Suggestions for railfanning in Williamson, WV.

nw-mailing-list at nw-mailing-list at
Sat Jun 4 10:15:20 EDT 2005

I have used local airplane rides to get a lay of the land. In Mingo County an aerial view will shock you at the interesting things that are  going on that are not visible via auto. The cost is reasonable for a one hour flight and sharing it would be very cheap. After the ride you can chase down the most interesting points save going up into the mining operations. But, you will never see the mines if not from the air. The path of the rail operations are like looking down on a model set and make extraordinary sense when viewed from the air.

Take lots of pictures. See some of you fellow travelers and some one will tell how to get good shots and some will have the correct cameras for aerial views. 

Have the pilot make sweeping circles working away from Williamson in paths that somewhat overlap so that you get the full understanding of the geography. Take a road map with you and mark it up terribly so you can put it all together in years to come. Make sure to make quick circles over the interesting points so you leave with a real understanding of what you saw.

Once I had eight hours of helo time over Mingo, McDowell, Logan, Raliegh,  Wayne, Kanawaha, Cabell, Boone, and Wayne WV counties and Pike, Martin, Lawrence, Johnson and Boyd KY counties. This I did for two super customers (really for myself). Fortunately this was during the coal boom of the late 70's and one of my vendors furnished the Jet Ranger as a courtesy to me, (he needed help with my customers also).

The same relationship got us a chopper ride earlier in the boom era when I was the monthly host of a monthly traffic club meeting and we chartered a Greyhound and took 44 members into the coal fields to see strip mines with 22' seams of steam coal being mined. The bus went into the pits with the trucks and mining equipment. But the chopper came in on a high point and took three members up for a five minute flight that showed off numerous mining operations within five air miles. As an outing this one ranks at the top. The trip included a walk thru of a coal washing plant belonging to Island Creek Coal Company's Pelver Processing Plant just over the hill from the mining operation mentioned above.

Of interest also was viewing the portal operations of underground mining activities because the sites are so small and have no indications that so much activity is going on that will bring hundreds of thousands of tons out of a single "hole in the wall". Its a belt line and a small stacking operation with an immediate load out onto trucks normally. Rail serves very few actual openings with the production being trucked to processing plants. The really large operations exist but they are small in number as related to the total number of mining activities.

Your going into interesting territory, be adventuresome and go for it. It can be a trip of a lifetime, something far removed from your real world.

If possible being as I live 90 miles away I may make it up there for at least a day.

Everyone have fun, this place is interesting historically and in today's real time, ITS A REALITY SHOW and ready and waiting for all of you. The N&W and C&O are only that threads that keep it patched together. And I feel they have only touched a small portion of what has and is available to them yesterday and today.Two points that I like are Matewan because to get there you pass Rawles Processing Plant fo A T Massey and it is really huge and the second is at Gilbert where there is a small and lonely loadout on the C&O approx 1/4 mi from the Hardees down Rt 80 toward Logan. You can reach out the auto window and touch the hopper cars. This is the end of the line for C&O and a stretch from the Peach Creek yard at West Logan.

Here's to seeing you in Willaimson.

Take care, 

Oakie G Ford

----- Original Message ----- 
From: nw-mailing-list at 
To: nw-mailing-list at 
Sent: Wednesday, June 01, 2005 11:27 PM
Subject: Suggestions for railfanning in Williamson, WV. 

I will be in Williamson for the Convention on Wednesday the 22nd and would appreciate any suggestions for some local sightseeing and railfanning.  Coming up from the flatlands of the Piedmont of North Carolina and not having a lot of train watching opportunities down here I want to pack in as much as I can while I am there.

Thank you, 
Chuck Stewart
Bahama, NC


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