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. Engine 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


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

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 on June 21, 1968 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 June, 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.

As a side note, I recorded the consist of passenger cars of the eastbound California Zephyr as follows:

CAR NAME                CAR NO.       OWNER         NOTES

Silver Antelope            1100             D&RGW         Baggage Car

Silver Pine                   1121             D&RGW         48 Seat Chair Car

Silver Stirrup                4722             CB&Q            Dome Chair Car

Silver Rifle                   4720                ”                            ”

Silver Bronco               1105             D&RGW                  ”

Silver Shop                  1140                ”                  Dome Dormitory – Buffet – Lounge

Silver Cafe                   193               CB&Q            Dining Car

Silver Dove                  450                  ”                  6 Dbl Bedroom / 5 Compartment Sleeper

Silver Falls                   427                  ”                 10 Roomette / 6 Dbl Bedroom Sleeper

Silver Chasm               430                  ”                                       ”

Silver Gorge                1132              D&RGW                             ”

La Jolla                         —                 RI*                 12 Bedroom Sleeper

Silver Planet                 882               WP                Dome Buffet – Lounge – Observation

* Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific RR.

For more info on these cars, except the Rock Island car, visit the website


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 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. Also the Golden Spike was driven at Promontory Point, Utah on May 10, 1869 to signal the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

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 on May 11, 1889. The FFV operated westbound as Train #3 and its eastbound counterpart as Train #6. The FFV ran a daytime schedule through the New River Gorge which allowed passengers to view the beauty of this area of West Virginia.

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 a number of 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.

In the early 1960’s the C&O was successful in cutting back service on eastbound Train #6, the FFV, from Cincinnati to Huntington. Then on October 27, 1962, Train #6 as well as eastbound Train #5, The Sportsman, made their final runs.

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 the Huntington area after October, 1962.

In 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 upcoming loss of mail contracts, it was inevitable that the nation’s railroads would seek to discontinue even more 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 on its system.

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

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 had made it’s final run in early morning darkness. A few people showed 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 Huntington area for 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





Huntington, WV Part I

As mentioned in my bio I was born in Huntington, WV. Huntington was a special place not only because my paternal grandparents lived there but their home was located only three blocks from the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway passenger station.  The passenger station in Huntington also served as a division headquarters for the C&O. The railway’s locomotive shops were located in the east end of the city. The shops performed major repairs of locomotives during the steam era and into the diesel age.

C&O Train #3 The Fast Flying Virginian preparing to leave Huntington westbound on a warm July day in 1966 towards its final destination of Cincinnati. Huntington was a crew change point for passenger trains only. Also one of the three E8 units was removed from the train for servicing plus the extra power was not needed westbound because of the relatively flat profile of the C&O route along the Ohio river. The FFV was C&O’s only daytime passenger train through the Huntington area. In a little less than two years that would change.

I was fortunate that my grandparents lived as close to the station as they did.  When I decided to attend Marshall University I was even more fortunate that I was able to live with them. This gave me many opportunities to make the short walk to the station to photograph trains. I always enjoyed sitting on one of the baggage carts usually parked in the shade provided by the umbrella shed and waiting for the next train to pass by. Since the station was adjacent to the yard, it also provided opportunities to photograph yard movements.

The crew of Alco-GE S2 switcher saw me with my camera and stopped their switching duties long enough for a picture. I have to admit that I was not ready to take the picture as I had just arrived by foot but they were very patient. Regretfully I did not get their names but as I now think back, they might have enjoyed having a copy of this photo.

On February 4, 1963 the C&O acquired control of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad which was the oldest railroad in the United States at that time. After a couple of years, B&O’s operations from the east end of  Huntington to Kenova were changed.  This resulted in the retirement of  11.6 miles of B&O main except for some trackage left to serve industries.  Because of this, B&O’s daily trains up the Ohio River to Parkersburg, WV were relocated to the C&O yard. Bob Withers’ book “Trackside Around West Virginia”  published by Morning Sun Books documents in detail how the consolidation was accomplished.


