William E. Simonton, III


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Freight Operations at Hinton

by Roy Long
updated 21 May 1999

Roy Long was retired C&O employee. Between 1939 and 1981 he served in several positions including dispatcher at Hinton. He has provided a wealth of data on operations in this area and we were fortunate to have him share his experience with us. Roy passed away in 1999.  This Article was copied from the New River Subdivision website of Bernard Kempinsky which ceased to be maintained in 2001, and used with the permission of the Long family.

Operations from Hinton
Manifest Trains
Local Freights
East and West Pickup
Rock Train
Dead Freights
Movement of Coal Eastbound into Hinton

The following are my recollections about operations on the Alleghany Subdivision between Hinton and Clifton Forge and down the New River. Being retired now for twelve years I have to depend on memory and although having worked this portion of the railroad the first 12 years of my career, I haven't worked that territory since 1957, a long time ago.  Let me say this - because of advanced planning the Alleghany Grade was one sweet stretch of rail line to work despite the Alleghany Mountain trains had to cross. But, let one little thing happen such as slide, work on the track, track circuit out causing a red positive block or most anything to interfere with the operation especially when the tie up is on the grade of either side of A1leghany Mountain and it can delay trains over the whole subdivision for hours.

Operations from Hinton TOP

    The every day eastbound business out of Hinton, consisted of First Class and local passenger trains, manifest trains, coal trains, east local, Frazier rock train and east pickup. Special trains were thrown in as they showed up. We operated our coal trains eastbound over the mountain in a predetermined calling time schedule. There would be 7 or 8 eastbound coal trains daily. I can't now recall the scheduled calling times for coal trains eastbound but they were one hour and a half to two hours and a half apart but could be set back or set forward, if a manifest or passenger train was off schedule and the coal drag might interfere. Note that the local freights, both east from Hinton and west from Clifton Forge had a regular calling time, usually at 6:30 A.M. Work trains would follow at either 6:45 or 7:00 A.M. By the way, the pre-scheduled calling times for coal trains east was set up so as not to interfere with passenger trains or vice-versa.

    Lets say right after midnight a coal train was called, with about 130 loads at 11,500 tons with a pusher. The engine crew would get the lead engine at the ready track at Hinton roundhouse and proceed up the east track to MX Cabin where the operator would handle switches and let the engine back onto the yard track holding the loads he would double to the head end. If the east main wasn't available for some reason, the engine would come to the east end through one of the yard tracks. The crew on the pusher engine would get the cab from the caboose track at the west yard at Hinton and get on the train he is to push at the west end near Avis yard office. After the head end engine coupled to his double, he would pull up the middle track until his head end cleared the switch leading to the rest of his train. He would then couple up, pump up the air brakes, make a brake test, and turn the headlight on, sound the whistle and off they would go. If all went well the next stop would be Alleghany, where the train would stop. Then the pusher would run-around the caboose, push the caboose back on the train and then go to the turntable. There it would turn around, wait for the eastbound train to leave before starting back to Hinton. In the meantime, the head brakeman was on the ground with a long pole turning up retainers on the head end to hold the train while going down the steep slope of Alleghany Mountain. At the bottom they would stop at the east end of the siding at BS Cabin and turn the retainers down before going on to Clifton Forge yard.

    There was very little classifying of coal loads at Hinton during the 1940's and 1950's. All classifying was done in the hump yard at Clifton Forge. A coal train may consist of loads for 10 (Newport News), 181 (Charlottesville), VMO (Washington) VM-85 (Gordonsville), and A-146 (Lynchburg) all mixed up throughout the train. Loads going to 10 Newport News was usually tide coal for export. There was not a set schedule for westbound coal car empty trains. We kept a bulletin current showing empty coal cars on Clifton Forge yard, Moving west over the James River and Mountain Subdivisions, at Gladstone yard, moving west over the Rivanna and Piedmont subdivisions, and at Fulton and Newport News yards. With the status known we could plan for sufficient crews to be held at Clifton Forge to keep empties on their way to the mines for reloading. Seems like they were always needed and rushed most of the time. That's were money was made, turning them back under load. If a west bound train was heavy enough, a pusher was used out of Clifton Forge to Alleghany. When this was done they usually pushed two trains. On arrival at Alleghany of the first train which was headed in the west siding, the pusher ran around the caboose and put it back on the train, It then dropped back down the mountain to BS Cabin and waited for the second train. which it pushed it to the summit and then returned to Clifton Forge and laid up.

