Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Long Fork Subdivision

Chesapeake and Ohio Railway’s Long Fork Subdivision

The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Long Fork Subdivision existed between Martin and mines in the southern reaches of Floyd County, Kentucky, including Weeksbury, Wheelwright, and Price.






The Long Fork Railway, a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) subsidiary, was incorporated on March 6, 1912, 3 with the coal of building a line from the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway’s (C&O) Elkhorn & Beaver Valley Branch at Martin to Wheelright along the Left Fork of Beaver Creek to serve a mine being developed by the Elk Horn Coal Corporation. 1 2 9 Construction started in 1916 5 and the line opened from Martin to Weeksbury on March 1, 1918, and from Wheelwright Junction to Wheelwright later in the year. 3 It included five tunnels, three of which were situated within a mile of each other just above Clear Creek around milepost 17. 5

  • Tunnel No. 1 at milepost 4 (Salisbury) was finished with an all timber interior in 1917 and has a length of 350 feet. 12
  • Tunnel No. 2 at milepost 13 (Dorders) was finished with a natural rock interior in 1917 and has a length of 812 feet. 12
  • Tunnel No. 3 at milepost 17 (Clear Creek) was finished with a timber interior in 1917 and has a length of 356 feet. 12
  • Tunnel No. 4 at milepost 17 (Clear Creek) was finished with a timber interior in 1917 and has a length of 424 feet. 12
  • Tunnel No. 5 at milepost 17 (Clear Creek) was finished with a timber (84 feet) and rock (122 feet) interior in 1917 and has a length of 206 feet. 12

By 1925, the B&O realized that there was little chance that it would complete the construction of the Rockcastle Railroad to compete with the C&O 9 and it leased the Long Fork Railway to the C&O on January 1, 1925, and sold it completely to the C&O on December 19, 1933. 3 It operated as the Long Fork Subdivision for 25 miles from Martin to Wheelwright Junction, as the Wheelwright Subdivision from Wheelwright Junction to Wheelwright, and as the Clear Creek Subdivision for four miles from Clear Creek Junction to Ligon. 5

Passenger operations on Trains 158 and 159 along the Long Fork Subdivision were discontinued by the C&O in 1949. 10

With mines in Wheelwright nearing exhaustion, Inland Steel developed a new underground coal mine at Price in 1951, 4 with the line from Wheelwright to Wheelwright Junction being abandoned in 1952. 3 The branch from Wheelright to Weeksbury was disused in the 1950s after the mine at East Weeksbury closed, followed by the segment above Clear Creek Junction after the early 1970s. 5 After a small loading dock was installed in Melvin, approximately three miles below East Weeksbury, the line was put back into service.

As of 1977, the Long Fork and Clear Creek Subdivisions boasted a dozen active mines that produced 125 to 145 50-ton cars daily. 5 Welded rail was installed on the Long Fork Subdivision from Martin to Price in 1990. 6

The mine and preparation plant at Price closed in March 1991. 6 7

Effective on April 4, 1995, the Long Fork Subdivision was abandoned between milepost 16.5 at Clear Creek Junction and the end of track at milepost 25.1 at East Weeksbury. 14 The track had not been active since 1983 when the last mine closed.

In February 2004, CSX (C&O’s successor) filed to abandon all but the first three miles of the Long Fork Subdivision from Martin to Spurlock Creek at Salisbury which had not seen traffic since the mine at Price closed but the amendment was deferred after new interests began to look at reopening a mine at Price. 8 13 In 2006, Elk Horn Coal Corporation and New Vision Energy proposed the development of a new coal mine and preparation plant at Price. 6 11 CSX leased a 12-mile segment of the Long Fork Subdivision from milepost 3.1 at Spurlock to milepost 16.5 at Clear Creek Junction (Hi Hat), including two tunnels and several small bridges, to the companies who had pledged to rehabilitate the line. CSX maintained control of the segment from Spurlock to Martin which only served a loadout at milepost 1.4 at Guaranty although a new preparation plant was soon built by Black Diamond Mining along Spurlock Fork. 6 11 15

In 2010, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet completed work on rerouting KY Route 122 in the vicinity of Clear Creek which involved the removal of Tunnel Nos. 4 and 5.

As of 2022, the Long Fork Subdivision is active from Martin to milepost 3.1 at Spurlock which serves the Black Diamond Mining preparation plant.






Further Reading


Sources

  1. Inland Steel Company.” Social Networks and Archival Context.
  2. Wheelwright Collection.” University of Kentucky Libraries.
  3. Underwood, Jr., Thomas L. “Chronology of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company and Predecessor Lines.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Newsletter, Jan. 1975, p. 15.
  4. DellaMea, Chris. “WHEELWRIGHT, KENTUCKY & PRICE, KENTUCKY.” CoalCampUSA.
  5. Young, Everett N. “An Operational Look at the Big Sandy.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Newsletter, Oct. 1977, p. 10.
  6. Young, Everett N. “Inland Steel Coal Preparation Plant.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine, Summer 2010, pp. 18-21.
  7. Torok, George D., editor. “Wheelwright.” Coal Towns in East Kentucky, University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN, 2004, pp. 200–205.
  8. Seay, Tom. “Kentucky Abandonments.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine, July/August 2004.
  9. Young, Everett N. “The Big Sandy Subdivision.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine, Oct. 1993, pp. 3-15.
  10. Bogart, Charles H. “The Twilight of C&O Passenger Service on the Big Sandy Subdivision.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine, Jan. 2003, pp. 14-15.
  11. Young, Everett N. “Big Sandy Coal Developments.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine, Apr. 2006, p. 3.
  12. “C&O Tunnels.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Newsletter, Sept. 1969, p. 5.
  13. Seay, Tom. “Kentucky Abandonments.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine, July/August. 2004, p. 14.
  14. Saunders, Ray. “Abandonments.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine, Jun. 1995, p. 13.
  15. Shuster, Phillip A. “Big Sandy Coal Developments.” C&O History, Mar. 2007, p. 3.

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