B&O Train #104 being assembled in the C&O Yard for its late afternoon run to Parkersburg. Photo on left shows C&O hostler (Alco S2) assisting in make up of train. B&O GP unit in its original paint scheme will be leading C&O F7 after the hostler is cutoff. Baldwin AS-616 is making up the rear of #104.  On certain days passenger service to Parkersburg was provided on the caboose.

While this post focuses on photos taken around the station area, I plan to have other photos of the C&O around Huntington in Part II. Stay tuned. Meanwhile enjoy some more photos on this post.


Eastbound C&O freight headed by an interesting combo of EMD F7, GP-7 and Alco S2. Unfortunately it was blocked from view by a switching move in the yard. F units in the mid 1960’s were becoming a rare item.







C&O’s GP7 and GP9s were the work horses for manifest freights as well coal trains. Here we see GP9 #6090 at the helm leading two sister units westbound into setting sun on a late September 1967 evening.


As noted earlier watching trains from the C&O station was quite enjoyable. Baggage carts like that shown above made a nice place to sit to observe and photograph trains. This view is looking westbound. The switcher coupled to the new ACF Center Flow hoppers built in Huntington was the same one shown earlier that blocked out the eastbound train.


A view of the Huntington Yard looking eastbound. This was taken in August of 1967 during the rail strike by one of the unions. It was unusual to see motive power parked outside of the locomotive shops. I was told by someone that the units were there for standby power. I suppose this made it easier for management to retrieve extra power there rather than cross picket lines at the shops.







On a late summer day in August 1966 B&O Train #104 awaits departure from the C&O yard. The picture on the right shows compressed air lines (red rubber lines) lying around the track. They are used to pump up the train line air and test brakes on the caboose and cars coupled to it.







Nitro, WV

NYC 1785 F-7A Nitro, WV JUL 67

NYC F-7A #1785 with sister unit, leading Northbound train of tank cars at the south switch to the siding and yard in Nitro on a warm July evening in 1967

Nitro, a town situated on the Kanawha River approximately 15 miles west of the capital city of Charleston, came about as a result of World War I.  It was established by the Federal Government in 1918 to produce Nitro-Cellulose, a type of gunpowder. Approximately 1217 acres of land was acquired by the government in December, 1917. Because of the enormous size of the of the explosive plant, it was necessary to bring in thousands and thousands of workers to build the plant and also construct housing for the workers who built the plant and those who worked in the plant itself.

Eleven months later the war ended and the need for the explosive plant ended. By his time the town of Nitro was nearly 90% complete. The population was nearly 24,000. Nitro at that time had the latest design for housing and utilities, plus it had its own school system and full time police and fire protection. A more detailed history of how Nitro came into existence can be found on the city’s website

After the war, the city of Nitro was established in 1921 and the site used for manufacturing munitions had become attractive to a number of  chemical companies. By the time my dad graduated from Marshall College (now University) in 1950 with a degree in chemical engineering, the town could boast of companies like American Viscose, Monsanto, FMC, Ohio Apex and General Chemical being located there.  The latter company was the one my dad began working for. I was two years old at the time we moved from my grandparents home in Huntington to a rental house on 9th Street in Nitro. A few years later my mom and dad bought property on North 21st Street and built a house which I lived in during my elementary and high school years.

Besides the rich history of the formation of Nitro, the rail line through the city has a history as well. The Kanawha and Ohio which later became the Kanawha and Michigan Railroad, due to reorganization, was built from Point Pleasant, WV  and completed to Charleston some time around 1890.  During that time the K&M purchased the Charleston and Gauley which gave the K&M a connection with the Chesapeake and Ohio in the Gauley Bridge area plus enabled it to tap into the coal fields north of Gauley Bridge.

In 1910 the C&O gained control of the K&M hoping to get access to the Great Lakes but anti-trust laws forced the C&O to give up the K&M. The C&O sold its K&M shares to the Toledo and Ohio Central in 1914. In 1922 the T&OC with its interests in the K&M was leased to the New York Central Railroad. In 1938 the K&M was officially merged into the T&OC and in 1952 the T&OC was merged into the NYC. For all practical purposes it was an NYC operation from 1922. A  recently published book entitled “The Kanawha and Michigan Railroad” by Don Mills documents the history of this line.

