Coal load blocking

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Tue Dec 5 10:20:21 EST 2017

On 12/1/2017 10:26 PM, NW Mailing List wrote:
> Jim,
> Certainly no need to apologize, you are welcome, and I hope all is 
> well. I split up your questions by topic.
> On 11/26/2017 10:44 AM, NW Mailing List wrote:
>> Grant,
>> First off, let me apologize for the long delay in responding/thanking 
>> you for the wonderful information; sometimes life gets in the way.  
>> Second, your descriptions inspired further questions that I have 
>> inserted below the pertinent part of your text and set off by ***.  
>> Thanks again for your insights.  Jim
>>> 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.
>>> ***I take it from this that the tipple would position loads on their 
>>> storage tracks in groups of East-bound and West-bound cars. However, 
>>> I assume that in the process of pulling loads from multiple storage 
>>> tracks at multiple operations these groups of cars would end up 
>>> fairly randomly positioned in the final string stored at Elkridge or 
>>> North Fork. I would further speculate that when these strings were 
>>> collected and taken to Eckman, a significant amount of switching 
>>> work was required to break them down so that like groups could be 
>>> combined into complete East-bound or West-bound movements.***
>>> 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.
>>> ***Relating to my speculation above, how did the run sort or 
>>> maintain the sorting of the East-bound and West-bound blocks?***
Loads were blocked based on which direction and how far they were going 
when they got to the main line--basically, east, west and short loads. 
Short loads could be raw coal bound for a cleaning plant, coal to be set 
off on a storage track until sold, or house coal to be individually 
billed and handled as general freight at Bluefield or Portsmouth. 
Blocking could begin as cars rolled from under the tipple, depending on 
loading order and the track arrangement from the tipple tracks to the 
outlet tracks. Due to main line congestion and lack of track and time, 
most of the blocking was completed at the tipple by the mine run and 
maintained in the train, with the longest block at the rear. Blocks were 
set off separately at the appropriate storage points for pick up by 
eastbound Elkhorn and westbound Tug River crews.

Regarding the North Fork Mine Run, Algoma load blocks were set off in 
Byrd Yard to allow easier access to the remaining empties on Elk Ridge 
and North Fork Storage Tracks. Separate blocks of loads from the two 
remaining trips up the branch were left on each storage track, the main 
track or taken back to Eckman Yard.Where V1 left (blocks of) loads 
depended on how much time they had and the available space. Worst case 
was to leave all loads on the branch main and storage tracks.

Grant Carpenter
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