Early Switchback/powerhouse

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Sat Apr 23 22:47:59 EDT 2022


Adding to Jim's reply, the first tipples west of the original Elkhorn 
Tunnel on the Elkhorn Extension (earlier, the Mill Creek Extension; 
later, the main line) were served by mine runs from back east at Flat 
Top Yard. Exiting the west portal, they would descend the two-percent 
grade, pass the tipples, stop and switch back east down what became the 
Elkhorn Branch to reach the creek bottom at the Shamokin Colliery, 
Maybeury and a junction wye. The wye's left fork went under the Maybeury 
Trestle they had just passed over and went up to the Norfolk Colliery. 
The right fork went up Barlow Hollow to the Elkhorn Colliery. Mine runs 
working the branch would continue to use the switchback until their 
terminal was moved west. Ultimately, that was Eckman, but may have been 
preceded by Bluefield when Flat Top closed and/or Vivian before Eckman 

Gordon, when I first saw it, how coal got to the powerhouse was my first 
question. It was supplied by mine tram from the Delta Mine just to the 
west. I believe turbine/generator sets were shipped in "kit form" and 
assembled on site. Period photos and Google satellite suggest a haul 
road (now Amp St.) was cut into the hollow for a gradual climb up to the 
powerhouse from next to the westbound main. What makes for a better 
story is instead of a road, it was a spur and the N&W used the Shay.

The sheer mass of transformers is another matter, thus when a large 
substation was added, it was built at grade next to a spur off of the 
westbound main at the bottom of Amp St.

Grant Carpenter

On 4/19/2022 6:56 AM, NW Mailing List wrote:
> Gordon,
> Can't speak to all facets of your question, but as to the name, there 
> was a turn out on the main (maybe more than one as I am looking for 
> documentation of a passing siding that may have existed) West of the 
> water tank with a spur that led down to the "bottom" where is 
> "switched back" to service mines along what is now at least route 52, 
> can't remember the name of the mines at the moment (covered well in 
> Alex's book).  The down spur also continued forward to go under the 
> bridge to become the Angle branch also followed the creek to the Wye 
> near Elkhorn Colliery.  Shamokin was also serviced down in the "bottom".
> Jim Cochran
> On Tue, Apr 19, 2022 at 7:37 AM NW Mailing List 
> <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org> wrote:
>     Jim,
>     I can't answer your questions, but I can interject one of my own. 
>     The
>     origin of the name Switchback has intrigued me.  The photos of the
>     rather massive power plant on the hill above the mainline has made me
>     wonder if there could have been a switchback track spur up to the
>     power
>     plant to deliver the massive machinery and building materials
>     needed for
>     construction of the power plant in an era when the railroad would
>     have
>     been the principal carrier of such items.  Also, how about coal
>     deliveries by rail after the power plant was placed in operation,
>     or did
>     the plant's location give it direct access to a coal seam at that
>     elevation?
>     Gordon Hamilton
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