The line through Nitro was operated as part of NYC’s Kanawha Secondary. The line was single track with yards and passing sidings that were located for the most part in the yards. Besides Nitro, yards were located in Institute, Charleston and Dickinson. Smaller yards were located at Belle, Alloy and Gauley Bridge. Maximum speed on the Secondary was not much more than 25 or 30 MPH. Besides coal and merchandise freight, the line handled a good bit of chemical business.

In addition to the plants in Nitro mentioned earlier, the NYC also served the Union Carbide and Goodrich-Gulf plants in Institute,  Union Carbide’s North Charleston facility, DuPont’s Belle operation and Union Carbide Metals plant at Alloy. Also the coal mine at Cannelton and Appalachian Power plant near Cedar Grove was served by the NYC.

The NYC merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad on February 1, 1968 to form the ill-fated Penn Central Transportation Company. Two years later Penn Central went bankrupt. On April 1, 1976, Penn Central became part of Conrail which brought together the PC and six other bankrupt railroads in the northeast. Then on June 1, 1999, as part of the Conrail breakup between CSX Corp. and Norfolk Southern Corp., the West Virginia Secondary, which included the old Kanawha Secondary, became part of Norfolk Southern Railway. Originally it was placed in NS’s Dearborn Division but approximately a year later it was transferred to the Pocahontas Division with the exception of the first seven miles out of the yard in Columbus, OH which went to the Lake Division. Incidentally I retired from NS on November 1, 2003.

I began photographing around Nitro in 1966, the year I graduated from high school. By that time I was old enough to drive on my own plus I was aware of the impending merger with the PRR and wanted to document NYC’s operations not only in Nitro but other areas in the Kanawha Valley. The Nitro yard had a full time switch engine to work the yard including leads to the chemical plants. The old Nitro depot which was a fixture in the city since its inception was torn down in 1967 and replaced by a new building located across the yard from the Nitro business district. First Avenue which was the main thoroughfare in Nitro and paralleled the Secondary, curved around the old depot. A few years after it was torn down First Avenue was straightened.

I hope this brief glimpse of Nitro has given you a taste of its history and the railroad(s) that served it, and still do to this day.


Two Views of Nitro Depot. On left is looking North and on right look south toward Charleston. Both photos were taken in July, 1966.


Approximate same views as above after the old depot was torn down. This was taken in July, 1967. In picture on the left you can see smoke stacks of the chemical plants in the distance and the new yard office building. Also where I was standing, First Avenue was realigned and now runs through this spot.






NYC SW-9 8999 sitting at the old depot between assignments. You can see part of the old ESSO gas station in the photo on the left and downtown Nitro in the right photo. If you look close enough you can see the posted price of regular gasoline which was 31.9 cents/gallon.Both photos were taken in July, 1967.

Two southbounds at different times in 1967. The photo on the left was taken in July 1967 . You can see a mixture of locomotives in this train. Photo on the right was taken on a crisp clear day in March with classic F-7 units coupled back to back. Train was switching in the yard before heading toward Charleston.







Northbound leaving Nitro headed to Point Pleasant. Evidence of the Penn Central merger is real with SD-40 6075 in the lead with ex-NYC bay window caboose bringing up the rear. Six axle units were uncommon on the Secondary until after the merger. Photo was taken in November, 1970.






Closeup of NYC yard office taken in July, 1967. Compare photo on left with that on right taken in May, 2003 nearly 4 years after the breakup of Conrail.  They are at different angles but you can see the change in the exterior of the building and also the old brick smokestack left from the days of the munition plant is gone. Unit is ex-Southern Railway GP38-2.






