Ridin’ That New River Train

C&O E-8A 4021 Hawks Nest, WV May 66 a

C&O E8 #4021 with sister unit #4002 leading the very first New River excursion at Hawks Nest on May 17, 1966. The train was actually backing across the bridge so those patrons who wanted to photograph the train going across the bridge could do so then get back on the train for the trip to Hinton, WV . This is known as a photo runby.

As Autumn approaches each year my thoughts go to West Virginia and the New River excursions through the New River Gorge. I was fortunate to have been a member of the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, a chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society, in the mid 1960′s. It was during this time that the chapter had planned to run its first ever New River Excursion from Huntington, WV to Hinton, WV with intermediate stops at St. Albans, Charleston and Montgomery. Much work went in to planning the trip as this was something new to us all.

John Killoran who was a charter member of CPH was the trip chairman and did most of the contact work with the Chesapeake and Ohio Ry. John was also with the state of West Virginia and was instrumental in starting up Cass Scenic Railroad which today attracts numerous riders each year. The success of today’s New River excursions can be traced back to those humble beginnings on May 17, 1966.

The first New River train was so popular that another trip was run in October of the same year to take in the fall colors of the New River Gorge. Needless to say, this trip was a total success. From then on these trips became a yearly operation on the C&O and later run by Amtrak when they took over passenger operations from most of the major U.S. railroads including the C&O.

Today’s New River Excursions do not have open air cars nor do they stage photo runbys at Hawks Nest as was done for the first few excursions but it is still a trip that will continue for on years as long as the people keep coming to take in one of the most scenic areas in West Virginia.







Left: The open air cars are actually two N&W gondolas that have a center benches facing outward for viewing the scenery. They were crowded at times especially while travelling through the gorge. Right: View of downtown Charleston across the Kanawha River. For those familiar with this area, the road in the foreground is two lane MacCorkle Ave which today sports four lanes.







Left: Going past South Ruffner.  A control tower was located here until 1953. See my October, 2011 post on CTC on the C&O. Right: Passing through Kanawha City. 







Left: Old round house at Handley, WV. Right: Looking westbound at Handley. This was a crew change for freight crews only.  Most everything you see in the photo is gone including the yard tracks that were used for switching coal, the control tower, coaling tower and the roundhouse. You can look at the satellite view of the area on Google maps. It is truly amazing. 








Left: Crowd waving to the engineer on Westbound Train #3 the Fast Flying Virginian. Right: Rear of #3. This was the only daytime passenger train through the New River Gorge until May 12, 1968 when it made its last trip. You can view my story of the last run of the FFV on my April 30, 2011 post.


View of the train in the distance as it has backed up so people can photograph or just watch the train coming across the bridge. Some people got off just to look around.


View of what is was like crossing on Track #1 over the New River on the two thru truss spans. The two main lines of the old C&O split at Hawks Nest and runs along both sides of the river for a distance of approximately 15 miles eastward to Sewell. At Sewell, the #2 main crosses the New River on a similar type structure and rejoins the #1 main. 




Left: Coming around sharp curve toward Hawks Nest station. The curve has a 15 mph speed restriction for all trains. Right: Sightseeing gondolas are full of folks as the train is backing up for the photo runby.


There are a bunch of smiling people on the ground as well as in the gondolas. 

I hope this has given you a flavor of what the first New River excursion was like. It was an exciting time for all and hopefully many memories were made especially for this writer as being a part of the working crew.

My Favorite Locations Along The Former Virginian Railway

Former Virginian Railway bridge over the New River and the N&W mainline at Glen Lyn, VA just across the West Virginia border in April 1968Spectacular crossing of the New River and N&W mainline at Glen Lyn, VA just across the West Virginia border. This photo was taken in 1968 approximately four years before this section of the former Virginian was retired due to the widening of US 460 to four lanes. 

The purpose of this post is to look in at a few locations that were my favorite places to visit along the former Virginian Railway a few years following its absorption into the Norfolk and Western Railway on December 1, 1959. So much has been written about the history of the VGN that I will not go into details here. There are some fine resources that are available that are mentioned in my piece about Page, WV.

The VGN was in existence for a short 50 years. The many impressive bridges and tunnels (mostly in West Virginia) enabled the VGN to provide a superior gradient for hauling coal especially over that of N&W’s parallel route between Kelleysville, WV (east of Bluefield,WV) to Roanoke, VA and on to Norfolk.

When I first started taking pictures, the VGN had been gone for about seven years. The right-of-way still had the look of the VGN with its searchlight signals and communication lines, but all of the former VGN diesel locomotives had been repainted to N&W colors. Also the electrified portion of the railroad between Mullens and Roanoke was dismantled in the last half of 1962.

I hope you will enjoy the photos.

Ex VGN Power Plant Narrows, VA OCT 1969Former VGN coal fired power plant located at Narrows, VA, about seven miles east of Glen Lyn. The plant supplied electricity for the entire electrified territory. It was shut down on June 30, 1962 at the end of electrification. The structure was dismantled in the early 1970′s for the US 460 widening project.

N&W Glen Lyn, VA Train (Time Frt) on Christiansburg Dist Apr 1968

N&W Glen Lyn, VA Train (Pass) on Christiansburg Dist Apr 1968






Left Photo: Westbound N&W time freight heading to Bluefield. Right Photo: N&W passenger train the Powhatan Arrow also heading westbound under the New River bridge.

