On the way to attend the annual C&OHS convention in Cumberland MD in July 2016, I had the good fortune to spend several hours photographing an eastbound coal train as it made its way across the historic Cumberland West End. I had not been on this line in many years, so it was indeed a turn of good luck.
1. Just as I arrived in Grafton in the early afternoon, this coal train was pulling slowly under the highway bridge off the Fairmont SD. That gave me a minute or two to get this photo of T051-24 eastbound passing D Tower. On the left is the yard office. CSX 719-720. Grafton WV.
2. T051 heads into the yard. On the left is the old B&O station and hotel. The “beanery”, as I recall was in the ground level of the hotel. I think Bob Jackson’s office was also in the old hotel building. A new street bridge is under construction. CSX 719-720. Grafton WV.
3. T051 pulls to the east end of the yard. The freight cars must be Q316 or Q317. CSX 719-720. Grafton WV.
4. I think they stopped in a few feet for a crew change. CSX 719-720. Grafton WV.
5. T051-24 (Bailey Mine, PA to Mt. Storm MD power plant) is on the move again. CSX 719-720. Grafton WV.
6. T051-24 has 77 loads which will go to Keyser WV before heading up the old WM to Bayard WV and over the hill to the big power plant. CSX 719-720. Grafton WV.
7. Purple on the west end of the Leer Mine siding to indicate that the derail is open. The sign pertains to the main line switch to the siding behind me. CSX derail dwarf E. Grafton WV.
8. New signals at GN. The siding to Arch Coal’s new Leer Mine is on the right. CSX 719 E. Grafton WV.
9. Looking west, the green dwarf is a “Power Assisted Switch” off the main line to the Leer Mine siding. The crew can align this switch with a code on their radio. I would see it in use the following Sunday. CSX derail dwarf E Grafton WV.
10. GN Tower used to be the demarcation between the Parkersburg SD (Monongah Division) and the West End SD of the Cumberland Div. of the old B&O. CSX GN Tower E. Grafton WV.
11. I was shocked that this structure was still standing! In the mid-60s it was still a continuously manned train order office. CSX GN Tower E Grafton WV.
By time I got back out of the yard and onto US 50, T051-24 had passed Thornton, which is the east end of the long Leer Mine siding. I elected to keep on US 50 and get him at Rowlesburg. After all he would have to get a helper around Hardman. Then I remembered that I had not gassed up in Grafton as planned, and the gauge was well under a quarter of a tank! Newburg now seemed like a good idea...maybe it had a gas station? I was not hopeful. Newburg is rather sterile, photographically, as compared to a couple of decades ago. Then a big signal bridge punctuated the center of town. Now there are only single mast color light block signals. T051 was waiting west of the crossing for the pushers to couple up. There was a great looking old bank building across the creek from the crossing. On up the street appeared to be a canopy. Yes, mom and pop gas station/grocery! I asked a couple of local ladies sitting nearby if the old pumps worked. They did! I don’t know where it came from or the octane level, but it satisfied my motor. I bought a snack, and they even took a credit card! I headed on east to find a better location on the steep grade.
12. There are not many (if any) roads that lead up to the track, but I’m calling this location Austen. CSX 719-720. Austen WV.
13. Four GE ACs can move a 77-car drag pretty good up a steep grade such as this. It is around 2.00% between Newburg and West End. CSX pusher 780-3254. Austen WV.
14. T051 is picking up speed at West End (0.5%) and the pusher throttles down. West End Tower has been closed many years, but I’ve visited the operators there. CSX pusher 3254-780 West End WV.
15. I knew T051 would be meeting a westbound at Blaser or Tunnelton, but I expected an empty coal train! CSX 780 6025 West End WV.
16. Track geometry train W001-27 has office car “Columbus” and the TGC car. I saw it a couple of weeks later on Big Sandy with the same consist. CSX 6025 is the regular engine. T051 disappears into Kingwood Tunnel and the head end is rolling through Tunnelton. Austen WV.
17. Jesse Smith had an excellent article in recent C&OHS Historical Magazine about C&O’s roadway inspection car RI-1. Here’s the latest version. C&O’s was used only a couple times a year. I’m sure this train roams the vast CSX territory all year. CSX 6025. Austen WV.
18. CSX WS Tower West End WV.
19. W0001-27 is still in the block. They would soon blink off. CSX signals West End WV.
20. The most iconic location on the Cumberland West End is Terra Alta WV. T051 has almost topped the 11-mile Cranberry grade which has a max of about 2.4%. CSX 719-720.
21. CSX 719-720. Terra Alta WV. View 2.
22. CSX 719-720. Austen WV. View 3.
23. CSX 719-720. Terra Alta WV. View 4.
24. Pusher B236-27 has a “helper link” which enables him to detach on the fly. CSX 3254. Terra Alta WV.
25. The crew will swap ends and return to Grafton. This was their second push of the day. Note the “helper link” on the front walkway. CSX 3254-780. Terra Alta WV.
It was here that I met Larry Hielman, a local railfan who had seen me standing beside the track. Larry had worked for the West Virginia Northern at Kingwood in its last years. He had been through its unsuccessful transition to a tourist railroad and had witnessed its sad abandonment.
26. T051 picked up speed east of Terra Alta to make a run at the 5-mile Deer Park grade (1.04%). I ran ahead to Altamont expecting him to get there sooner than he did. With 77 loads and no pusher, T051 was really grinding when he came under the Route 135 bridge. The bridge is being replaced, but there is a good detour via Swanton. CSX 719-720. Altamont MD.
27. Remnant of the wye is on the right. Deer Park and 17-Mile pushers would turn here. CSX 719-720. Altamont MD.
28. I easily beat T051 down to Swanton. The speed limit down this infamous slide is 25 m.p.h. where runaways have occurred in the past. CSX 719-720. Swanton MD.
29. CSX 719-720. Swanton MD. View 2.
30. The depot was on the right just past the crossing. CSX 719-720. Swanton MD.
It was getting late, and I had to drive on to LaVale before it got dark.