Page, WV


N&W Fairbanks-Morse Trainmaster Class H24-66 (former Virginian #67) sitting near the depot at Page, WV in April, 1968

The unincorporated town of Page, in Fayette County, West Virginia was deeply involved in the early beginnings of what eventually became the Virginian Railway. Many books have documented the history and operation of the VGN including the first book written by H.Reid several years after the VGN was merged into the Norfolk and Western on December 1, 1959. There are other books on the VGN, several by Lloyd Lewis and one by Kurt Reisweber entitled “Virginian Rails”.  It chronicles the VGN just before and after the N&W acquisition and on to the merger of N&W and Southern Railway in 1982 that created what is today’s Norfolk Southern Railway.

Page was also an important part of my family’s life. My mother’s father worked as a conductor between Page and Deepwater. I have one of his (there were many more I’m sure) conductor’s log books that my mom’s sister donated to me to which I am so grateful. Train consists are in my grandfather’s writing and it documents the locomotives, cars and cabooses that were carried on his train. The particular book I have was in the period of July and August, 1927.

My grandfather died tragically in an accident in the yard at Page in May of 1933 after coming off one of his runs. That was about 15 years before I was born. My mother was 6 years old at the time of the accident. She was the third of four children. My grandfather was buried in Page Cemetery which was maintained by family members of the deceased. It is located on the hill above the Kincaid Cemetery on the east side of Loop Creek. My grandmother passed away about 20 years later and she is buried next to him along with other family members in the fenced in plot.

When I was a few years old I remember traveling to Page with my parents. We went there in the fall of each year after the leaves had all fallen from the trees to clean up our family plot. My mom’s first cousin also lived in Page right along the main line of the VGN. She would most often have dinner for us after we finished with the work. Usually a train would pass by the house during our visit and I would dash to the front porch to see it go by. I vaguely remember the yellow and black diesel locomotives of the VGN. From then on I looked forward to the fall of each year including a trip to Page.

For reasons unknown to me, there was a period of several years that we did not go to Page.  The next time we went there I noticed that unlike before not all of the coal hoppers in the yard were lettered VGN. There were N&W cars mixed in. We found out from mom’s cousin that the VGN had been taken over by the N&W. I was saddened to learn that this had happened without my knowing about it. I did read the newspapers some and watched the news but this sure caught me by surprise. From that point on I was determined to not let another railroad merger go by without knowing about it. To this day I have remained true to that pledge.

When I was old enough to drive on my own and with my parent’s permission to borrow their car for the day, I traveled to Page several different times in the late 1960’s to photograph around the area of Page. By this time all former VGN locomotives had been painted in N&W colors and even locomotives used strictly on the N&W before the merger began showing up, as noted on my Deepwater post. The only positive thing was that eight or nine years later, the right-of-way with its telephone lines and searchlight style signals along with dwarf signals still looked very Virginian, plus there were a number of VGN hoppers around that had not been re lettered by the N&W.

Time Freights 71 and 72 made their daily trips on what N&W called the Deepwater District (later the Princeton-Deepwater District) through Page. From what I recall, Time Freight 71 came through during the night. When these trains were cut off sometime during 1968, the frequency of trains on the old VGN dropped to the point that the line between Mullens and Deepwater handled two or maybe three trains a week. This part of the old VGN main including the branch to Oak Hill became more of a long switching move between the two points. The N&W was trying to either abandon the line or take it out of service from just north of Mullens to Deepwater.

The breakup of Conrail between NS and CSX in 1998 saved this part of the old VGN through Page. One part of Conrail that NS acquired was the New York Central line from Columbus, OH. This line followed the Kanawha River through West Virginia to Deepwater and Gauley Bridge to mines located beyond Gauley Bridge. To handle coal movements from Deepwater to Roanoke, the old VGN line was upgraded with welded rail, ties and ballast. Coal that would normally have gone to Columbus could now be handled on a more direct route.

I am thankful to have pictures around Page and I hope you will enjoy them. As the saying goes, “Virginian Railway – Gone but not forgotten.”