N&W 1116 C626 Hales Gap, WV Apr 1968

N&W 1116 C626 Glen Lyn, VA Apr 1968






Left photo: Coal train just east of Kelleysville, WV about to head into Hales Gap tunnel  on the former VGN. Eastbound coal  trains from Bluefield on the N&W would utilize the connection at Kelleysville. From this point all coal from Bluefield, as well as Mullens on the VGN, travelled to Roanoke over the VGN which made it virtually a one way railroad. Empties headed back to Mullens over the N&W to Kelleysville. This location is now filled over including the tunnel by the US 460 widening project.
Right Photo: Same train passing over the New River bridge. The US 460 widening project utilized the VGN right-of-way either side of this bridge and the nearby bridge over the East River at the VA-WV state line. Because these bridges were left as “islands” they were dismantled. Only the massive concrete piers in the New River remain today.

N&W ex VGN New River Bridge Glen Lyn, VA  Apr 1968 (1)

View of bridge looking east. Beyond the end of this bridge, the eastbound lanes of US 460 uses the former VGN mainline to Narrows. Driving along you could almost get a feel of what it was like to be on a train riding along the New River.

N&W Princeton, WV Depot - APR 1968N&W Princeton, WV Shops Apr 68






Princeton became an important point on the Virginian. Coal hoppers were constructed and maintained at the massive shop complex. It is hard to believe that all of the buildings in the left photo have been torn down. There was an effort to save the buildings but it unfortunately failed. The photo on the right is the depot at Princeton. The steel post with the hanging insulator remained there as a tribute to the electrified part of the VGN. The depot was torn down in 1979 about 10 years after this photo was made. Some years later a new building which is a replica of the old depot was constructed and now serves as a museum dedicated to the history of the VGN.

N&W Mullens, WV Motor Barn Apr 1968 2

N&W Mullens, WV Motor Barn Apr 1968 1






Mullens, WV was the western end of the Virginian electrified route. It was also the location of Elmore Yard where short coal trains were gathered for the run up to the hill to Clarks Gap to be assembled in longer trains for the run eastbound to Norfolk. The photo on the right shows the building referred as the Mullens Motor Barn where electrics were serviced and later diesels after electrification ended. 

N&W Mullens, WV Motor Barn and Town APR 1968

 Another view of the motor barn. The bridge in the background is the VGN mainline. The line on the other side of the Guyandotte River is a connection track from the mainline to the Winding Gulf Branch. The Winding Gulf Branch begins at the east end of Elmore Yard and runs past the motor barn next to the hillside as can be seen in the previous two photos. The connection track has since been removed.

N&W 168 & 174 ex VGN 68 & 74 H24-66 Mullens, WV Aug 1972

A pair of former Virginian locomotives at Elmore Yard. When ordered by the VGN from Fairbanks-Morse in the early 1950′s, they were the most powerful single unit locomotives constructed at that time. The units in the photo above were classified as H24-66 and were known as Trainmasters. The VGN ordered 25 units numbered 50 to 74. After the merger, the N&W added a “1″ in front of the number which made them #168 and #174 respectively.

N&W 167 ex VGN 67 H24-66 Page, WV Apr 1968 (1)

View of another former VGN Trainmaster at Page, WV. Much has been written in my previous post on Page so I won’t go into details here. The locomotive is sitting in the area where a new coal loadout was constructed in the early 2000′s. 

N&W ex VGN RofW Looking WB Apr 1967 Page, WV

N&W ex VGN RofW Looking WB May 2013 Page, WV






N&W ex VGN RofW Looking EB Apr 1967 Page, WV

N&W ex VGN RofW Looking EB May 2013 Page, WV






The top and bottom left photos were in my post on Page but on a visit to the area in May, 2013 I remembered this time to take photos at nearly the same location I did back in 1967. It was interesting to see the change over that period of time. The top two photos are looking westbound (geographically north) and the bottom two eastbound (geographically south). See how many changes you can find.

Joe Jett and Doug Bess (2)

James Kincaid, John Frazier, and Doug Bess






One reason for making the trip to Page this year was to install the last VGN Heritage Trail marker. This project was begun by a man named Aubrey Wiley out of Lynchburg, VA. He has written a number of books on the VGN. Aubrey has placed markers at various locations along the route of the former VGN from Deepwater to Norfolk. He gave me the privilege of installing the last marker for the Page-Kincaid area. Left photo: My cousin Joe Jett is pouring cement into the hole while I am making sure the post is vertical. The VGN mainline is in the background. Right photo from left to right: James Kincaid, trustee of Kincaid United Methodist Church, who agreed to host the marker; John Frazier, a native and local historian of the area and also a childhood friend of my mother who was a tremendous help in finding a location for the marker; and the author wearing a VGN tee shirt.

Virginian Railway Heritage Trail Sign (2)

Closeup of the VGN Heritage Trail marker for the Page and Kincaid area along St Route 61. For more information on this project please visit the website as shown on the sign. The Virginian Railway has been gone since December 1, 1959, but memories of the VGN still run strong I’m sure for those who had family members employed by or those who simply admired the history and operation of the VGN. These markers will keep the memories and history of the Virginian Railway alive for years to come.

Kenova, WV – A Hot Spot For Train Watching

Kenova001 Aug 1966 Reduced Watermarked

Eastbound N&W passenger train The Powhatan Arrow arriving at the elevated station in Kenova in August, 1966 having crossed the main truss spans over Ohio River and coming to a stop on the approach spans. The existing structure was completed in 1913 having replaced the single track structure built in the early 1890s. 

