Iaeger and Southern

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Mon May 12 11:41:33 EDT 2008


The simplist way to get to Pocahontas would have been to follow Jacobs Fork to Horsepen Creek and then up Horsepen Creek as far as possible and then continue up Abbs Valley to Pocahontas. The desired direction up Low Gap Branch to Low Gap Divide would have taken you into what became Munson (US Steel operation No 14) and the headwaters of the South Fork of the Tug Fork. At this this point the Tug Fork only flowed West. However if you turned East and followed the Road Fork Branch you would be on the old Abbs Valley and Tug Road Turnpike that crossed the mountains near the headwaters of the Ballard-Harmon Branch at a place called the Jumps (or possibly known locally as Harmon's Gap). This is near where Jenkinjones Operation No. 8 was located. Both of these routes are in very mountainous teritory and I have driven on both of them. Low Gap is one mountain range further North from the Jumps and is closer to Jenkinjones Operations No.6 and No. 7. I attempted the road from Jenkinjones through Low gap to Virginia once but turned back and went over the Jumps instead.

Given the mountainous terrain it would make sense to tunnel from Low Gap Branch into WV to the headwaters of the South Fork of the Tug Fork. However the extension itself doesn't make any sense in 1904. By 1904 the N&W Tug Fork Branch was already at Pageton or pass the point where the South Fork and North Fork of the Tug Fork joined to form the Tug Fork. It would have been easier to build the railroad up the South Fork of the Tug Fork (as the N&W did in 1946 and 1947 to reach Munson) or up the North Fork of the Tug Fork as the N&W did in 1912 to reach Jenkinjones. Although neither of these solutions would have provided a loop between the Dry Fork and Pocahontas.

A possible explanation is the route described would have been over land owned by the Pocahontas Coal & Coke Company whereas going up Abbs Valley would have required the purchase of land. I believe a railroad from Berwind to Pocahontas would have gone in a significantly different direction unless you tunneled under the mountain from Canebrake to what became Bishop. It appears that by 1910 the idea of Berwind to Pocahontas was losing favor in lieu of the opportunity to go Berwind to Cedar Bluff.

Another unknown factor in all of this is what the thinking was with respect to potential coal operations along the proposed route.

I have another 1904 Iaeger and Southern article to post now that I am back from some traveling.

----- Original Message -----
From: NW Mailing List
To: NW Mailing List
Sent: Sunday, May 11, 2008 10:42 PM
Subject: Re: Iaeger and Southern


Your questions about the 1904 newspaper article stimulated me to do some research. Because you know far more about the coal fields than I do, I have to look things up to understand them.

N&W annual report maps show the proposed "loop" as a stylized line as follows:

1903, 1904 Avondale - Perryville - Pocahontas
1905 Ritter - Perryville - Pocahontas
1906, 1907 Berwin - Pocahontas
1908 Berwin - Canebrake - Pocahontas
1909 Canebrake - Pocahontas
1910 - 1930 Canebrake - Bossevain
(1930 was last annual report showing the loop)

A "Certificate of Extension, Iaeger and Southern Railway Company, dated May 12, 1904" in the NWHS Archives describes the extension [added comments are from MS TerraServer topo map], "...shall commence at the present terminus of the line of the Iaeger and Southern Railway Company at or near the mouth of Jacob's Fork [near Rift] in McDowell, West Virginia, and run thence by the most practicable route up the said Jacob's Fork to the mouth of Horsepen Creek [at Bishop]; thence up Horsepen Creek by the most practicable route to the mouth of Low Gap Branch [east of Horsepen]; thence up Low Gap Branch by the most practicable route to the head of Low Gap Branch and crossing Low Gap Divide, entering the head waters of Tug Fork; thence in a generally easterly direction around and along the waters of Tug Fork to and terminating at a point on the state line between the States of West Virginia and Virginia, at or near Harmon's Gap [not on topo map]in the County of McDowell, in the State of West Virginia...."

So, this Low Gap Divide is apparently different from the Low Gap near Jenkinjones. The latter would appear to be the way the proposed line would cross into Virginia, the Bluestone River drainage and Bossevain.

Also, the topo map shows the Virginia state line forming a "finger" pointing north in the vicinity of the head of Low Gap Branch. This state line goes around a north-pointing ridge, so this could be the place where the proposed line would go through Virginia entirely in a tunnel.

There is no mention in the Certificate of Extension about the portion of the line from the West Virginia state line to Bossevein, VA. Possibly, the N&W had previous authority to build from Bossevain to the WV line.

Anybody have any more thoughts on this?

Gordon Hamilton
----- Original Message -----
From: NW Mailing List
To: N&W Mailing List
Sent: Monday, May 05, 2008 12:10 PM
Subject: Iaeger and Southern

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
July 10, 1904

Tunnel Into Virginia and Then Tunnel Out

Iaeger-Southern Loop Extension Will Open Rich Coal Deposits

Rader Sinss, civil engineer, is now engaged in making a preliminary survey and located the route
for an extension of the Iaeger Southern Railway, one of the Norfolk and Western's numerous branch
lines, from a point near Iaeger, in McDowell County, to the rich coal deposits back of Pocahontas in
Tazewell County.

The proposed extension will enter Tazewell County by means of a tunnel, and in order to get into
West Virginia another tunnel will be necessary. The present plan, it is understood, is for the eastern end
of the road to connect with the main line of the Norfolk and Western at a point in this county [Mercer],
thus completing a loop.

A charter has been granted, it is learned, empowering the promoters to build the road, and it is not thought
that any time will be lost in beginning the work of construction. Nothing definite could be learned as to the
probable cost of the new extension, nor as to when it is likely to be completed, but it is thought that the work
will be let to contract in the near future.

The Roanoke Times of yestrday says:
"The state corporation commission has just had under consideration a novel case, it being the application of
the Iaeger and Southern Railway Company of West Virginia, for permission to build a loop from a point in
McDowell County, West Virginia, in to the county of Tazewell, VA., and thence back into the state of West Virginia.
The proposed loop extension will be made into this state for a distance of from 1,700 to 1,800 feet, and this will
be in a tunnel. The road is a coal road controlled by the Norfolk and Western railway, President L.E. Johnson
being at the head of both. It will tunnel from the West Virginia line into this state and back into West Virginia, this
being the most feasible route of reaching points it desires to reach. The commission, in granting the application,
requires the the railway company to file copies of its charter and to convey to some persons in this state power of
attorney to represent it. The proposed extension will enter Virginia at Low Gap, in Tazewell County.


Alex Schust

(Note: There is not much in this article that makes sense other than the Iaeger and Southern wanted to build an extension which was probably down the Dry Fork to Berwind. If there was to be a loop it was probably to connect with an extension on Jacob's Fork. At one time there was an idea to build a railroad into Virginia and then up Horsepen Creek to connect with N&W at Pocahontas. Current Low Gap, VA is located near Jenkinjones, WV which is no where near the Iaeger and Southern. A Nov 16, 1904 article that I believe has been posted before talked about how the Dry Fork extension had been let to contract with the railroad entering Tazewell County and going to Pocahontas. It was expected (by the newspaper) that the Dry Fork extension from Iaeger to Pocahontas would become the mainline and the route through Elkhorn would become a branch line. However the coming of the Virginian spurred the N&W to upgrade its line from Bluefield to Iaeger and it remained the main line as the route from the Dry Fork extension was never built to Pocahontas.)


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