The Hemphills, #1 & #2

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This is Hemphill tunnel #1 west portal, about 800′ long.

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and this is Hemphill tunnel #2 east portal, about 1200′ long

If you’ve got Google Earth, set the options to “digital” and enter these coordinates:
37.44387, -81.59671
Or just follow the N&S railroad line south of Capels WV and you’ll find where my buddy was standing when he took these pictures.  He was sort of in between these two, with #1 being slightly to the SE of him.
There’s great history of these tunnels here <click>

Pictures courtesy of Lee Stone

 

Up in Harlan County

I don’t post a lot of pictures of bridges.  My buddy’s always saying, “Look at that bridge!  You want to stop and take a picture of it?”  And I say, “No.”  I figure if it’s a mighty truss bridge, then Calvin (Sneed) has already posted it on bridgehunter.com.  Otherwise, it’s just trestle…

However, this really sturdy deck girder is a relic of the once-mighty coal-driven railways that the L&N pushed though out of Harlan KY.  They built strong.  The rails on this trestle have “Tennessee 1938” notations on them.  It’s a dead line, but I bet it supported one hell of a lot of tonnage in its day.

The trestle crosses Catron Creek at about 36.79852, -83.33855.

Norfolk & Western Streamliner

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Found this in an antique store last year and forgot about it.  As far as I can tell, this is from the early 50s, an N&W J-type out of Roanoke Shops.
On the back:
Norfolk and Western Railway’s streamline, all-coach, daylighter along New River in Virginia

Attribution, etc.:

Pub. by Roanoke Photo Finishing Co., Roanoke, Va.
K-158-D-12  44420
Dextone Made Direct from Kodachrome and Ansco Color by Dexter Press, Pearl River, N. J.

Southern Diesel

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“V-901   SOUTH ENTRANCE TO NATURAL TUNNEL, SHOWING THE APPROACH OF A MIGHTY SOUTHERN RAILWAY DEISEL ENGINE, NATURAL TUNNEL, VA.”  Yeah, they misspelled “diesel”.
The plate number is E-10246

On the reverse:

The Natural Tunnel, located on U.S. Highway 23, 14 miles west of Gate City, Virginia, in Scott County, is said to be the only Natural Tunnel in the world used by a railroad.  Through it the Southern Railroad has hauled many million tons of coal from the rich deposits of Southwest Virginia.

(Kodachrome by Robert Suttle)

In pencil:  1951

Published by Asheville Post Card Co., Asheville, N.C.

Wakenva Default Detector

wakenva

Okay, this is the default detector at Wakenva VA, about halfway way between Trammel and Nora on the original Clinchfield line (now CSX).
My question is: Every reference source I’ve gone to says that “Wakenva” is a portmanteau word (mashup, i.e.) comprising West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia.  People, look at the word!
It would have to be “WEkenva” for that to work.  Hmm.

The Eye

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All it says on this 1940s Asheville Post Card Co. issue is “A-38 THE LOOP ON THE L. & N. RAILROAD, NEAR TENNESSEE-GEORGIA LINE”

Actually, this is the Hiwassee Loop, the “eye” of the “Hook and Eye Line” built in 1898.  It goes around Bald Mountain near Farmer TN.

I found this pristine card while rummaging through a bunch of crap cards.  Never know what you’ll find, sometimes.

Junior Railroader

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Found this today in an antique shop.  It’s a pinback. The diameter is 1.5″ or 3.8cm.  I see several of these around on the internet, all noted as being “vintage”.  Southern went under the control of Norfolk-Western in 1982 and then was merged officially into the Norfolk Southern Railroad in 1990.
I could go out on a limb and say that this may date to before the railroads gave the old heave-ho to passenger service in this area, but I won’t.  That’s definitely a diesel engine on the left, though.  The caboose on the right fits the streamlined period, but that may just be to fit the design on this pin.

Basically, I just don’t know when these were handed out.

This one is in fair shape.  Water damage, apparently, around the rim.

ET&WNC Trestle

This sturdy standard-gauge trestle runs over Laurel Creek in Damascus VA.  It’s located at the end of Trestle Street, naturally.  Now part of the Creeper Trail, it was originally on the Virginia-Carolina Railroad that ran from Abingdon to Todd NC.  Details are here.
This is looking southeast.
I’ve biked the Creeper up from Abingdon to Damascus a couple of times and I’ve taken the shuttle from Damascus up to Whitetop and biked back down a couple of times.
Great fun.  Seriously.

Clover Branch Trestle

 

I’m looking southeast down Highway 38.  Days Creek is on the right, under the extended part of this deck girder that once served the old Clover Branch of the Clinchfield Railroad.  The date plate is right about where that white spot is (the white is paint that covered over whomever Danny C loved at one time).  This is a Virginia Bridge & Iron structure made in Roanoke in 1948.  Holmes Mill is about .64 mile down this road.  There’s a currently out-of-use coal sorting plant behind me.  If I had backed up a little bit and turned around to take a shot, you’d see two conveyors coming down to the plant. You can see it on Google Earth 36.87884, -83.01097.