In my November 5, 2010 post I mentioned that Kenova was a great location to photograph trains on two major railroads at that time and at one place and those were the Chesapeake & Ohio and the Norfolk & Western railways. I won’t take time to repeat what was said in my first post but I have included two photos of the C&O as promised. I hope you enjoy this photo essay.

Kenova002 Aug 1966 Reduced Watermarked

Kenova003 Aug 1966 Reduced Watermarked






On the left: Close up of N&W GP9 #519. These units were steam generator equipped and also had dual control stands so that the units would not have to be turned and the engineer could always be on the right side to see the signals. Photo on the right shows connections between the units so they can be operated by only one engineer. The N&W was one of the few major railroads to use “geeps” to pull main line passenger trains.

Kenova009 Dome Car 1612 Sep 1967

The Arrow sported a dome car as a result of the lease of the Wabash RR by the N&W in 1964. In the same year the N&W acquired the Nickel Plate Road and the Pittsburgh & West Virginia Ry by lease that expanded the N&W almost four fold. The N&W did not have domes until the Wabash acquisition. 

Kenova004 Sep 1967 Watermarked

Westbound coal drag approaching the Kenova bridge being pulled by GP9 #713 and sister units. It was hard to capture the force being exerted by the locomotives pulling the loads up grade to the bridge.

Kenova007 GP9 869 Sep 1967

N&W GP9s #869 and 717 switching a string of hoppers around Kenova Yard. The track the train is on used to be the mainline to Williamson, WV. In 1933 a section between Wayne and Lenore was abandoned in favor of a better alignment along the Big Sandy and Tug Fork rivers. It is at this spot where the new alignment on the right ties into the original N&W main. The old main line out of Kenova then became the Wayne Branch. It still carries the mainline mile posting that originates from Norfolk, VA

Kenova006 Sep 1967 WB Arrow Watermarked (1)

Westbound Powhatan Arrow with dome car arriving at the Kenova Depot in September, 1967. This view shows the expanse of the elevated platform. It’s almost as if you were at ground level.  N&W’s color position signal is in the background. To the right is KX Tower. The tan building across the tracks which a lady passenger is walking toward houses the elevator for moving baggage from the ground floor. Note the baggage carts. Next to that is the station. 

Kenova, WV Feb 1968  WB Powhatan Arrow Watermarked

The westbound Arrow is approaching Kenova on a cold snowy day in February, 1968. The signal on the left is for eastbound C&O trains. If I remember correctly, the signal was attached to the walkway but when it was removed the signal was relocated to a ground mast.

At one time the Kenova station served three railroads. Besides the N&W and C&O, the Baltimore & Ohio had passenger service from Wheeling to Kenova. By the 1950′s or so, C&O and B&O passenger trains stopped serving Kenova. In B&O’s case passenger trains were discontinued. By 1965 B&O’s track from Huntington to Kenova was removed as a result of the C&O acquiring control of the B&O in 1963.

Kenova005 Sep 1967 Watermarked

Eastbound empty coal train headed back to the coal fields being pulled by GP9 #845 followed by Alco RS11 #377 and another GP9. The main truss spans over the Ohio River are in the background. This is one of my favorite shots.

Kenova008 Sep 1967 Caboose 518318 Watermarked

Conductor of the same train as above giving the photographer a wave as he passes by. I really miss not seeing the caboose bringing up the rear of today’s freight trains.

N&W Caboose 518410 Watermarked

A work extra has just left Kenova Yard heading to do work probably somewhere in Ohio perhaps at South Point or Ironton. 


Kenova017 Sep 1967 C&O 6249 Reduced Watermarked

The C&O also did its share for making Kenova a Hot Spot for train watching which it still is today.  GP9 #6249 is puling an eastbound manifest freight along with four sister units. It is about to go under the N&W bridge. The signal bridge in the background marks the end of the C&O three track main line that began in Huntington. (See Huntington, WV Part III). From there two tracks cross the Big Sandy River into Catlettsburg, KY. The track on the far right is N&W’s line to the coal unloading facilities along the Ohio River. Train movements from Kenova Yard had to cross the C&O mains at grade through a series of crossovers approximately a mile east of here.  


Kenova018 C&O Manifest Sep 1967 Reduced Watermarked

Another eastbound C&O manifest pulled by GP9 #5975 about to pass under the N&W bridge. The Kenova Depot is just to the right out of the picture. In the distance you can see the telltales suspended over the tracks. They served as a warning to men riding on the tops of cars of an impending low clearance. They became obsolete when the railroads banned workers from car tops. 

Kenova011 GP9 Mar 1968 Reduced Watermarked

The Ohio side of N&W’s bridge over the Ohio River afforded a closer view of the massive truss spans plus made another interesting spot to photograph trains. Here two GP units are leading a hopper train westbound toward Portsmouth, OH.

  Kenova014 Mar 1968 Watermarked

The west bound Arrow crossing the five truss spans over the Ohio in March 1968. The bridge is approximately 80 ft above normal pool. It has survived floods of the Ohio River over the years including the flood of 1937 which has been designated as the worst flood of recorded history. The small structure in the foreground is the old US 52 underpass at North Kenova, OH

Kenova010 Mar 1968

Kenova013 Caboose 518135 Mar 1968 Watermarked






Eastbound empty hopper train headed by Alco C626 #1139 and EMD GP18 #906. There is no highway bridge over the Ohio River at Kenova. The closest bridge is at 17th St W in Huntington about 5.5 miles upriver. The next closest is about 8 miles downriver at Ashland, KY.

