Saturday, August 16th, was forecast to be a clear day but typically hot and humid. I thought about places I had not been to in a while, and CSX's Rockhouse Sub. (former L&N territory) came to mind. I particularly wanted to photograph a train passing the searchlight signals at the north end of Blackey siding.
As usual these days, I had a delayed start causing me to miss some of the early morning sun. I took US 23 to Jenkins and then old US 119 to Neon Jct.
The tracks are gone now, but the C&O and L&N were within three miles of each other between Dunham and Haymond. A shallow gap separated the head of Elkhorn Creek and a tributary of the North Fork of the Kentucky River. Making a connection here instead of Deane could have shortened the run from Hazard to Shelby considerably by eliminating the circuitous route through Martin. That would have meant one crew run instead of two. I don't know "the rest of the story" behind that decision to connect the C&O and L&N Deane in the early '80s.
The former L&N EK main from Roxana through Whitesburg to Fleming has been gone since the late '80s. I drove up through Hemphill and spotted the concrete footers to the old Elk Horn Coal tipple that has been gone for many years. From there it was over the mountain to Deane and then down Rockhouse Creek. There was nothing at Rapid Load or Sapphire. United Coal acquired Sapphire a year or two ago. The two former Golden Oak EMD switchers are still there, but they could stand some fresh paint. One looks like it had the cab bashed in.
1. I heard a train getting blocks that indicated he was coming south up Rockhouse. At Isom I found pusher AC44 542 parked in the siding beside the church at the mouth of Blair Branch. I noticed a couple of vehicles parked down there. Soon shifter C640-16 rolled by and came to a halt.
2. The long siding is the end of the old South East Coal Co. siding for Swanee tipple. The conductor lined the switch for pusher C240-6 to come out.
3. I drove east a short distance to an overpass that South East had built. This was used as a bypass for residents when the coal company was blocking the grade crossing. The tipple has not been used in many years. South East shipped cleaner coal in their own trains to their central preparation plant near Irvine, Ky.
4. Not wishing to spend any more time chasing this train, I headed to Blackey and then followed the Whitesburg Branch up the North Fork of the Kentucky River to Roxana. This 8-mile segment is all that remains of the old L&N Eastern Kentucky Div. main line south of Blackey. From Roxana to Fleming it's gone. Enterprise Mining has a preparation plant and loadout just above Roxana (called Hogg). I found a loaded VAPX train, but the plant was idle for the weekend.
5. From Roxana crossing I drove up the right-of-way to the end of the siding. Here I found SD70ACe 4836 and AC60 608 idling but with no crew. There was a long passing siding here at one time, and many of the ties are still in place on the right of the main track. View 1.
6. From Roxana crossing I drove up the right-of-way to the end of the siding. Here I found SD70ACe 4836 and AC60 608 idling but with no crew. There was a long passing siding here at one time, and many of the ties are still in place on the right of the main track. View 2.
I stopped by Amburgey's grocery and hardware to get a bite to eat. Lunch consisted of a can of Vienna (Vi-e-nee) sausages, two packages of saltine crackers, a vanilla Moon Pie and a can of RC Cola (I would have preferred Pepsi Free). The owner gave me a plastic fork, and I ate as I slowly drove along the narrow road back to Blackey. (A railfan has to be able to multi-task).
7. The CTC signal at the north end of Blackey didn't indicate anything imminent. The scanner was silent. Looking south, the Rockhouse Sub. goes straight and across the deck girder bridge over the river. The Whitesburg Branch goes to the right. There are northbound approach signals on both lines. There is a hand-throw crossover at the south end of Blackey from the Rockhouse Sub. into the Whitesburg Br., making it in effect a passing siding. At the north end, the Rockhouse goes out with a dwarf because in years past, it was a branch and not the main line. Coming south, strangely, the control point signal is a searchlight with only one light. I presume it can only give aspects for clear, stop and approach. What indication it would give for a train negotiating the switch to continue southward on the Rockhouse Sub. I haven't a clue.
8. These signals are called "APP Markers" in the rule book, and are defined as "a signal equipped with "APP" marker provides information only about the next signal, not conditions of the track ahead.
9. This "APP" signal is non-standard. It was manufactured by Modern Industries of Louisville, Ky. It looks very much like a crossing signal. This signal may stay lit continuously. There were signals that served a similar purpose at Van Lear on Big Sandy, but they have been removed.
More on this day later.