Between 1922 and 1923, the Virginian Railway laid down what would become the Glen Rogers Branch, a 15-mile track carved into the rugged landscapes of West Virginia.
Between 1922 and 1923, the Virginian Railway laid down what would become the Glen Rogers Branch, a 15-mile track carved into the rugged landscapes of West Virginia. This track was no mere feat of engineering; it was a lifeline to the colossal coal mines at Glen Rogers, operated by the Raleigh-Wyoming Mining Company. Today, what remains of this once-bustling artery is a ghostly stretch of rail, boasting four towering trestles and two shadowy tunnels, the crown jewel being a 2,463-foot tunnel through Polk Gap, a testament to the ambitions of an era long passed.
Our journey to the north portal, guided by the generosity and knowledge of a neighboring landowner, followed the remnants of a bygone logging railroad laid by the Ritter Lumber Company and an ancient roadway, weaving through the wilderness like a thread through the fabric of history.
Following the closure of the Glen Rogers mines in 1960, the branch fell into a deep slumber, its tracks untouched, its tunnels silent. Yet, as if resisting the quietude of oblivion, the branch stirred once more in the early ’70s. The Ranger Fuel Corporation, in a bid to tap the lingering riches beneath the earth, opened its Beckley No. 1 mine at Bolt in November 1973, followed by the Beckley No. 2 mine at Sabine in October 1975. These ventures breathed a fleeting life into the old rails, promising 25 to 30 years of activity. But as the last coal seam was exhausted by the mid-1990s, the Glen Rogers Branch was left to the elements, its fate hanging between the hopes of revitalization and the finality of dismantlement.