Kenova, WV Feb 1968 KX Tower copy
Kenova016 Jun 1972 KX Tower Reduced Watermarked






Two views of KX Tower. On the left the tower was still in operation in February, 1968.  On the right in June 1972 you can see evidence that the tower is no longer in operation. The train order signals and the platforms for the engineer and conductor to pick up train orders on the fly have been removed. KX Tower at one time controlled the mainline from Prichard, WV to Ironton, OH a distance of about 25 miles.

Kenova, WV Feb 1968  KX Operator


Tower operator at Kenova standing on the platform where train orders are placed to be picked up by train crews passing by. Unfortunately I don’t remember his name but I do remember how he befriended me and allowed me to see what an operator does during his shift.

The operator was quite busy at times. He received train orders from the division dispatcher over company phone then typed up the orders and placed them out for the trains. Also he remotely controlled switches and signals from a control panel inside the tower. The need for train orders diminished over the years as the railroads adopted two way radio communications. Towers were gradually closed as railroads switched to controlling trains from a central location mostly at division headquarters.  

I hope you have enjoyed this look at Kenova.

Huntington, WV Part III

img128 croppedSD18 #1802 and sister unit pulling Westbound coal drag on #2 main track just beyond the west end of Huntington Yard at 2nd St West. It was from this point that three mains ran to Kenova a distance of approximately 7.5 miles. HO Cabin is in the background to left of the train. 

For this post I thought I would make it picture album of various photos of the C&O around the Huntington area. I hope you enjoy it.


GP7 #5704 switching South Yard near 16th Street (now Hal Greer Blvd) in March, 1970. This unit was originally ordered by the Pere Marquette in 1947 but was delivered to the C&O as result of the merger with the PM in the same year. This unit is now in operation on the Lebanon, Mason and Monroe RR in excursion service as #55. For more history on this locomotive you can visit their site at lebanonrr.com/history.html.



GP7 #5795 with caboose 90267 at 16th Street Yard. The paint scheme on this unit is similar to that used on #5704 when it was delivered. Note the lamps for the switch stands. They light up at night so that crews could tell which way the switches were lined.


GP7 #5715 at 16th Street Yard in the Futura paint scheme.

img127 Cleaned Up

Eastbound freight headed by SD units passing by the outdoor museum operated by the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society at 14th Street West at the end of Memorial Park.

C&O E-8A 4026 Huntington, WV Mar 68

On the left, E8 #4026 in its original tri-color paint scheme at the Huntington Diesel Shop. On the right is freshly painted #4005 in the simplified C&O paint scheme. 

C&O E-8A 4014 Huntington, WV Mar 68 Simple Side View

C&O E-8A 4014 Huntington, WV Mar 68 Simple

Left: E8 #4014 in the simplified big C&O scheme. Right: Front view of #4014. At the left side of the photo is DK Cabin.

C&O E-8A 4014 Huntington, WV Aug 66 Mr. H.F. Bogenschutz

Picture of engineer for Train #3 Mr. H. F. Bogenschutz standing beside E8 #4014 on an August day in 1966. Bogey, as he was known by fellow trainmen, befriended me during the years he ran trains #3 and #4 between Cincinnati and Huntington. On days I went to see #3 I would always try to be there on the days he worked. Mr. Bogenschutz always invited me into the cab. I will never forget his kindness.  

Huntington, WV Feb 1968 (2)

On a cold snowy February 1968, Train #3 has clear signal to depart Huntington westbound. This view is from the engineer’s side. The snow makes the tracks stand out.



Two Short Lines of the Kanawha Valley


Carbon Fuel  Co. coal loading facility near Chelyan, WV. Brand new EMD model SW-1500 #13 is getting ready to move more cars full of coal which will be unloaded into barges positioned on the west bank of the Kanawha River.

With a focus of the major rail systems of the Kanawha Valley which back in the 1960s included the Chesapeake & Ohio, the New York Central, the Baltimore & Ohio (which came into Charleston along the Elk River) and the Norfolk & Western (former Virginian Railway) line that came into the valley at Deepwater, it would be easy to overlook two small railroads that existed at that time. They were the Winifrede Railroad and the Kelley’s Creek & Northwestern Railroad.  The Winifrede was approximately 7.2 miles long while the KC&NW was 4.70 miles in length. The WRR and the KC&NW were constructed solely to haul coal from the mines located up the hollows of Fields Creek and Kelleys Creek respectively to barge loading facilities on the Kanawha River.

The Winifrede Railroad Company

More photos of Winifrede #13.

The Winifrede RR was incorporated on November 18, 1881. 30 years prior to this time, it began as a narrow gage railroad to haul coal from the mines at Winifrede. It was constructed of 56 lb rail spiked directly to wood ties. During the Civil War and into the 1870s the mines were closed down. Needless to say the rails and ties had deteriorated over those years. When the mines reopened in the late 1870s the railroad was rebuilt to standard gage and began operation with a second hand steam locomotive. After 15 months a Baldwin locomotive was purchased along with a passenger coach and 60 six ton coal cars. Also during this time a coal tipple was constructed on the Kanawha River.

Old wooden caboose. Notice headlight on roof top. During steam operation and possibly during the early diesel years, locomotives did not run around train so caboose was in the lead as train backed up. 






Two shots of WRR 2 (Ex C&O) caboose. It appears to be bringing up the rear of empties but in actuality the train is parked on the mainline just short of community of Winifrede while miners were enjoying their annual vacation. 

A declining coal market in the mid 1920s again forced the mines and the railroad to close down. The railroad retained its charter and in 1930 it was back in operation when Winifrede Collieries acquired the Winifrede properties.

