these structures were removed in 1995.
Now for the large, active loadout located between the river and KY 80 at Dunleary. This facility is currently owned and operated by the Branham and Baker Coal Company which is based in Prestonsburg and operates several mines and three full-size preparation plants in Pike and Floyd Counties. The site consist of a scale house, coal sampling lab, truck-dump, crushing equipment, twin stacking tubes with stockpiles and finally, a small loader. Branham and Baker obtained the facility on January 2, 1992 after closing a deal to purchase Sunnyside Kentucky, Inc. which was a subsidiary of Bolder, Colorado's Sunnyside Mines, Inc. Sunnyside had acquired the facility after a takeover of the Potter Mining Company. Potter in-turn, had acquire d the site from the Praise Coal Company who built the loader and named it after Praise Creek (flowing under the mainline and into the Russell Fork just south of Dunleary Junction) to distinguish it from the Dunleary Tipple, operational at the time. Included in Branham and Baker's $17 million dollar deal were 20 million tons of low sulfur metallurgical coal reserves and the loadout. B&B had actually only been after the loader itself due to development of the new 12,000 acre Ferrells Creek strip mine, located just off US 460 on Middlefield Creek Road and directly adjacent to the Republic reserves, and significantly increased their overall coal holdings in the process. The loadout's capacity has since been upgraded from the original 120,000 tons to over 180,000 tons per month and B&B has now leased the entire Spur and Dunleary Passing Siding from CSX. The Beaver Creek Subdivision, or Beaver Creek Spur as it's now known, thus remains active to some extent with rails in place for about a mile from the grade crossing. CSX shifters working out of Shelby can deliver up to 90 cars per day to Praise, which are shoved up the old branchline until the last car just clears the KY 80 grade crossing. Up to ten may also be spotted between th e loader and the crossing depending on the requirements for the day. Branham & Baker owns a small trackmobile that runs across the road on rubber tires, mounts the rails on retractable wheels, and shuttles about 6 cars at a time under the small loader. The trackmobile then uses the road tires to run around to the opposite end of the loaded hoppers, remounts the rails, and shoves them across the Russell Fork onto the Dunleary Passing Siding where they are picked up as a complete train by yet an other shifter and returned to Shelby. (BS037.jpg) (BS038.jpg) (Note: Branham & Baker, which has grown during the past two years with the purchase of ex-Beth Energy properties on the SV&E Sub and a prep plant on the Coal Run Sub, is now rumored to b e a prime takeover target for Cyprus-Amax Corporation. It has long been common knowledge that Cyprus was interested in moving operations into Pike County and were looking for a big score. B&B may have gotten just large enough to entice a buyout bid but nothing has been publicly announced as of June 1. I'll keep you posted.)
We are now very close to the end of the Big Sandy Subdivision. Continuing south from Dunleary on KY 80, you'll need to keep a very sharp watch to your right for the final prep plant. It's less than a mile to downtown Elkhorn City from the grade crossing at Dunleary and this tipple is located just about halfway there. Well hidden during the summer months, the site is best seen from the road during the fall or winter after the leaves have fallen. This is the ex-Federal Mining Company's Federal Tipple which had been idled after control passed to Lexington-based Lamplighter Mining Company but has recently started shipping truck-delivered coal after being acquired by Cougar Processing Company of Elkhorn City. The complex had consist ed of a deep mine located on Moore Branch, a medium sized, one-of-a-kind, 200 tph prep plant which uses an air table to clean coal in place of water or other heavy media, and a small dual-track loader. Coal was transported by narrow gauge rail from the mine to a large hopper at the mouth of Moore Branch where they were dumped. (This structure had been barely visible from KY 80 at the northern end of the tipple.) The coal was then conveyored around the hillside to the prep plant where it was cleaned and loaded directly into hoppers on the 30 car capacity, "Federal" siding. In late 1995, Cougar gained control of the site, closed and sealed the deep mine, removed the mine car dump and conveyors, reactivated the truck-dump and started shipping out low volume orders. Refuse is stored in a small hopper, loaded into trucks and driven to a nearby mine dump. This facility has never been a big shipper due to the lack of flood-loading and ground storage capabilities and requires frequent shifter action while fully operational. The site would make an excellent modeling project due to its compact size but it is very difficult to photograph due to the location. Actually getting over to the plant can be even harder. Continue into Elkhorn City and pass under the mainline tracks. KY 80 will soon come to an intersection and curve 90 degrees to the left. Continuing straight will get you nowhere. As you cross a short bridge, there will be an intersection with KY 197 at the town's only red light. Turn right, pass through the business district and start looking for a school on your right. There is a hard to spot road which turns right just before passing the school that allows us to cross Elkhorn Creek over a one-lane bridge with out guardrails and gain access to the western bank of the Russell Fork. Follow this one-lane paved road as it winds around the hill and you'll soon pass behind the prep plant and truck-dump. You'll notice the road is completely blocked should a truck be present at the dumper. Continuing around the hillside will allow you a birds-eye view of the old mine and car dumper as the road winds up Moore Branch. Believe it or not, this is a public road, albeit one-lane and muddy in places, so watch for oncoming cars at the blind corners and DO NOT venture down by the old mine without checking with the guard as he has been known to give long lectures on the dangers of trespassing. (BS039.jpg) (BS040.jpg) (BS049.jpg)
