The other side of the mountain

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Sun Jun 5 07:18:01 EDT 2016

The initial building of mine facilities and the railroad on the East side
of Flat Top Mountain has been fairly well chronicled by Shust and Cooper
among others due to these being some of the first installations in the
opening of the Billion Dollar Coal Field (Alex and Mason please chime in
with corrections where I go astray and elaborations/additions where you may
have them). John Cooper opened his operation at the head of Mill Creek and
the N&W built a branch to service him in 1884. Cooper appears to have been
working both sides of the creek with his appropriately named West
(Sterling) and East mines both loading through a single tipple that
straddled the creek. A picture of this facility appears on page 14 of
“Bluestone” by Shust, Cooper, Bowen and French. When the N&W decided to
push the Elkhorn Extension through the mountain at the end of the Mill
Creek branch, John Cooper was compelled to relocated his processing/loading
facility. He opened the West Fork mine and tipple and brought the product
of his other mines here and it appears that this arrangement remained
stable for a good number of years.

The details of what was transpiring on the West or Coaldale side of Flat
Top Mountain during this period are fewer and less clear. It is my
understanding that even before the old Elkhorn Tunnel was completed,
multiple coal mining facilities were put into operation by Crozier, among
others. I suppose they piled their product up waiting for the railroad. In
“Bluestone” Shust, et al. Say John Cooper drove a haulway in parallel to
the N&W's tunnel and built a tipple for the Coaldale mine at it's West
opening. The N&W built a spur off the mainline at the West poral of the old
Elkhorn tunnel that went around the West face of the mountian and I assume
extended this tipple, but to me at least, the exact location of this
facility is unclear. The few pictures I have seen of the beginning of this
mine spur show no evidence of the mining operation but they are all taken
quite close to the railroad tunnel. I understand that the banks of Coaldale
coke ovens started a bit beyond this point and continued to the tipple/mine
location which is said to be nearly on the McDowell/Mercer County line.
Some of the things that I would like to know about the history of this
location are, first, where exactly the Coaldale tipple/mines were located
relative to the West portal of the NEW Elkhorn tunnel. Second, where is the
new Elkhon tunnel located relative to Cooper's mine haulway mentioned above
(could it be that portions of this haulway were incorporated into the new
tunnel?). Third, how close to the mine was the tipple located and what
haulage method was used.

I ran across the attached picture of the tipple the other day. It is not of
the best quality and I cannot make out any railroad or tram tracks. To me
it appears that might be constructed to allow mine cars to enter from both
ends and dump in the middle. Hopefully, omeone with more savvy about these
early operations can shed some light on exactly what we are looking at.
Thanks in advance for any help/additional information on these early
operations that transformed the N&W into what we all know and love.

Jim Cochran

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