At this time steam locomotives were still being used however the cost of acquiring parts to maintain them became more difficult. The railroad acquired a General Electric 70 ton diesel locomotive in 1955 and at the same time replaced 85 lb rail with 100 lb rail. In 1967 the Winifrede took delivery of an EMD SW 1500 switcher.









Left: photo at other end of cut of cars looking toward community of Winifrede and mine. Emgine house is on the left. Note the position of switch. Right: photo of company buildings in Winifrede. Engine house is on right. 

While the Winifrede did interchange with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway at Winifrede Jct in the Kanawha Valley just west of Cheylan, most of its business was just as it was built to do.





 Two views of Carbon Fuel Co mine load out up Fields Creek hollow from the town of Winifrede.  


 The end of the line marked by a red flag and piled up ties.

For more information about the Winifrede, please visit the website http://www.gottrains.com/winifrede/index.htm.


Kelley’s Creek and Northwestern Railroad

KC&NW #7, a GE 70 Tonner locomotive at Cedar Grove, WV coupled to leased New York Central hoppers getting ready to shove cars toward the barge loading facility on the Kanawha River.

Construction of the Kelley’s Creek & Northwestern began in 1902. It was built and owned by Valley Camp Coal Company to haul coal from Valley Camp’s Donaldson Mine located up Kelley’s Creek hollow near the community of Mammoth to the loading facility on the Kanawha River at Cedar Grove.


Left: Closeup of NYC hopper showing it as leased to the KC&NW  Right: Photo of KC&NW #7. The man in the photo took a picture of me taking a picture of #7 so I did the same for him.

There is not much available information on the KC&NW. It was built a few years before New York Central predecessor Kanawha & Michigan RR built their line from Charleston to Gauley Bridge. Since the K&M was last to build through Cedar Grove, K&M trains had to stop at the crossing diamond in Cedar Grove for KC&NW trains moving to the barge loading facility on the Kanawha River.


Left: Coal load-out near Mammoth.  Right: Engine house at Ward.

In the mid 1980s Valley Camp Coal was bought by Quaker State Oil Company which included the KC&NW. A few years later Quaker State decided to get out of the coal business. The last day of operation for the railroad was April 3, 1993. After that, all of the assets of the coal company and railroad which by then included two EMD MP1500 locomotives plus an unknown number of hopper cars were sold. The KC&NW was granted authority by the Surface Transportation Board to abandon the entire line effective February 8, 1995. For more information on the KC&NW please visit http://www.gottrains.com/kelleyscreek/

I am thankful for the opportunity to have photographed these two shortlines back in 1967. While what was the Winifred Railroad is still in place and operating now as the Big Eagle Railroad, the Kelley’s Creek and Northwestern is gone forever.


NOTE: You can click on individual photos to enlarge them. Use the left arrow on the browser to return to the write up.



C&O at Russell, KY

Two SD-18s with wide vision caboose going over the hump used for classifying merchandise freight that was separate from that used for humping coal. The hills of southern Ohio are in the background.

Russell, KY was the home of C&O’s largest yard for classifying coal and possibly the largest yard in the nation set aside for this purpose that existed in the 1960′s and into the 70′s. The yard extended for almost 3.5 miles which included the Raceland car shops. Maximum width of Russell Yard was nearly 1,700 feet around the area of the coal hump. The above picture shows the expanse of the yard.

I first became familiar with Russell as a young boy. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I would spend time with my paternal grandparents in Huntington. On a few occasions my grandparents would take me to Russell to visit my grandmother’s brother and his wife. My great uncle had a dream house as far as I was concerned. It was located in a section east of the town called River View. From his house not only could you see the Ohio River but the mainline of the C&O came right in front of the house. On a really clear day you could also see trains of the Norfolk and Western Railway across the Ohio River.

I remember on several occasions my great uncle or his son (my dad’s first cousin) taking me down to Russell Yard. They ran a coal forwarding agency for a number of years. Their office was located I believe near or in the coal hump tower. I can’t begin to tell you how interesting it was to see all of those loaded coal hoppers, and locomotives standing by the servicing area getting ready for their next run. It was quite a site.

The next 14 photos were taken with a Polaroid camera that my grandmother had. Polaroid had just come out with color film in the 1960′s. As you can see the photos have deteriorated over the years and because of that and the fact that the photos were not as sharp and clear as I like for this post, I still wanted to share them. The last two photos of this group are of steam locomotives that had been stored at Russell since the end of the steam era. From what I have been able to determine, the two locomotives pictured have been saved thankfully for display.


Eastbound manifest probably Train #92 passing under signal bridge at RU Cabin. Note the unusual location for the semaphore train order signal on the bridge. At most locations the train order signal was mounted on a pole next to the cabin.

GP-30 #3030 coupled to several other units at the diesel facility. The GP-30′s were the last units ordered from EMD with Chesapeake and Ohio spelled out on the hoods.

GP-7 #5766 going through the washer. I’m sure it will look cleaner in a little bit.

GE U25B #8118 (formerly #2518) sandwiched between EMDs. The U25Bs were the first non-EMD road units ordered by the C&O. 

GP-38 #3870 along with SD-35 #7420 the U25B and GP-9 #5993 as shown in photo above.


 GP-7  #5766 along with sister units between assignments.

Alco S2s #9168 (formerly #5168) and #5110 still in use.

 GP unit is situated between B&O F-7s #7033 (ex C&O same number) and #4567.

 Same units from other end. The F units are on borrowed time and it shows.

Coaling tower used during the steam era but is now just a monument to days long gone.

