Coal Mining & Railroading--- having a little creative fun with a labor of love.

nw-mailing-list at nw-mailing-list at
Mon Sep 12 16:30:16 EDT 2005

Help Wanted:
My name is Don Mills and I am a member of the N&WHS as well as the C&OHS. I am also an avid mystery fan.

I am attempting to put my love of railroading, my fathers job as coalminer, my college degree in history and social studies into a murder msytery along with some WV History and need your help along with your attention to detail.

Two areas that often intertwine are railroading and coalmining. I have read hundreds, maybe thousands of mysteries and have not seen a mystery written using either industry. I am also an avid history buff and would love to include as much of the local history of WV in my writing as possible. I am in the middle of a creative project that needs some information regarding both.

Firstly, How many men does it take to run a division on the railroad? Say maintenance or operations along the Poky division. Can you give me an estimate along with some of their titles and a small description of their jobs.?

Secondly, Can anyone tell me some of the titles with light definations of one average coal mine that employees around 200 to 500 persons? This could be both surface and underground.

So you get the gist of what I am trying to accomplish:

My ideal is to write a murder mystery with the following as an outline:

My detectives will be both a railroad employee and a coalminer and the area is fictional but will be based upon the Gilbert-Man area of Logan/Mingo County. I was born in this area and am familiar with much of its history.

The murder victim has been dismembered and his head and upper torso has been found inside a hopper car by a tipple worker who happens to look inside the car just prior to its being loaded. Example: What is the title of the man who runs the tipple? I haven't decided to make the man a local or someone from out of the area. Probably out of the area because murders in this area are usually accomplished via a gun of sorts. But who knows!

The rest of the body will be found in another area connected to mining and railroading, ( A clue for those interested. The second part of the body will be found at a location visited at this years N&W Williamson convention. ) but I will leave this portion out of the outline as a part of the mystery should this work come to fruition.

This train will be approximately 140 cars in length and is being speed or flood loaded when the first section of the body is found. The train is being pulled by two of Norfolk-Southerns newest engines (Are they EMD or GE?) and I am going to make a backup move simply because I do not want to loose the romance of a caboose. Also, I am considering having the C&O connection in Gilbert opened up for this book, but I may have CSX selling the line to R.J. Corman or someone else. This would extend all the way to Man and up Buffalo Creek. The shortlines yard would be in Man where it would connect with the CSX rail to Peach Creek and on to Barboursville with a NS connecting yard in Gilbert. ( Never forget this will be a work of fiction. ) Can anyone tell me of a mine in this area that would require a backup move that is as close to this area as possible that would possibly use hoppers from both railroads. (Since this is fiction there will be such a shortage of hopper cars that interchanging hoppers becomes a must all one really has to do is to think of the old Virginian as they did this all the time.) I hope to use several trains and schedules on both CSX and NS to accomplish this portion of the book.

As in every book there is a Who, What, When, Where and Why. I have provided a bare outline so that you can visualize what I am attempting. I hope to include some of the colorful history of the area.

To give you an ideal of my credibility.

I was the editor of the Collis P. Huntington NRHS newsletter from 1998-2004.

I have presently at the publishers the following books that I hope to be able to get on the market within the coming years.

TLC Publishing has my completed book on the Kanawha & Michigan Railroad. Tom Dixon has promised he will start looking at in earnest this fall.

I have also written a book that is on CD called Murder at Hummingrock-- This is a murder mystery as told by a Driver Education Teacher that takes place in a fictional area but is based as close as possible to Welch, WV. and Tales from Magnolia Harbour which are approximately 30-40 tales of growing up in Southern, West Virginia.

If you are from Eastern Kentucky. I put together the travel booklet and a complete history of the Eastern Kentucky Railraod on CD-Disc three years back.

I will see that credit is given for any information I receive. Always remember this is to be a work of fiction and literary license is a must, but I want to keep to as much realistic detail as possible so that people can identify with the happenings.

My hope is that when finished that you will be able to see a good view into both railroading and coalmining in early 21st Century complete with logic and terms that will enable you to see how a murder can be committed and solved using the two industries.

Growing up in and around the coalfields of Southern WV and living in Huntington, WV, I heard tales regarding murder from both industries.

I am sure that N&W and C&O railroads have a few questionable happenings occur along their rights of way that have not been reported over the decades. I have heard of men who have gone into the mines but did not find there way out for one reason or another and it reported as a roof fall, etc., This is my way of paying tribute to these happenings and providing a little color while doing so.

This is strictly a project for love. I am able to do such projects because I am retired due to cancer. This is just one way in which I keep busy.

Thanks in advance for any consideration given this request.

Don Mills
dmills at

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