Dickinson Yard and Other Locations in the Kanawha Valley

New York Central F7-A #1745 Dickinson Yard August, 1967

Dickinson Yard located approximately 14 miles east of West Virginia’s capital city of Charleston, was the largest yard of the former New York Central’s Kanawha Secondary. The secondary ran from Corning, OH, about 60 miles south of Columbus, through Charleston and Dickinson to Swiss about 10 miles beyond Gauley Bridge, WV. Under Penn Central the secondary was known as the Southern Branch.

Another view of #1745 followed by another F7-A and F7-B. Note coal hoppers on left have reporting marks TOC for the Toledo & Ohio Central. I believe this was done to designate them for unit train service. The T&OC was once a subsidiary of the NYC. Someone jokingly said it stood for Train Of Coal.

Norfolk & Western units mingle with NYC’s at Dickinson Yard in August, 1967. N&W had trackage rights on NYC from here to Deepwater Bridge as a result of acquiring the Virginian Railway on December 1, 1959.

Cabooses of the N&W and NYC in Dickinson Yard August, 1967. N&W cab was formerly Virginian #322 built by St. Louis Car Company.

Dickinson Yard served as a gathering point for coal from mines located beyond Swiss on the Nicholas, Fayette & Greenbrier Ry, then jointly owned by the NYC and the Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. Also chemical shipments originated here from surrounding plants such as DuPont. Dickinson Yard also served as the terminus for Norfolk & Western trackage rights trains from Deepwater to Dickinson  For more in depth history of the secondary please visit my blog http://thetracksidephotographer.com/2016/08/11/railroad-town-nitro-west-virginia/ Also detailed information on the NF&G can be found at https://hitopbranchmodelrr.com/history-of-the-secondary/. Also you will find a history of the Hitop Branch of the NYC that my friend Steve Campbell models.

NYC F7-A #1768 on wye track at Dickinson Yard that is used to turn locomotives


Evidence of the February 1, 1968 merger of the NYC with the Pennsylvania RR to form Penn Central. Ex-PRR GP35 #2353 at Dickinson Yard in April, 1968.

N&W Time Freight #72 led by Alco C-628 #1122 (pictured at Dickinson Yard) on NYC trackage through Smithers, WV heading to Deepwater Bridge and home rails. Freight crews of the NYC were qualified to run on the former VGN to Elmore Yard near Mullens and vice versa.

Penn Central GP35 #2318 (former PC #2318) switching at Cannelton Coal Company’s operation across the Kanawha River from Montgomery. This was the first unit I saw painted for the PC.

Former NYC F7-A #1859 with sister unit PC #1659 at Port Amherst Just east of Charleston in July, 1968. Cleanup underway after derailment under the US 60 bridge.

Side and end views of NYC transfer caboose #18191 at Charleston, WV in February, 1968 just shortly after merger day. Everything looked the same but that was about to change

While the NYC ran on the east side of the Kanawha River for its entire length, the two track mainline of the Chesapeake & Ohio entered the Kanawha Valley approximately four miles west of St Albans and ran the remaining length of the valley. I have covered the C&O in other posts on this website but below are photos at two other points in the valley.

C&O GP9 #6211 with GP7 #5758 switching Appalachian Power’s Cabin Creek substation at Cabin Creek in 1968. Today the power plant and the spur are gone.


Eastbound coal drag at Winifrede Jct across the Kanawha River from Dickinson Yard pulling upgrade with an unusual consist of GP7 #5869, followed by SD18 #1807 and a GP30. Soon the train will arrive at Handley Yard for crew change.

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A Brief History of Southern Railway’s Atlanta Office Buildings

View looking south along Spring Street, SW of Southern Railway’s  Atlanta office complex. Photo was taken some time in the late 1950s or early 60s. Photo courtesy of O. Fenton Wells.

Railroad office buildings for the most part are not normally a subject covered so extensively as with other aspects of railroading. I did not even think of them during my early years of rail-fanning until I began my 30 year railroad career with Southern Railway in September, 1973.