And this is the end of the Big Sandy Subdivision. The actual end is just across the rail truss bridge spanning the Russell Fork at the north end of Elkhorn City Yard. Elkhorn City is always well worth a visit and includes a nice little Rail road Museum located just beside the truss bridge. The town itself is full of history and is the source for all these "Elkhorn" names used throughout the region for coal seams and coal companies. (In fact, one company, the Elk Horn Coal Corporation owned by Tredegar Industries, had controlled most of the actual mineral & mining rights to over 142,000 acres in Pike County until their sale to Pen Holdings, Inc. during August of 1994.) How this town was named is a nice little story that, contrary to popular belief, is related to the C&O, not the Clinchfield and goes something like this. (OK here's your History 101 class for the day.) Up until the mid 1700's, this part of Kentucky was home to giant herds of Eastern Elk which are a subspecies of the common Rocky Mountain Elk found in the Western United States. This was the prime reason native Americans had always called Kentucky the "Great Hunting Grounds". When Kentucky was sold to the Transylvania Company in 1775, settlers ventured into the area and began clearing forest and planting crops in every flat meadow available. This loss of habitat, in addition to unregulated hunting, lead to the eventual extinction of the Eastern Elk in Kentucky by the early 1800's. When the town was settled about 1810, a young boy found a huge elk's "horn" by the banks of an un-named creek. (Now we should all know that an elk has a set of antlers, not horns, but this was the common term during the time.) This "horn" was so large, rare and impressive that the boy was allowed to name the creek in its honor and kept his trophy on local display until it disappeared or was stolen just after his death around 1865. As the town began to grow over the coming years, the need for a local post office became evident. When the town's inhabitants were asked the community's name, "Elk Horn" was given and used for a period of time until it was discovered there was already a post office named "Elk Horn" way over in Taylor County causing mail delivery confusion. The new office was thus renamed "Praise" after Camp Praise-the-Lord, a nearby tent colony set up on the banks of the Russell Fork for a revival in 1881. (This is the source of "Praise Creek" and thus Branham and Baker's Praise Loadout.) When the C&O arrived at the site of the confluence of Elkhorn Creek and the Russell Fork in 1907, they opened a small rail station and named it Elkhorn City after the legend of the great Elk's Horn. The town was thus named "Praise" and the railroad station and yard "Elkhorn City". This lasted until 1952 when the Post Office Department officially changed the name of the local office to "Elkhorn City" by which it remains today.
The yard itself may be easily seen by continuing south on KY 80 until it crosses over the tracks about midway through the yard on a long concrete bridge. (CF001.jpg) In the past, not only was Elkhorn City an interchange point for two large railroads, but there had been up to ten operational coal loaders or "docks" which kept shifters busy day in and day out. 1996 finds the yard a mear shadow of what had been, with tipple and track removal projects ongoing and only two loaders currently working. All of these old coal docks were considered part of the Clinchfield Railroad and as such, full descriptions will be left to my "Clinchfield" report in the near future. In the mean time, the yard is easy to get around in and requires little direction so snap your pictures while there's still something here to photograph. On an up note of sorts, if you'll recall from the discussion of the ex-Republic Steel property over on Road Creek, Coal Mac has just broken ground (May 6th) for a brand new preparation plant to be built on the western side of the yard. All of the older Potter and Maw Haynes "Docks", except for one, on the lower level of the Yard have already been removed and the land leveled. Coal Mac, owned by Ashland Coal, i s planning on cleaning all of the coal mined at the "Republic" reserves here in Elkhorn City and will ship from a new, high-capacity flood-loader. Unfortunately, upon the prep plant's completion, plans are to remove the old Barrowman Dock, located o n the eastern side of the yard, from which coal is now flowing, resulting in the loss of yet another piece of history. Regardless, the new Coal Mac-Elkhorn City Prep Plant will help to ensure this is a very busy section of Appalachian railroading for years to come.
The next installment of the "Guides" should be much shorter and will cover the Dawkins and Middle Creek Subdivisions while Volume 8 will round out the ex-C&O rails through Kentucky with the E&BV, SV&E and related Subdivisions off these two. Reports after these two are still up in the air but I am considering the Clinchfield for Volume 9 and then a look at some ex-N&W rails for those who keep asking. Topographical maps for the area covered in this report include: Ashland, Catlettsburg, Burnaugh, Prichard, Louisa, Adams, Richardson, Offutt, Paintsville, Prestonsburg, Lancer, Harold, Broadbottom, Pikeville, Millard, Hellier, Lick Creek, Jamboree and Elkhorn City. Listed below are file names, file size and short descriptions for the accompanying photos. As always, I enjoy feedback, so contact me at RDV2@aol.com with any comments, corrections, additions or criticisms. Enjoy!
Many of the following pictures are from my collections while several were taken during a railfan trip along the Big Sandy during mid-May of this year. I usually don't like to shoot structure shots during the spring and summer due to the foliage and various "critters" lurking in the underbrush but found many of my existing prints just didn't hold up to scanning. Case in point, I ran into about six snakes on a hike back into the spur near Coal Run Junction. It took me 30 minutes to hike in and over an hour to get back out since I started watching every step! Not as much fun as I wanted to have but I got the pictures. I've dedicated about one print to each site and wound up with very near my 10 meg limit on FTP space. If you are involved in a modeling project and wish more detailed shots of a specific structure, drop me a message and I'll try to help you out. Otherwise, look for additional prints from the Big Sandy in upcoming reports from time to time.
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Part 7 (COMINMG LATER)
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