Eastbound train led by a trio of ex-VGN Fairbanks-Morse locomotives heading into Page in March of 1968. The lead unit is ex-VGN 53. N&W added  “1” ahead of all F-M units. It was quite a sight to see.

View looking west at the former VGN passenger station at Page taken in April, 1967. This  un-fortunately is the only picture I took of this structure.

A year later in April, 1968 this metal building housing the yard office has replaced the old
depot which was torn down. The metal building met a similar fate some years later.

View of Page looking westbound toward Deepwater. My mom’s cousin’s house was on the right beyondthe big white structure. This photo is on display in the new Page Baptist Church lobby placed there by a childhood friend of my mother. The old church building was destroyed by fire sometime afterthis photo was made.

View of Kincaid from the same point as on the previous photo looking eastbound. Dwarf signals are in the background and if you look closely you can see the back of the searchlight signal on the left side of the track. Both photos were taken in April, 1967.

View of Page from Cemetery Road.


View of Kincaid from Cemetery Road. If you look closely you can make out what probably is Train 72 heading eastbound. The mountain in the background is Kingston Mountain.

Deepwater, WV

Deepwater Bridge (DB) Tower. This was the western end of the Virginian Ry. New York Central line from Columbus, OH to Gauley Bridge, WV is to the left. Track next to building leads to the former VGN mainline which crosses the Kanawha River beyond the searchlight signal in the background. 

Deepwater was a fascinating place to photograph trains. Three different railroads met in this small Kanawha Valley community approximately 32 miles east of Charleston. The main line of the Cheaspeake & Ohio and a branch of the New York Central paralleled the Kanawha River on each side in this area while the former Virginian main line from Norfolk, VA crossed over the C&O and joined the NYC on the other side of the Kanawha from Deepwater. This became the western end of the VGN after 1931 when the bridge over the Kanawha was built.

The VGN had trackage rights from Deepwater Bridge (DB) Tower over the NYC to Dickinson Yard which is located approximately 15 miles east of Charleston. These trackage rights existed in the days of VGN passenger service when trains ran to Charleston. However it was cut back to Dickinson Yard when passenger service ended in the 1950’s.

When I became old enough to go out on my own to photograph trains, the VGN had been merged into the Norfolk and Western for about 8 years. The N&W continued operating VGN Time Freights 71 and 72 between Dickinson Yard and DB Tower but they were on borrowed time. Also the New York Central was in its last days before being merged with the Pennsylvania RR to form the ill-fated Penn Central Transportation Co. The C&O was the only railroad that was pretty much unchanged even though it had acquired control of the B&O in 1963.

By 1976, Penn Central and other bankrupt northeastern railroads were conveyed to Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), and by 1999, CR was split between NS and CSXT. The Conrail (NYC) West Virginia Secondary went to NS. Then in 2016, NS leased most of the Secondary and also the former Princeton-Deepwater District  of NS (VGN) from Deepwater to Maben, WV to the Kanawha River Railroad, LLC, a subsidiary of WATCO. I hope you enjoy the photos.

N&W Time Freight 72 chugging through crossover from the NYC to the lead track to the bridge over the Kanawha River. The lead track to the left went to the Union Carbide Metals plant located at Alloy about 0.5 miles from this point. 

Train 72 lead by Alco C628 #1122 heading across the Kanawha River and eventually over the C&O on the opposite side of the river. 

Rear of Train 72 with caboose 530322 ex-VGN 322. This is a rare sight now days.

Rear of Train 72. The Kanawha River at this point is unnavigable for barge traffic. The starting point for navigation is approximately a few hundred feet downstream to the right of the picture. 

East end of the Kanawha River bridge with the C&O running underneath. View is looking west toward Charleston.  The Virginian name is still highly visible 8 years after the merger of the VGN into the N&W.

Eastbound C&O coal drag headed by GP-9 6252 and 4 sister geeps. The sound of these 5 locomotives working together was quite awesome.

St Route 61 underpass looking west toward Charleston. This is a separate structure from the Kanawha River crossing. There is about 80 ft of fill between both bridges. Deepwater Tunnel is to the left out of the picture.