The Southern Railway office complex was located on then Spring Street, SW in downtown Atlanta, GA. The concrete buildings were quite impressive. The east side of the buildings faced Spring Street, while the west side faced the Atlanta to Macon main lines of the Southern and Central of Georgia railroads. The buildings housed various departments including information technology, operations, car accounting, engineering (maintenance of way and structures) to name a few. I worked in the Bridge Department for 29 years which was a part of engineering.

Aerial view of what was then Southern’s Office and Warehouse buildings taken around 1919.  The 99 Building had six floors while the 125 Building was three stories high. Nelson Street bisects the two buildings. To the left of the 99 Building was Atlanta Terminal Station which was torn down in 1972. This photo hung in the lobby of the Thrift Credit Union which served Southern and later Norfolk Southern employees. It was given to me by the president of the credit union at that time, Ken Heller, and it now hangs in our home.

What became known by Southern Railway employees as the 99 and 125 buildings were constructed some time around 1912. They were bordered by Madison Avenue (some maps show it as Madison Street) on the east side and became known as the Madison Avenue Freight and Office Building. The 99 Building was at that time six stories high from ground level and contained offices. The 125 Building was only three stories and served as a freight station. Nelson Street ran between the two buildings on a bridge, and the buildings were connected underneath the bridge.

In 1922, the City of Atlanta began construction of a viaduct that would open up Spring Street as a main traffic artery from today’s Amtrak’s Brookwood Station to the industrial district on the south side of downtown, the area where the Atlanta offices were located. The viaduct spanned the east-west railroad lines of the Western & Atlantic and the Georgia railroads. Ceremonies were held on December 20, 1923 to officially open the viaduct for traffic. The Spring Street Viaduct, joined an already elevated Madison Avenue, after which Madison Avenue, became Spring Street.

 Map of area prior to the extension of Spring Street

 Map of the area after the extension of Spring Street. Notice the change in some street alignments. Maps courtesy of the Atlanta Historical Society.

A retaining wall supporting Spring Street was located approximately 35 feet from the front edge of both buildings. This left a gap between the building and the street. Spring Street was approximately level with the second floor of both buildings. So in order to provide entry to the buildings from the Spring Street level, a series of bridges were constructed across the gap to provide pedestrian entry to each building and also to provide parking for company officials.

During 1928, the floors of the 99 and 125 buildings were extended upward. That made each building eight stories high. An enclosed walkway bridge was built between the buildings for the convenience of access between buildings from the fourth to the seventh floors. A later modification allowed for access between the 8th floor of both buildings. It was at that time that the offices of the Auditor which were composed of freight accounts, station accounts and passenger accounts and several other departments were relocated from Washington, D.C.

Article from Southern Railway Company’s newspaper of November, 1928 describing offices being relocated from Washington, D.C. Over the years more departments were relocated from other areas on the system to Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Craig Myers. 

Engineering offices prior to 1964 were located in Charlotte, NC, Knoxville, TN, and Cincinnati, OH. The locations housed Eastern Lines, Central Lines and Western Lines respectively. In 1964 Southern relocated the three field engineering offices to Atlanta.

During the period of Southern Railway Company’s existence, until the 1982 merger with the Norfolk and Western Railway, Washington, DC was the corporate headquarters for Southern. After the formation of Norfolk Southern, NS gradually closed Southern’s old headquarters building and began consolidating departments to Norfolk, Roanoke and Atlanta. Because of space limitations in Atlanta, NS built a new six story office building south of the 125 Building that was known as the 185 Building. The six floor building was finished in 1984 and was built adjacent to what was known by Southern employees as the Bayer Aspirin Building. This building was converted to offices as well and became known as the 175 Building. Both buildings were located on Spring Street south of the Peters Street viaduct.

Having started with Southern Railway in September, 1973 in Valdosta, GA and moving to Atlanta the following year, I have witnessed first hand many changes made to the interior of the buildings especially after the 1982 merger with the N&W and a few more after the acquisition of Conrail in 1999. In fact some departments had to be housed in space leased by NS in another part of downtown Atlanta.


View from the 6th Floor office where I worked looking west toward the Atlanta – Macon mainline of Southern and Central of Georgia. The old tower in the background was torn down in 2018. F. Douglas Bess, Jr. photo.

