Coal load blocking

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Tue Dec 5 13:17:02 EST 2017

Any conductor worth his salt would try to make his pick-ups to keep his 
blocks intact. Grades and tonnage may have make that impossible as he 
made his last pick-ups, but he would be in a position to minimize 
switching once terrain and tonnage was more favorable.


On 12/5/2017 10:20 AM, NW Mailing List wrote:
> 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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