Imboden VA

imbodendoubletrestle

This is one of three double trestles we saw in the area of Imboden.  The line on the left is active, but the one which was on the right is long gone.  It’s a vehicle bridge now, reinforced with steel, but with sorry-looking ties.  Looking at this from above in Google Earth, I think I can tell that the line on the right probably went up to a loader in the valley.  There are several coal mines in that area, mostly stripped out now.
Imboden was possibly named after Gen. John Imboden, the man who had a vision of making Damascus VA into a major iron smelting town.  I don’t know.  Heck, I’ve never figured out why Osaka is named that.  Or Sun.  My main book on Virginia place names ignores some of these.

The Intermediate Tweetsie

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Both of these chrome postcards are from the late ’60s, when Doe River Gorge Playland was in business (check this link).  As you’ll read on that webpage, for about a year, it was Hillbilly World and it closed in 1971.  I’ve hiked the gorge twice, once from the Ministry side and once from the highway side.  I think the one on the left shows the Engine #1 at Pardee Point, the one on the right is just a general shot of the engine steaming along.
The technical details: On the left: the card is badly creased end to end.  Shame, that.
On the back: “Doe River Gorge, Highway 19-E, Hampton, Tennessee
A panoramic view of the Doe River as it winds through the Doe River Gorge.  This is just one of the many scenic views of natural beauty seen from “Little Whistler” as Engine Number 101 puffs through the 3 1/2 mile trip in the Gorge.”
Published by KING PRINTING 509-511 Shelby Street, Bristol, Tennessee 37620
(there’s a small logo on the back: KING ADVERTISING DESIGN – PHOTOGRAPHY – COLOR SEPARATION – LITHOGRAPHY BRISTOL, TENN U.S.A.)
It’s been scribbled on, apparently by a child.  Postally unused.

On the right: Card is in pretty good shape.
On the back: “Doe River Gorge Highway 19-E, Hampton, Tennessee
The “Little Whistler” puffs up the 2% grade road bed of scenic Doe river Gorge.  Steam engines have been pulling this grade for nearly one hundred years. A trip through Doe River gorge offers one of the most scenic natural beauty views in the southeastern United States.”
All rest is same as above.

Gate City Southern Depot

gatecitydepot

As you can see, the title of this postcard, a real photo card, is “SOU. DEPOT GATE CITY, VA 1963”.  There is no more information anywhere on this card.  I bought it maybe 10 years ago from a dealer in Maryland.  Since the first SLR cameras began coming into the United States in 1963,  it’s entirely possible this was shot with a regular rangefinder camera.  Either the lens was soft or the film was slow, either way, the sign about halfway down the building should be readable, but it isn’t, even at 10x magnification.  It’s out of focus.

The Clinchfield Special

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This post card, never mailed, shows the tender with the livery of 1968 with Clinchfield in gold letters.

On the back: THE CLINCHFIELD SPECIAL – The most famous little steam engine of railroad history, built Aug. 1882, is puffing again through the Appalachian Mountains.  It sounds nostalgic episodes of history with its whistle echoing through the mountains.  Old No. 1 pulled first food, medicine and rescue workers to Johnstown, Penn. flood area May 1889, and the first refugees out.
Train Concessions Operated by
Y’s MEN’S CLUB OF ERWIN, TENN.
Color Photography by
Earle M. Walker
640 Holston Place
Erwin, Tenn.

Vertical Division line: Pub. by Earle M. Walker Photographer, 640 Holston Place, Erwin, Tenn. 37650

Published by Dexter Press, Inc. West Nyack, New York
Plate #53303-C

Note: in the PLACE STAMP HERE box, there is a small “69” in the lower right.  This may be the date the card was printed.

Inman School Train

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Inman is an unincorporated community in Wise County VA.  This is a divided-back postcard that was allowed between 1907 and 1914.  A website had this card for sale and, without attribution, stated it was “1910’s”.  Close enough.  I think this is an Interstate Railroad steam engine, but I can’t be sure.

On the back, scrawled in pencil (it was never posted) “Hello CB  Ans soon CDM”
Addressed to Miss Blanche Gladson, RR #4 Rogersville Tenn.
If you want to know more about Miss Blanche, go here.  If it’s still not the top entry, look for “Rogersville Postcards” in the menu.

Clevinger Branch Tunnel

This is a CSX Clevinger Branch Coal Run subdivision (read about it here) tunnel near Clevinger Branch Road (3227), about 3 miles NE of Coal Run Village in Pike County KY.  Coordinates (at center) are 37.5519, -82.5239.  It’s about 1,500′ long on an active line.
Inside the tunnel, the ties are concrete:

 

The ballast is covering the center of the ties.  I’ve seen flat (and cracked) concrete ties at the Indian Ridge tunnel in Johnson City, but none like these. Interesting.