Manifest Trains TOP

There were three manifest trains east and two west in those days. These were preferred runs. To even them up so that there were 3 each way, the West Pickup (see below) from Clifton Forge each day would have one of the manifest crews manning the train. There was always switching to do on the manifest trains at Hinton. The trains would bring in loads belonging to stations all over the Hinton division and on the Alleghany Subdivision including the Greenbrier and Hot Springs Subs. These cars were sent to their destination on the east and west local and/or the east pickup. No. 94 would be the first manifest train at 11:00AM, No, 92 around 7:00PM and The Expediter, No. 90, was later put on and ran around midnight. No. 95 was the first manifest train west bound out of Clifton Forge around 11:00AM, then the West Pickup around 6:00PM and then No. 93 around 10:30PM.

Local Freights TOP

    These trains ran six days a week. A regular assigned crew on the west local and a regular assigned crew on the east local, each over one day and back the next starting on Monday. The east local and the west locals were usually called for at 6:00 or 6:30 AM. They would have a merchandise car or two on the head end handling various shipments of LCL material. The local would stop at way stations and pick up or set off cars and do necessary switching at the stations.

East and West Pickup  TOP

    These trains ran seven days a week. The east pickup had a pool crew out of Hinton and the west pick up had a manifest crew out of Clifton Forge. The east pick-up would be called around 8:00PM. This train was usually made up with Ronceverte and Greenbrier Subdivision cars on the head end, next would come the Covington and Hot Springs Cars and followed by cars for Clifton Forge and east. The train would usually have a pusher like the coal trains but sometimes was a single header. It would stop at Ronceverte to set off and pick up, stop at Alleghany to turn retainers up and switch cab to train if it had a pusher and stop at BS Cabin to turn down retainers, pick up cars brought over from Covington by the yard engine and put in the east set off track and also set off in the east set off track.

    Now for the movement of loads in locals and/or pickups. Lets say there is a rush load at Russell, KY for Ronceverte or Covington and it is known ahead of time. This car would probably be placed on the head end of a manifest train at Russell and forwarded direct to destination on that train and the rest of Hinton classification put on the rear of the train. Now lets say that the same car was mixed in with several for Ronceverte or Covington and placed on the rear at Russell. These cars would come off at Hinton, and the rush car put on the head end of the first dead freight going out and taken to its destination. Suppose all the cars coming off the rear of the manifest was for Ronceverte to go somewhere via Greenbrier Subdivision and for Covington proper or Hot Springs Sub. They would be switched together for the two locations and forwarded on the East Pickup out of Hinton. If there were no cars at Ronceverte to pick up, the Ronceverte set off would be placed on the head end followed by Covington cars followed by Clifton Forge and east cars. If there were cars at Ronceverte to pick up (and there usually were) the Covington cars would be on the head end followed by Ronceverte cars and then Clifton Forge and east cars.

    The local freights usually handled all less than carload freight (LCL) shipments including merchandise cars loaded with small freight shipments. As far as I know there were no restrictions as to what station the locals could or could not pick up or set off with the exception of certain cars at Covington. Covington was a regular pickup point for Manifest train No. 91 giving the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company preferred movement on their paper products to market.

Rock Train  TOP

    This was a Frazier (on the Alleghany Sub) turn out of Hinton with a regularly assigned crew. This train ran only when the rock business was good. When business was down, any of the pool crews including the local freights would take care of the business supplying empties and picking up loads, most of which went west. During the previous day the clerk at Frazier would notify officials the number of empties needed at the quarry to load the next day. These empties were accumulated and the rock train (dubbed Gravel Girty) was called around 2:00PM. They would take the empties to Frazier and do necessary switching for the operations at the quarry and pick up cars loaded that day and bring them to Hinton. Sometimes this amounted to almost 100 cars, a very heavy train and would be on duty sometimes more than 10 hours.

Dead Freights TOP

    A sufficient number of crews were marked up in a pool to take care of coal loads, coal car empties and other business not moving in manifest trains.

    With reference to manifest trains bringing to Hinton loads belonging at stations in New River and Alleghany Subdivision. Yes, the loads for Clifton Forge and east would continue to Clifton Forge. If the manifest was westbound they would be left at Clifton Forge and put in classification at that point. Sometimes cars for Alleghany Subdivision would be sent to Hinton from Clifton Forge because facilities for setting off was from the eastward main track, as at Backbone, for instance. Those cars would have to be forwarded to the next terminal, (Hinton in this case) and doubled back so it could be set off, there being no run-around facilities. The same would be true of a car showing up at Hinton eastbound for McDowell Spur. That car would be sent to Clifton Forge and returned on the west local because the set off track was from the west track.

    The size of trains over Alleghany Mountain was determined by drawbar ability. There was a limit on the number of cars but the limit on tonnage prevented ever reaching the number of cars in most cases. I have forgotten what the limits were but I believe the tonnage was something like 13,500 for a steamer (H-8) on the head end being pushed by another H-8. The pusher crews were used out of the engine crew pool, would push to the summit at Alleghany and return to Hinton, one days pay and a little overtime (100 miles constituted a day and a trip to Alleghany and back was 101.2 miles).