The outside appearance of the 99 and 125 buildings remained virtually unchanged with the exception of new windows installed on the west side of the buildings in the late 1970’s. However one noticeable change was the removal of the big Southern Railway neon signs. One was located on the roof of the north end of the 99 Building and the other on the roof of the south end of the 125 Building. The signs were lit at night until the 1972 energy crisis. From that time until its removal, they were never lit again.

July, 2005 marked another change for the building complex. That year Norfolk Southern vacated all offices from its Spring Street location and moved to an existing building at 1200 Peachtree Street, NE that once housed the offices of AT&T. The move left uncertainty in the community as to the fate of the 99 and 125 buildings for a number of years. The buildings were not listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the concern for a while was that they could be torn down to make way for development of the area known as the “Gulch”.

View of the west side of the 99 and 125 buildings looking east from the Nelson Street bridge. Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

However in 2017, a developer bought the entire building complex from Norfolk Southern for $25 million including the Nelson Street bridge which has been closed for many years. Plans for the 99 and 125 buildings call for six or seven retailers, about 50,000 square feet of offices and hundreds of new residences. No plans have yet been determined concerning the buildings at 175 and 185 Spring Street which is now Ted Tuner Drive. If the link is still available you can click on it and view the rest of the story concerning the buildings. https://atlanta.curbed.com/2018/8/27/17788102/northfolk-southern-building-downtown-cim-apartments-offices

For me, the 99 and 125 buildings hold many memories from the first day I arrived there for work in 1974 to the last day I retired in November, 2003. The one thing that was enjoyable along with the work was being able at times to see and hear trains going by the building each day. One could almost get the feel of how the railroad was doing based on the number of trains that passed by daily.






The End of Mail Service on the C&O

Postal clerks busy sorting mail on the go. The RPO car is on one of the C&O passenger trains that ran between Washington, DC and Cincinnati, OH. F. Douglas Bess, Jr. Collection

The Railway Post Office (RPO) was in existence for over 130 years. The RPO was an efficient way to move mail throughout the United States. Mail was sorted in route for destinations to insure timely delivery. The RPO car was off-limits to passengers, and postal clerks were armed with pistols. 

October 28, 1967, however, marked the end of through RPO mail service on Chesapeake and Ohio passenger trains between Washington, DC and Cincinnati, OH. Although some limited sorting of mail still existed, it was really the beginning of the Post Office Department’s move to handle mail on trucks and planes throughout the U.S.

The history of carrying mail on trains in the United States dates back to the early part of the 1830’s. Mail was carried only on a couple of railroads at that time, although it was carried in bags along with other baggage. On July 7, 1838 the US Congress officially designated all railroads as official postal routes.

Left Photo: Postal Clerk placing mail in pigeon holes. Right Photo: Mail being bagged up. The hook in the background was for grabbing mail set out at intermediate stations and depots where trains did not stop. The bags were collected on the fly.  F. Douglas Bess, Jr. Collection.

The first mail sorted on a train while in route occurred on August 28, 1864, between Chicago and Clinton, IA. Mail was sorted to, and received from each post office along the route, as well as major post offices beyond the route’s end-points. The expansion of mail service came with the signing of the Pacific Railroad Act on July 1, 1862, which the government funded to help build the transcontinental railroad. Other railroads were later built in the west which greatly expanded mail service by rail.

Some time after WW II, people began abandoning travel by passenger trains and opted instead to use car or airlines. Improved roads and air service made travel by these modes more attractive, convenient and faster. Passenger trains were removed gradually over the years for lack of ridership. However, a number of trains continued because the revenue for hauling mail offset losses by decreased ridership.  With reduced routes and the increasing cost of moving mail by rail, the Post Office Department came to the decision instead to use trucks and planes to move the mail. 


Letter to Huntington Publishing Company (HUPCO) librarian from the Post Office Dept returning photos that they had requested for their “Postal Life” issue. Apparently by this time the Post Office Department had made the decision to cancel mail contracts with the railroads.  F. Douglas Bess, Jr. Collection.

As contracts were cancelled, railroads began applying to the Interstate Commerce Commission (predecessor to today’s Surface Transportation Board)  to discontinue most remaining passenger trains. A case in point was the removal of C&O’s trains #3, the Fast Flying Virginian (FFV) and #4, The Sportsman on May 12, 1968. The eastbound and westbound George Washington, trains #1 and 2, were the only passenger trains left on the C&O after that date and they lasted until the formation of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.