Levisa Branch Trestle

You can read about this sturdy, 1894 Pencoyd Bridge & Construction Co. (PA) trestle over the Levisa Branch in Kentucky right here.  It once carried two tracks, maybe when it was over the Ohio River.  The website I noted above says that this bridge is closed to all traffic, but check the rails…they’ve been used recently.  The actual maker plate is on the right support.  It’s been broken, but it’s still readable.

 

Robinson Creek Tunnel

This tunnel at Robinson Creek KY (37.38180, -82.54229) was in the news in April, 2014, when two arsonists set the thing on fire.  The fire burned for weeks and the ceiling of the tunnel collapsed.  The arsonists were discovered and now face federal charges.
The tunnel is 700′ long and dates back 100 years.  It’s on an active CSX line that serves two coal mines.
Here’s what it looks like inside:

I’m told it took major work to get the tunnel back in operation.

Shelbiana KY

My buddy, the Navigator, had spotted on Google Earth what he thought was an extant turntable at Shelby Yard in Shelbiana KY.  So, we went up there and crossed over into the yard, metaphorically whistling innocently and stepping quietly, and, there it was:

It’s not operational; however, the current setup would have allowed it to rotate a locomotive (or four or five large African elephants, for that matter) or move the locomotive platform to connect to three different tracks, probably to repair facilities and so forth.
This yard was set up in 1917 by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.  It’s now maintained by CSX.

 

Lonesome Valley Road Trestle

Looking up at the northwest end of the trestle, which is about 708′ long and around 100′ high, over Lonesome Valley Road in Claiborne County TN.   Here’s the southeast end:

 

This is on the same Norfolk Southern line I discussed in the Oakman tunnels posting.  This trestle, old as it appears, was most certainly a replacement or reinforcement of an existing trestle.  The original concrete footers are still there.

Bear Pen Gap tunnel

bearpenwestportal

A person who follows this blog queried me on a tunnel he’d found access to of Hwy. 83 in Dickenson County VA.  I searched it out and found what it was, but I couldn’t find a blog entry about it.  I’d slipped up.  I thank the guy who caught this.
This is Bear Pen Gap tunnel, west portal, taken in April, 2011.  In my original digital photograph, the east portal is just barely visible at 1/2 mile away.  Returning to this portal today, May 24, 2015, I couldn’t see the other portal.  Part of the tunnel may have collapsed.  Very dangerous.
The air coming out of this tunnel today was cool enough to condense breath.
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This is the east portal, taken in April, 2011.  The water, as of May, 2015, was still flowing off the left side ledge.  This portal is a little over a half mile from Fremont.
This was the one tunnel on the Clinchfield Railroad’s old Fremont branch, which, starting in 1947, ran from Fremont to Moss #1 mine a little over 14 miles away.  The mine shut down in 1989, but this line was used for a couple more years hauling wood chips from an operation at the Moss location.
The latest rail date we saw in this area is 1972, Lackawanna.
As we walked up to this portal four years ago, a kid (may 13-14 years old?) came down the embankment.  He was totally togged out in Army fatigues – cap to boots – and was sporting a fake pistol in a proper holster.  We all nodded to each other and passed on, but my buddy and I exchanged a puzzled look.  Cosplay is everywhere.
Note: a bear “pen” is a place where early settlers trapped bears and killed them for meat.

Buffer stop

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Back a long time ago, a Clinchfield Railroad spur peeled off the main line at Kingsport Yard and came down to this stop, which looks to be a Linden-made piece, next to Oakwood Market on West Sullivan Street.  I assume it provided ship-ins to the grocery store and ship-ins and -outs for Roberts-Johnson Lumber Company.  The lumber company burned down sometime in the ’70s, I think.  Willing to stand corrected on that.  I can’t find a reference for it.
It’s amazing, sometimes, to see just what survives over the years…

Mudlick Junction

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Ladies and germs, welcome to Mudlick Junction, about halfway between Stonega and Andover, snuggled between Stonega Road and Roda Road.  The two lines on the left are, obviously, dead and I think originally went to the mines at Roda.  The line on the far right is live and runs up to strip mines north of Stonega.

According to Hanson’s placename book, “Roda” is short for “rhododendron” and you have the Post Office to thank for omitting the “h” that should have been in “Roda”.  Andover is named in honor of Andover College in New England, which was of some significance to the president of the Virginia Coal and Iron Company.  “Stonega”?  Hanson says it’s just “Stone  Gap” without the “p”.  Ahh, ha.

“Mudlick” isn’t a placename.  It might have been a small settlement once.  A “lick” refers to an outcropping of salt that attracted wild animals and, eventually, hunters.  Meat and salt, all in one.