Alpha now owns Lynch 3. They laid off a bunch of employees recently and shut down several minesin Harlan and Letcher Counties. Lynch 3 may be idle now. 01/16/2013.
Good Friday, March 21, 2008 was a holiday, so I decided to take advantage of good weather for a trip to the former L&N Cumberland Valley District in Harlan County.
1. My first stop was the big Lynch 3 mine near Cumberland where I found a CSX empty train behind 332-239 spotted for loading. There's a guard gate, so this is about the best I could do from the highway. There wasn't a crew on the engines, so nothing was about to happen.
2. I crossed the mountain to the Clover Fork of the Cumberland River. Chatter on the scanner suggested that a train was loading at the Hilo loadout of Kentucky Cumberland Coal. Hilo is one of only two remaining active operations on L&N's former Clover Fork Branch, the other being Brookside.
Hilo is located at Highsplint on what was once the Seagraves Branch spur. I suppose there was a community here at one time, but now everything on the south side of the stream is on coal company property where you are greeted by a guard. Shifter C821-21 was working up the hollow and was shoving more empties up for loading. There's a small fishing lake above Highsplint, so I crossed here and walked down the track.
3. He already had a long cut of DKPX (Duke Energy) loads on the main but had a few more cars to load.
4. The Seagraves Spur is very steep and enters the branch southward (away from Loyall).
5. I found a place to park across from the mining company and decided to wait him out. I had never been fortunate enough to catch a train south of Brookside, so this was a grand opportunity. A crew change transpired. I tried to figure just how the engines were going to get on the north end to head back to Loyall.
Nos. 331-109 came off the spur with the last of their loads and coupled to the cars previously loaded above. They then uncoupled from their loads shoved these cars south of the end of the siding.
6. 109-331 then returned north through the siding. Once at the north end, they entered the main and shoved the two halves of the train together. With the aid of a utility brakeman, this was accomplished rather quickly, and soon C821-21 was crossing the rain swollen Clover Fork leaving Highsplint.
7. C821-21 rolled along at 20-25 m.p.h. on fairly good track. That didn't allow time for a shot at every curve. Below he approaches one of the crossings at Cote.
8. Here C821-21 passes the old L&N depot at Evarts. After years of neglect, some repairs have been made to the north end. I assume it is now under lease or private ownership. L&N once had two or three storage tracks on the left side of the main.
9. Here C821-21 passes the old L&N depot at Evarts. L&N once had two or three storage tracks on the left side of the main.
10. C821-21 got the blocks onto the CV main and the short distance on double track to Loyall Yard. Still on the Clover Fork Branch, he rolls into Harlan.
11. Just beyond the large Kentucky Mine Supply building in the distance is the "new" Harlan depot. Although not a replica of the L&N wood structure, it is close enough. It serves for community functions. C821-21 will tie up busy KY 72 and US 421 for a few minutes while the conductor gets the switch thrown at Harlan Junction. Although an inconvenience to drivers, coal is the lifeblood of Harlan County, and the passage of these trains indicates that the county's most valuable product is not running out.
Over at Loyall Yard, a shifter for the Bardo mine is about ready to leave. We'll look at that train on another night.
This is great stuff. My Dad was born in Highsplint though about the only thing that remains from that time is the old Jack Taylor house that is now part of the Cloverfork Museum [just to the right of the bridge]. You mention that there might have been a community there; I can confirm that there was. There were houses across the tracks from the museum-that is where my Dad lived. On down in the bottom by the river was where the black families lived [1920s-30s]. Across the entrance road to the left was another group of houses and up on the top of the ridge above the commissary were some homes where Dad’s family also lived to for a while in an area referred to as Gobbler’s Knob. Typical access to that area was via the man-cars though my Dad had tales of coming off the ridge on a “rail-horse”. Thanks. Butch A.