Both photos at Ashland, KY station: The station was located in the heart of town where the passenger main ran between the east end and west end of Ashland. It was here where passengers could connect with trains to Louisville, KY and Detroit, MI. The passenger main was removed years later. Now, passengers at Ashland board the Amtrak Cardinal at the site of the old C&O Freight Station next to the Ohio River.  F. Douglas Bess Jr. Photos.

I was fortunate, along with several other members of the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, to have ridden on and photographed the last run of RPO mail service on the C&O. The black and white photos (above) of the interior of the C&O RPO car were taken by a staff photographer of the local Huntington newspaper. These photos were passed down to me by my grandfather Bill Bess, who worked for the newspaper for over 40 years.

Both photos at the Newport, KY depot: Mail and baggage being unloaded. Newport was located directly across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati. Often times people heading to destinations in the downtown Cincinnati area would get off the train here instead of Cincinnati Union Terminal and take a taxi, as it saved time. The truck being loaded with baggage was a sign of things to come for mail service. F. Douglas Bess, Jr. Photos.

Both photos at Cincinnati Union Terminal: The photo at left shows Train #3 arriving at CUT on October 28, 1967. The elevated concourse was removed in 1974. However, the remainder of the terminal was saved and is now a museum of science and history. The photo at right shows employees at CUT loading storage mail (not requiring sorting or delivery en route) on baggage car #301. This car will be on Train #2 that will leave CUT that evening.  F. Douglas Bess, Jr. photos.

After arriving in Huntington from Cincinnati on Train #2 on the evening of October 28, CPH members (left to right) John Killoran, Wayne Hamrick, your author, and Bob Withers gathered around C&O RPO #111 to bid it farewell on its final trip to Washington.  Larry K. Fellure Photo, Bob Withers Collection.

As a side note, the Railway Mail Service (RMS) within the Post Office Department (POD) existed between 1864 and September 30, 1948. The RMS was renamed the Postal Transportation Service, and existed until 1960. The change in name came about by the increased use of the Highway Post Office (HPO). Similar to the RPO, the HPO, came into existence in 1942 to supplement RPO service. As more passenger trains were discontinued, more mail was being handled over the highways by the HPOs. After that, the management of the mail came under the Bureau of Transportation, which was still under control of the POD. By 1971, the POD was no longer a cabinet position. With an act of Congress, it became a governmental agency, and was renamed the United States Postal Service.

ABOVE: Please note the mailbox at the left side of the photo taken in July, 1968 at Southern Pacific’s Richmond, CA station. Before RPO service was discontinued, a person could drop a letter in the box knowing that it would be picked up by the next scheduled passenger train to stop there. F. Douglas Bess, Jr. photo. 

BELOW: Railway Mail Service postal cancellation shown for C&O’s Train #2, The George Washington. I believe a kindhearted RPO clerk stamped the back of the envelope knowing it was the last day for sorted mail.

The First New River Excursion May 15, 1966

C&O E-8A 4021 Hawks Nest, WV May 66 aChesapeake and Ohio E8 #4021 with sister unit backing across the bridge over the New River at Hawks Nest, WV as some passengers have stepped off the train for a scheduled photo runby.

On Sunday May 15, 1966, the Collis P. Huntington Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (CPH) in conjunction with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway operated the very first New River Excursion from Huntington to Hinton, WV., a tradition that has to this day been a popular event every fall. The excursions have drawn many not only from the tri-state area of West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, but those from other states and countries. The fall excursions in 2016 will mark the 50th anniversary and special items will be on sale to mark the event.

The first excursion in May was so popular that a fall trip was added the same year. The trains now run in the Fall on the third and fourth weekends in October, and they are packed full all four days. Your author was fortunate to have been a member of CPH when the first trip was run. Chapter and charter member John P. Killoran was the trip chairman who worked with the C&O to provide locomotives and passenger cars and other details related to running the excursion. I remember the many meetings we had as John discussed these details with the membership.


Station stop at the Charleston Depot to load passengers. The two open cars were converted gondolas borrowed from the Norfolk and Western Railway. As the train got closer to the New River Gorge, the cars were jam packed with people taking in the scenery. 

