North Fork Hollow Mine Run

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Wed Nov 15 04:26:37 EST 2017

What an interesting operations twist on North Fork to have meat reefers handled in a coal train.  Can you give any more detail in these reefer movements?

Were there similar situations on any of the other lines operating through Bluefield?

Dr. J. Brent Greer
From: NW-Mailing-List <nw-mailing-list-bounces at> on behalf of NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at>
Sent: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 6:33:46 PM
To: nw-mailing-list at
Subject: North Fork Hollow Mine Run


Regarding your mines of interest, my info only goes back to post-WWII. By then, the working tipples I heard about were at Algoma, Gilliam, Rolfe, Ashland and Crumpler.

The North Fork Hollow mine run was a daylight job out of Eckman Yard. Dispatched facing upgrade, the regular power was the 2023 with Cicero Sells as engineer, the senior man at Eckman.

An Elkhorn job out of Bluefield would set off empties the night before on the storage tracks Elk Ridge (60 cars) and North Fork (55 cars) adjacent to the branch line near North Fork Junction. The mine run could bring more empties from Eckman Yard or Byrd Yard in Northfork, as needed.

The job was broken up into three round trips from the junction up the branch: first to Algoma up the Buzzards Creek Branch, then to Gilliam and Rolfe, then to Ashland and Crumpler.

Algoma was at the end of the spur with no tail track to pull past, so empties were pulled off the junction-end of the storage tracks while backing out onto the main line, then shoved forward up the branch main track, then up the spur. Loads came back to Byrd Yard.

Gilliam and Rolfe were delivered by trailing point moves from the main track, so empties were pulled up the branch on this trip. The engine backed down with loads trailing to Elk Ridge and swapped the loads for the remaining empties.

Like Algoma, Ashland and Crumpler were stub-end, but the empties were pulled up the branch to Jones Siding, run around there, then shoved ahead. Ashland was delivered first, leaving the loads for pick up on the way back down from Crumpler.

Crumpler, aka Zenith, was steep with five, ten-car delivery tracks that made it particularly tedious and dangerous. With no radios to stop him, the rear brakeman rode the drawhead and jerked the angle cock open to stop. The middle brakeman made the cut while the rear brakeman set brakes, watching for the next cut to get on and stop them. Tipplemen, called "droppers", would help set brakes. Every load had brakes on and if they were set out on the main track, every brake had to be put back on.

Loads were usually blocked at the tipples and both east and west loads were set out on Elk Ridge and North Fork storage tracks, the main track, or in the yard upon returning to Eckman.

The North Fork mine run became First Vivian out of Bluefield when Eckman closed in 1951. "V1" would leave Bluefield with a 2000 in reverse, a cab on the pilot, and usually ran light. Empties were waiting on the Elk Ridge and North Fork storage tracks and Byrd Yard as before, but west loads were set off in Eckman Yard and it returned with east loads. If it was running close on time (16 hours) or Bluefield was (usually) unable to take short trains, the east loads were set off at Flat Top Yard and it ran light on to Bluefield.

Sometimes the daylight job put empties in at Algoma, but the loads would store there until the night job could pull them. Occasionally, North Fork/V1 would deliver Dan's Branch, but time-slipped.

Non-coal work included an occasional boxcar to the company store at Algoma. 84 would set off refrigerator cars of meat on the North Fork Middle Track about 1am every Monday morning for the North Fork Passenger Run to spot at the Wilson, Armour and Swift packing plants. After the passenger run was cut off, V1 would get called early at 4am (usually 8am) to spot the cars.

Please, as always, edits and questions are welcome.

Grant Carpenter

On 10/28/2017 2:55 PM, NW Mailing List wrote:
Once again, terrific operational information for Maitland/Superior.  Would you have the same type knowledge for any of the mines "up North Fork hollow"?  In particular I am most interested in Crumpler, Greenbriar, McDowell and Indian Ridge.
Jim Cochran

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