Movement of Coal Eastbound into Hinton TOP

    During the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s coal loading was very heavy on the Hinton Division from main line mines between Handley and Thurmond and branch lines out of the Thurmond and Raleigh terminals.  Lets cover the mines first starting with Morris Creek. The yard engine at Handley took care of this, supplying empties and pulling loads.

    1. Powellton Sub: A crew at night would supply empties and another crew during the day would pull the loads. These crews came out of Handley and returned to Handley with their loads.

    2. Boonesboro Mine (east main line) A train out of Handley would be reduced in tonnage sufficient to pick up these loads and bring them to Hinton. This was a small mine. Kanawha Falls Mine (west main line) The west local would usually supply and pick up here. This was also a small mine.

    3. Gauley, Rich Creek and Open Fork Subs: There was a crew that worked out of Gauley every day. They were called around 10:00AM and worked until they finished. The first thing they would do was pull loads from the mines and bring them to Gauley yard. Empties were taken to Gauley on manifest train No. 91 every day. The Gauley crew would meet No. 91 and take the cars off and deliver them, some to mines, some to lumber mills and some for NYC delivery. After delivering the cars off No. 91 they would bring the loads to the east siding on the main line. Once they determined the tonnage, a train was reduced out of Handley to pick up the cars here. Sometimes a Gauley turn was dispatched out of Hinton eliminating the need to reduce one from Handley.

    4. Hawks Nest Sub and Keeney's Creek Sub: Double headers, both at day and night would be dispatched from Thurmond terminal to do this work. We called these trains "Shifters." The loads would be switched at Thurmond, i.e. East coal and west coal to be moved in appropriate trains.

    5. Keenneys' Creek Sub: Like Hawk's Nest, two double header shifters, one day and one night would be dispatched from Thurmond terminal to do this work and take the loads to Thurmond for classification.

    6. Thurmond Terminal: Its hard to cover everything that operated out of this terminal in a brief description. There was usually a day and a night shifter out of Thurmond for all of the various mines, each crew assigned about 8 hours work. This also included the main line mines between MacDougal and Sewell. Two of the largest were Ames on the North side and Kaymoor on the south side. There was the South Side Sub, Rend Sub, White Oak Sub, Loup Creek Sub, and after C&O took over the KGJ&E there was the Glen Jean Sub, Mill Creek Sub and Sugar Creek Junction to Pax.

    A least twice a day, a Thurmond turn would be dispatched from Hinton. Usually it would have a solid train of empty coal cars for Thurmond but sometimes it also had empties for Meadow Creek or Quinnimont. This train would pick up 8,300 tons of east coal at Thurmond and fill at Quinnimont or Meadow Creek up to 11,500 tons. Tonnage was increased with the advent of diesels. In order to keep ahead of the game, when necessary a double turn was dispatched but could not go west of Quinnimont because of mileage. This train could take a train of empties out for Meadow Creek and Quinnimont and pick up a solid train of coal for the east at Quinnimont. The it would leave Hinton on its second trip with or without cars to be set off and pick up another solid train of loads for the east.

    7. Raleigh Sometimes we would run what we called the Raleigh Run out of Hinton. It would take a solid train of coal cars empties to Raleigh yard. There a train of east loads would be waiting for this train to bring back to Hinton.  Shifters out of Raleigh supplied mines in that area and pulled the loads. Trains out of Raleigh would normally bring the loads to Quinnimont and get empties for their return trip. The loads brought into Quinnimont were not classified at Raleigh. The yard engine at Quinnimont would do this work, that is west loads sorted into one block while east loads went into another block. Laurel Creek Sub was worked by shifters out of Quinnimont, one at night and one at day. These loads would also be blocked at Quinnimont. Shifters from the NF&G at Rainelle terminal would bring their loads to Meadow Creek yard and then switch the loads into west and east blocks. These crews would handle the empties back to Rainelle for distribution to the mines.

    A H-8 single-header out of Handley would take 90 loads and 7500 tons. It stopped at Thurmond for coal and water. While they were refueling, the yard engine would put a few loads on the headend giving him 8300 tons leaving Thurmond. He would then fill to full tonnage at either Quinnimont or Meadow Creek. This way, with turns and trains out of Handley filling we would keep the yards open. Sometimes we would run out of loads at Quinnimont to fill the trains coming out of Handley. If and when that occurred, we would set a train off at Quinnimont (90 loads) and return the train to Handley picking up any west loads along the way and take them to Handley.

    I guess I would have to conclude there were very few set ways to do things. The Alleghany Territory was one of the best areas to work, when things went right. Let one little thing happen and she was a mess all over.