SD-18s #7317 and #7318 passing by RU tower.

GP-35 #3523 leading westbound freight into yard. This is a crew change point and it looks like the crew is getting ready to climb off so another crew can take over.  

C&O steam locomotive Class J-3 (4-8-4) #611 in storage near the diesel facility.

C&O Class K-4 (2-8-4) #2705. Locomotives of this class were known as Kanawha’s because of the river that the C&O followed between St. Albans and Gauley Bridge, WV. 

I just wanted to close with a photo of an NMRA (National Model Railroad Association) special that was run from Huntington to Russell in November 1968. In the background is the Raceland car shop. GP-7 #5858 is leading E8 #4027 and sister E unit in the new simplified C&O paint scheme through the yard. The rear car is the Emerald Waters that was owned by the Collis P. Huntington Chapter of the NRHS. Yours truly hung the markers on the rear of the Emerald Waters.



Rails West

The Eastbound California Zephyr boarding passengers at Western Pacific’s 3rd Street Station in Oakland, CA as it begins its run to Chicago. In a year and half this part of the Zephyr would be history. The man in the suit is probably the station agent or a trainmaster.

I am taking a departure from railroads in West Virginia to share a few photos of passenger train operations in the San Francisco Bay area. I had an opportunity to travel by car in the summer of 1968 with my grandparents on a leisurely cross country trip. My grandfather had retired from the Huntington Publishing Company so there were no time restraints for them plus I was on summer break from Marshall University.

My grandmother’s sister lived in El Cerrito which was one of the communities across the bay from San Francisco. Her house was on a hillside that overlooked the bay. 1968 marked the fourth time that I had been west. Two times were by rail in 1958 and 1960 and the third by car with my mom, dad, brother and sister in 1965 that included my grandparents.

Another view of the California Zephyr as it pulls in from the coach yard and getting ready to board passengers (left photo). The classic rear of the CZ as it passes Broadway.

We spent about three weeks with my great aunt. This gave me an opportunity to do some rail fanning on my own. The one thing I wanted to do most of all was to photograph the California Zephyr at the 3rd St station in Oakland. The CZ also known as the Silver Lady ran between Chicago and Oakland and was operated jointly by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (Burlington Route) between Chicago and Denver, the Denver & Rio Grande Western (Rio Grande) from Denver to Salt Lake City, UT and the Western Pacific (WP) from SLC to Oakland.

Western Pacific station (left photo) on taken in July, 1968 after the CZ had departed. Contrast that with the photo on the right taken in July, 2008. Yes, I did make a fifth trip to the bay area with my wife and son by plane this time. The old station was remodeled and now houses private businesses. You will also note that the rail on 3rd St was removed or paved over.

It was public knowledge at the time that the WP wanted to discontinue its part of CZ citing loosing revenues. The WP finally received permission from the Interstate Commerce Commission on February 13, 1970 to discontinue its part of the CZ. The last train left 3rd St Station on March 20, 1970. I felt fortunate to see the CZ and photograph it a little over a year and a half before its last trip out of Oakland. While I was photographing the CZ someone walked by me asking why I was taking pictures. I remember that person remarking “it’s just a train!” Little did that person know that this “train” would soon be gone. For more on the CZ check Wikipedia on line or just Google California Zephyr.

With the shadow of the Richmond, CA depot in the foreground, Southern Pacific passenger train the San Joaquin Daylight passes by (Left photo) with classic F units. Station agent with SP passenger train, most likely the City of San Francisco. Note Pennsylvania RR sleeper behind the not so classic SDP45.

Another location I enjoyed hanging around was the Old Southern Pacific depot in Richmond, CA. I spent most time there because it was close to my great aunt’s home. The SP ran a number of passenger trains at this location and made train watching interesting. On one of my visits, a couple of older men befriended me and let me know about train operations on the SP in that area which included identifying the passenger trains for me. If I remember correctly they were retired railroad men and enjoyed train watching just as much as me.

Articulated coach on the San Joaquin Daylight. These are actually two cars that share a common wheel set known as a truck. Looks like the conductor was taking a break as he takes a lively step over the rail.

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (ATSF) more commonly known as the Santa Fe had a small presence in the Bay Area but did run at least one passenger train which I did photograph. The line at Richmond ran south to Barstow where it connected with the Chicago – Los Angeles main line which was known as the Transcon.

San Francisco Chief at Richmond, CA in July, 1968 with classic F Units in A-B-B-A arrangement. Note the high level cars back in the train. Amtrak uses these type cars today that were developed by the Santa Fe. Also note the C&O box car to the left of the lead locomotive.

Because of the mergers of the 1980′s and 1990′s, the railroad scene has changed the face of the Bay area railroads. The WP and SP are now a part of an expanded Union Pacific in 1982 and 1996 respectively. The Santa Fe is now BNSF Ry as a result of the merger with the Burlington Northern Railroad in 1995.


Please note that photos for this post only are not watermarked, but I do ask that you respect the ownership of these images. Any commercial use of these photos requires permission of the author.







Centralized Traffic Control on the C&O

Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) is a method used to control train movements from a central location over a defined territory that may stretch for hundreds of miles. It has been in development for over 80 years. In 1927 General Railway Signal (GRS) developed the first installation of CTC on the New York Central between Stanley and Berwick, OH, a distance of approximately 45 miles.

Huntington Dispatcher Red Vance at the controls. I took this Polaroid photo sometime in the mid 1960′s

Prior to the invention of CTC and in subsequent years as it came into use by more railroads, CTC began to spell the end of control towers that dotted the nations rail lines. By the nature of its design, control tower operators could operate signals and switches for only several miles of mainline track.







