The Morehead & North Fork Railroad (M&NF) extended from the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad’s (C&O) Lexington Subdivision at Morehead, Kentucky southward to Redwine. It’s primary freight customers were limestone and lumber companies, and at one time courted two passenger trains.
The M&NF was incorporated on September 27, 1905 by the Clearfield Lumber Company of Clearfield, Pennsylvania.1 The company had acquired large holdings of timber along the North Fork of the Licking River and throughout its tributaries, along with coal under the name Lee Coal Company. Construction began at Morehead in 1906 and on September 27, 1908, the entire 25 mile line to Redwine was completed. Branch lines were built up valleys to retrieve logs that were sent to Clearfield for processing. Coal was shipped outward to the C&O.
There were three tunnels along the route:1
- Clack Mountain, a 1,334-foot lumber lined bore,
- Poppin Rock, a 725-foot solid rock tunnel, and
- Twin Tunnels, which consisted of two short bores for the railroad and for the North Fork.
Clearfield was the headquarters for the railroad, and featured a shop for some light repairs and car building, a water tank, scales and storage track.
The M&NF featured a daily round trip of freight and two passenger round trips between Clearfield and its southern terminus, and numerous trips for freight between Clearfield and Morehead.1 Coal, refractory products and timber were the main revenue generators. In 1922, with most of its timber stands exhausted, the lumber mill at Clearfield closed.
One of its main revenue generators was in Clearfield: Lee Clay Products, which manufactured refractory brick, opened in 1925.1 It sourced its clay on Clack Mountain and was moved to the plant via the M&NF. But with coal reserves diminishing, the railroad was hauling only a fraction of what it was a decade earlier.
In 1933, the M&NF was shortened by 21 miles, leaving only four miles intact from the C&O to Clack Mountain.1 In 1970, the Lee Clay Products factory closed in Clearfield and the line was rendered out-of-service in January 1973.
The M&NF was sold to a private owner later in the year and became the Morgan & Morgan Fork Railroad (M&MF) and four Baldwin diesel locomotives were acquired in 1976.
In April 1982, the former Lee Clay Products plant, which had become a lumber yard, burned. The drying kilns, which provided the only freight for the M&MF, was lost and it took three years to rebuild the facility. The C&O’s Lexington Subdivision was mostly abandoned in early 1985 and the tracks removed shortly thereafter. That left the M&MF without a connecting track.
Between May and July 2001, the remaining M&MF tracks were dismantled and the Baldwin locomotives were relocated.
The Lenox Railroad was founded upon the trackage that was laid by the Roper-Reese Lumber Company, which eventually connected to the M&NF at Redwine.1
The Roper-Reese Lumber Company had constructed a line up Straight Creek and Big Mandy but work had halted due to financial considerations.1 The American Lumber & Manufacturing Company of Pittsburgh, through it ssubsidiary, the Lenox Saw Mill Company, purchased its timber interests and completed the railroad, including a switchback and tunnel, to Redwine.
The Lenox Railroad Company formally incorporated on July 3, 1918.1 Shortly after, the line was standard gauged and then extended 1.7 miles to the mine of the Clearfield Cannel Coal Company on Rush Branch, which gave the Lenox a total of 7.7 miles.
After the coal and timber stands were exhausted, the Lenox Railroad filed for abandonment on October 16, 1926.1 Permission was granted on March 5, 1927.[/stag_one_half] [stag_one_half_last]