Sierra Preparation Plant

The Sierra Preparation Plant is an abandoned coal preparation facility in Breathitt County, Kentucky.

The Skyline Preparation Plant, constructed in 1950-53 by the United Electric Coal Company, a subsidiary of Island Creek Coal Company, which strip-mined from nearby mountains. 5 6 7 The company utilized a large Bucyrus-Erie shovel, the “Star Knocker,” to strip overburden from nearby hills for coal around Evanston. Coal was shipped out via the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Dawkins Subdivision. The tipple was also used periodically by Evanston Coal & Land and Big Creek Development and was demolished by the early 1970s. 7

The Marty Corporation, a coal mining firm associated with AT Massey, constructed smaller steel truck dump load-outs using C&O hoppers on the site where the former Skyline tipple was located. 7 These load-outs remained operational until around 1982.

In 1982, the Sierra Coal Company, which was owned by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company of Australia, acquired new coal leases in the area. 7 They built a new preparation plant to the west of the former Skyline Preparation Plant. Coal mining operations were conducted under the subsidiary Redwood Coal Company until May 1986. At that time, Sierra was purchased by DuPont through Consolidation Coal for $46 million. This acquisition included the assets of the Inland Steel Coal Company. By 1990, the plant was operated by Consol of Kentucky (Consolidation Coal). Around 1997, Consol leased the plant to Addington Enterprises, which eventually acquired full ownership of the plant under AEI.

By May 1990, the Dawkins Subdivision was seeing reduced traffic because of the closure of nearly every mine along the branch. Of originating traffic on the line, 93% came from the Aierra Preparation Plant. 5 In 2000, the branch line was closed by C&O’s successor, CSXT, to revenue traffic due to needed repairs. 1 In 2002, the R.J. Corman Company acquired the 36.13-mile Dawkins Subdivision between Dawkins and Evanston from CSXT and started interchanging with CSXT at Paintsville on February 4. 1 3

The Sierra Preparation Plant was one of the remaining customers on the line, and coal was transported to the facility by truck and then sent to RJ for movement to Paintsville. However, due to needed repairs on the rail line, RJ ceased operations in 2003 4 and filed to abandon the Dawkins Subdivision on November 6, 2004. 2 3

In 2006, the Sierra Preparation Plant was acquired by Appalachian Fuels with coal trucked to truck-to-barge transloaders along the Big Sandy River south of Catlettsburg. 7 The preparation plant was later closed.



  1. Pleasant, Bryan and Ron Stafford. “Dawkins Sub acquired by Corman.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine Mar 2002: 3. Print.
  2. “Proposed railroad abandonments.” 2004. 10 Nov. 2009 Listing.
  3. Big Lovely Mountain Trail Feasibility Report. N. pag. Summit Engineering, Inc., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2009. Report.
  4. Stambaugh, Carrie. “Rail-trail plans on track, state officials say.” Independent [Ashland] 4 Sept. 2011: n. pag. Independent Online. Web. 8 Sept. 2011. Article.
  5. Young, Everett N. “Days on the Dawkins.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine Apr. 1991: 10-14. Print.
  6. Lynch, Jake. “Rural Kentucky Primed for the Opening of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail.” Rails to Trails Conservancy, 30 May 2013. Web. 12 June 2013. Article.
  7. Vaughn, Robby. Appalachian Rails & Mining, 4 Jun. 2023.

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