Two views of the dispatcher’s control panel. Some of the names on the board were once names of control towers (cabins).

The Chesapeake and Ohio began a gradual installation of CTC on the Huntington Division between Handley and Huntington beginning in the 1950′s. At that time there were eight control towers (or cabins). They were Handley RO, Cabin Creek Jct CA, South Ruffner KO, St. Albans VF, Scott SC, Hurricane, KX, Milton MI , and Barboursville BR.

Current CA Cabin with newly constructed brick building that will be the new CA (Cabin Creek Jct.) Cabin. A.R. Hoffman photo courtesy Larry Fellure.

Prior to the above being consolidated to the dispatchers board at the Huntington passenger station building, tower consolidations began in 1953. A new brick office was built at CA Cabin Creek Jct. through the winter of 1952-1953. A CTC machine was installed in the new CA office covering the trackage from Cabin Creek Jct. to South Ruffner (Charleston). Thus the first use of CTC was in operation. South Ruffner was closed in the early months of 1953.

South Ruffner Cabin as it appeared in 1951.
A.R. Hoffman photo courtesy Larry Fellure

At about the same time, or shortly afterward, the old St Albans Tower located near the passenger depot was replaced with a new brick building that was located in the middle of the wye of the Coal River Branch. A CTC machine was installed there and the territory was expanded to cover all mainline switches and signals in the wye and included Dock Siding.

Kanawha Class Steam Locomotive 2726 heading eastbound past VF Cabin in St Albans some time around 1950. This cabin was closed when new VF Cabin was built. Please see my St. Albans post for picture. A.R. Hoffman photo courtesy Larry Fellure.

The installation of CTC continued westward in the mid 1950′s. Although the exact dates are not available, towers at Scott, Hurricane, and Milton were closed. The territories the cabins controlled were added to the CTC machine at St. Albans. Barboursville remained in operation most likely for a brief time period.

Hurricane Cabin as it appeared in 1951. A.R. Hoffman photo courtesy Larry Fellure

When CTC was installed in the dispatcher’s office at Huntington around 1960 or 1961, the territories that Cabin Creek Jct. and St. Albans controlled were combined. A new strip on the CTC board was added that covered Spring Hill and South Charleston. CTC was then advanced westward to DK Cabin whose eastern limits were at the Guyandotte River Bridge. This last link in CTC eliminated Barboursville Cabin. The CTC operation between Huntington and Handley at that time encompassed 70 miles of mainline track under control of one person.

The only cabin that was not consolidated was Handley. This could possibly be because it was the division point between the Huntington and Hinton divisions. In addition DK Cabin on the east end of Huntington Yard and HO on the west end remained in operation as well as Kenova KV. In Kentucky Big Sandy BS, Clyffeside SX and Russell RU remained in operation until the early 1980′s.  Also sometime during this period DK and HO cabins were closed. Territories were combined in an office in the old passenger station and controlled by one operator.

This post was not intended to detail how CTC and control towers operated but to document changes of how train movements were controlled on the C&O over the period of years I lived in the Huntington-Charleston area. The change over to CTC between Handley and Huntington was completed about the time I was entering 7th grade.

My utmost thanks goes to fellow Collis P. Huntington Chapter member and retired CSXT (former C&O) employee Larry Fellure and his friend and former C&O operator Art Hoffman. They both furnished detailed information and dates used in this post and Art supplied the great pictures of the old cabins. If it wasn’t for them this post would not have been possible.

St. Albans, WV




Train #3  The Fast Flying Virginian at St Albans on a cool March day in 1967. In just a little over a year This scene will be but just a memory.

Another favorite place of mine to photograph trains was around the St. Albans area. St Albans is located along the Kanawha River approximately 12 miles west of downtown Charleston. It is situated at the point where Coal River flows into the Kanawha. It is one of the few rivers in the United States besides the Kanawha, New and Monongahela that flows north. If you are interested in reading up on the history of St Albans you can go to www.stablanshistory.com and click on the various links.

Three EMD SD-18s leading a coal train westbound is about to pass the St Albans Depot in March 1967. The train is coming off the Coal River Branch.

In addition to main line of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway passing through St. Albans, the Coal River Branch joined the C&O main approximately half a mile east of the St Albans depot. The junction afforded loaded coal trains coming from the coal fields the option to head east toward the coal loading piers at Newport News, Va or north toward the Great Lakes.

Coal Train on the Coal River Branch is heading geographically north toward the C&O main which is about a half mile from this point. The telltales hanging from the support next to the signal warns crew of an approaching low clearance which in this case is St. Albans Tunnel.

The depot at St Albans was the location I enjoyed the most. The depot had a small umbrella shed the length of the building that paralleled the main track. It was a good place to be under during the hot summers to wait on the next train to come by.  Besides movements on the mainline, you could catch an occasional coal train coming off the Coal River line heading westbound.

Caboose of same train about to enter in St Albans Tunnel. The head end of the train should be already on the mainline.

The Coal River Branch of the C&O followed its namesake for most of the way south from St Albans. Approximately 15 miles south of town near the community of Alum Creek, the Coal split into the Big Coal and Little Coal rivers. The Coal River Branch followed the Big Coal for another couple of miles below that point to the community of Sproul, where the line splits. From this point there were branches running along Big and Little Coal rivers to coal mines further south.