One event of the early New River excursions was a photo runby at Hawks Nest. The runby was an opportunity for passengers interested in photographing the train and took place on the way to Hinton. After crossing the bridge over the New River, the train would come to a stop at which time passengers were allowed to get off the train. The entire train would then back across the bridge and pull forward across the bridge again and run past those passengers on the ground. It then backed up to board them for the remainder of the trip to Hinton. Photo runbys are not done any longer but they were very popular in the early years of the New River Excursions.

img060img059    Excursion passing by Handley, WV. This was a crew change point for freight trains running between Hinton and Russell, Ky. Handley had a control tower, round house and yard and a coal loading tower that one time was used for steam engines. All of the buildings and the yard are gone.








C&O Train, #3 the Fast Flying Virginian traveling westbound past the excursion. At that time it was the only daytime passenger train through New River Gorge. In two more years however this train would be history and for many years to come there would be no more daytime passenger trains through the gorge.

img075Crossing the New River. It was at this point at Hawks Nest that the two track C&O mainline split with a track on each side of New River for about 15 miles upriver to a point called Sewell where they rejoined. The mains were split so that they could serve coal mines that were located on either side of the gorge. The mines are no longer operated.

img076Rounding the curve on the open air gondolas. The curve is very sharp and has a 10 MPH restriction. This view allowed a person to see the entire train. That is why it was a popular place for a photo runby.

img079Gondolas full of people enjoying the scenery. Other people are waiting on the ground while the train backs up so they can board the train as it heads to Hinton.

img080Your author on the right side of the photo standing behind the conductor and the gentleman in the blue shirt, sport coat and hat. I was 18 years old then so if you do the math you know how old I am today.

I hope you enjoyed this post. For more information about the New River Excursion Trains please visit the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society website at http://www.newrivertrain.com.

Point Pleasant, WV

img162 WatermarkedB&O’s depot at Pt. Pleasant in summer of 1967. The Pt. Pleasant District switcher is tucked away after finishing its work for the day. Up the bank to the left is New York Central’s Kanawha Secondary line which runs the length of the Kanawha River. Notice the train order signal is green which indicates through trains do not need to stop for orders.

Point Pleasant is located approximately 55 miles downstream from Charleston where the Kanawha River empties into the Ohio River. Also it is approximately 40 miles up the Ohio from Huntington. Railroads that served Pt. Pleasant were the Baltimore & Ohio and the New York Central. Across the Ohio in neighboring Kanauga, Ohio was a branch of the Chesapeake & Ohio that ran from Columbus to Gallipolis. Traffic on these lines was minimal since they were branches but if you were fortunate you could catch a train. which I did one day in the summer of 1967.

B&O’s line through Pt. Pleasant started out as the Ohio River Railroad around 1882 running from Wheeling to Huntington and on to Kenova with a connection to the Norfolk & Western Railway. The B&O acquired the line around 1912. In 1963 the C&O took control of the B&O. Shortly after, the C&O consolidated operations with the B&O in the Huntington area which led to removal of most of B&O’s track through the city and on to Kenova. If interested you can read the book Trackside Around West Virginia 1963-1968 by Bob Withers of this and additional pictures of around Point Pleasant.

img151 Watermarked

Having crossed the bridge over the Kanawha River, the Point Pleasant District Switcher is heading a short distance north toward the depot.

img152 WatermarkedAfter stopping at the depot, switcher is ready to shove cars to the NYC interchange track.

img150 WatermarkedWith caboose still attached, switcher is shoving on the NYC interchange. While many interchanges have been removed over the years this one still exists today.



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 theses 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. Just to the right in the distance 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 line of 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, WV to Kenova on their Ohio River Branch. Some time in the 1950’s, C&O and B&O passenger trains stopped serving Kenova. In B&O’s case, passenger trains were discontinued. By 1965, 11.6 miles of the Ohio River Branch 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 cabooses 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 train crews from the top of box cars.

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 loaded coal 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 miles upriver. The next closest is about 7 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. 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, Harold Neal of Portsmouth, OH, standing on the platform at Kenova Tower where train orders are placed to be picked up by train crews passing by. I remember how he befriended me and allowed me to see what an operator does during his shift.

Harold 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.