The Coal River Branch started out as the Coal River and Western around 1901 and later became the Coal River Railroad. The C&O had been built through this area in the early 1870′s to a far as Huntington. As you can see on the map below, the branch took winding route through town. Approximately 20 years later the the junction of the now Coal River Branch was relocated approximately a three tenths of a mile east of the original junction. This was most likely done to keep trains from blocking city streets. The current alignment is all grade separated. A stub of the old junction off the C&O main in town which ran as far as 6th Ave remained for a number of years. It is has now been removed.

Map of St Albans showing the C&O Main Line running across the upper half of the map from left to right. The Coal River Branch is on the right side of the map running north and south where St Albans tunnel is noted. The line in red is the original Coal River Branch that the C&O purchased from the Coal River Railroad around 1906.

View looking north toward St Albans Tunnel. The track to the left was the original Coal River Branch that followed Pennsylvania Ave into town. Only a couple hundred feet remained back in the 1960′s. The track may have been left to store Maintenance of Way equipment or used to set off bad order cars. Today this track is gone.

Much has changed since the formation of CSX in 1980 but in the last couple of years, beginning around 2009, the mainline of the former C&O has taken on a new look. Gone are the old C&O style signals. They have been replaced by newer type or as I have heard some say Seaboard style signals. Also the communication lines are practically gone now. The old depot is still there thanks to the efforts of those who have worked hard to keep the memories of the C&O alive for years to come. If you are in the area I strongly suggest stopping by for a visit.

Westbound freight on the westward siding. In the distance you can see the wayside signal with a medium clear signal (red over green) which indicates the engineer has authority to go on the #1 main track. Way in the distance just to the right of the big evergreen trees is the bridge over Coal River.


View of St Albans Cabin. The operator controlled train movements on the Coal River line. The building was located near the west leg of the wye.

Another view of the south portal of St Albans Tunnel. The north end was inaccessible because it was in a deep narrow cut that would put a person in danger if a train came. Even though the tunnel was a few hundred feet long the curvature prevented a person from seeing the other end. Besides you would be trespassing on railroad property.

Westbound coal drag passing by the St Albans Depot with three SD-18s on the head end. The units were originally delivered to the C&O in the 1800 series. They were renumbered a few years later to the 7300 series in anticipation of a merger with the Norfolk and Western Railway  which did not occur because of the bankruptcy of Penn Central and other northeast railroads.

View of a part of the St Albans Yard east of the depot looking east. Westbound freight is on the Westward Siding. This is the same train shown passing the depot a few pictures above. In the background is the junction of the Coal River Branch just beyond the sand tower.




Huntington, WV Part II – Last run of the FFV

Headed by lone E-8, 4009, Tr #3 The FFV arrives in Huntington, WV May 12, 1968 for the last time

Generally the month of May is a time of celebration and remembrance. There is Mother’s Day a tradition that has carried on for generations. For kids it signals  the end of another school year. Most high schools and colleges conduct their commencement exercises in May. And we also pause to remember those who died in the wars to keep our country free. Amtrak came into existence on May 1, 1971 and we celebrate National Train Day.

On May 11, 1889, The Fast Flying Virginian or FFV for short, began it’s inaugural run on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway between Washington, DC and Cincinnati, OH. The FFV operated westbound as Train #3 and its eastbound counterpart as Train #6. The FFV ran a daytime schedule for most of its route which allowed passengers to view the beauty of the New River Gorge in West Virginia and other sites along the route.

C&O Mechanical Dept employee pausing before he makes an air brake test (on left). A few people on the platform to see the FFV off for the final time.

The FFV served the heart of West Virginia for many years. After World War II ended new roads including a new system of interstate highways were constructed which made traveling by car more convenient and the airlines were attracting people that were in a hurry to get to their destinations. Because of this, passenger trains throughout the country began to experience a decline in ridership.

The railroad companies facing lost revenue from passenger operations began petitioning the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) for permission to remove some passenger trains beginning in the 1950′s. The C&O was no different. The first of the trains to go were the locals which served intermediate stations that the main line trains did not serve. This also included locals running on a few of the branch lines in West Virginia.

Then as we went into the early 1960′s the C&O was successful in cutting back service on eastbound Train #6, the FFV, from Cincinnati to Huntington. Also Train #5, the westbound Sportsman was also terminated between  Huntington and Cincinnati.  Then on October 27, 1962, both of these trains made their last run.

Besides C&O’s premier trains #1 and #2 (The George Washington), the Huntington area was left with Train #4, the eastbound Sportsman and Train #3 the westbound FFV running between Washington and Cincinnati. The FFV became C&O’s only daytime passenger train running through West Virginia after October, 1962.

During 1967 the United States Post Office (later the US Postal Service) opted to move mail by trucks and planes only. The contract the railroads had with the USPO over the years helped to subsidize the remaining passenger trains on the C&O and other railroads.

With the loss of the mail contract, it was inevitable that the railroads would seek to discontinue more passenger trains.  The C&O did that by asking the ICC for approval to discontinue The Sportsman and The FFV which would leave the George Washington as C&O’s only remaining passenger train.


The FFV pulling out of the Huntington station. Normally two units were used from here to Cincinnati

Then on a cool gloomy May 12, 1968, just one day and 79 years ago after its inaugural run, The FFV made its farewell run. Also that day the Sportstman made it’s final run in early morning darkness. A few people did show up to wish the FFV goodbye. It was a sad day for those who witnessed it, including myself.  There would not be another daytime train through the area for some years to come.


Tr #3 passing into the sunset

Consist of the last run of Train #3 (on left) and Train Order 201  issued May 13, 1968 that abolished the schedules of trains # 3 and #4