100 years ago... Logan County and Upper Guyan

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Mon Feb 19 11:21:33 EST 2007

>The Roanoke Times article of 100 years ago confuses me.

Welcome to the club.

The key to this article is the date. In my opinion the writer was fishing for a story. He gathered up a number of "facts" and was trying to present them as news.

I can not speak about the N&W nor the C&O's plans at that time but I have some insight into the Deepwater. In the Sept. 1902 Board of Directors meeting the Board authorized the Chief Eng to survey a route along the Guyandotte river from Barkers Creek (Elmore) 15 miles downstream to near Pineville. That work was completed in early 1903 and maps and surveys etc were filed with the State. In the May 03 BOD meeting they authorized the extension of that survey to Gilbert Creek in Mingo County. That work was completed and filed by Nov. 1903.

This Branch line was not the top item on the Deepwater's plate. In 1903 they were battling for Jenny Gap and access to Widemouth Creek at the top of Clarks Gap. Without those locations they really didn't have a viable railroad. They were trying to secure agreements for transhipment with the C&O and N&W - both failed. They were in the process of deciding to build to Tidewater. By 1905 their energies were in building the road from both east and west. 1905 and 06 saw a lot of effort in securing and building a "Branch" line down Marsh Fork, which in reality (probably) would have become the western mainline via Coal River to St Albans and the K&M etc etc to Toledo. That never came about either.

The N&W and the C&O were also probably up to their eyeballs in issues relating to their daily operations, thus the Guyan basin could keep for awhile.

In 1907 there occurred the economic "panic" that derailed everyone's plans. Then HH Rogers dies and his son and the Board shrink their world view to concentrate on making money and they put off any expansion plans. Then the Virginian capital expenditure efforts become focused in moving coal over Clark's Gap grade. Bigger engine, double track, even bigger engines, Electrification.........whew, time to take a break. Finally, in the late 20's the Virginian has the time and money to do something about that Western outlet. Complete the Kanawha River bridge to the K&M and fight for the Guyandotte River route. In the middle of that begins the Great Depression.

After many years in business I can only suggest that everything that the writer describes was being discussed in some board room or executive suite somewhere, after all, that is what they should be getting paid for. How many of these speculative musings ever see the light of day is another thing.


Tom Salmon


>I can understand that both N&W and C&O "were undoubtedly compelled" to join

>forces to meet the new Deepwater competition, given that both were under a

>Pennsylvania Railroad corporate umbrella at that time, and apparently they

>had a general gentlemen´s agreement about their respective territories.


>What is confusing is about the Deepwater buying rights of way to connect

>with the Island Creek railroad at Holden. Rogers of Deepwater did announce

>later the intention to build West (by Jack Feller´s account), but didn´t

>actually ask for permission to go west towards Gilbert until 1927, and

>anyway on my map, Holden is southwest of Logan, a not so convenient way

>station to go northwest up the valley, so how was it an "easy matter" for

>the Deepwater to connect with "them"?

>According to Lambie (From Mine to Market), N&W and Deepwater came to an

>agreement on Guyandot Valley proposed lines at a "peace conference" in

>Oceana in 1904, which did not hold up later in reality, and didn´t inhibit

>the N&W along with the C&O to try to prevent the Virginian Rwy. from getting

>loans during the 1907 panic. In 1907, N&W, through the Guyandot and Tug

>River Railroad, was securing the right of way through the whole upper

>valley, which seems to coincide or conflict with the newspaper´s atributing

>right of way purchases by the Deepwater as far as Holden.


>Did it become clearer later who really was

>putting in the coal transfer piers near Huntington, mentioned in the

>newspaper article?


>Are we dealing with some typical journalistic mis-construing the situation

>or wishful thinking?


>An even bigger puzzle to me is that given the competition to occupy the

>upper Guyandotte River, for both its own coal reserves and its convenience

>in moving coal both East and West, why so much time elapsed before it came

>about, the C&O not getting to Gilbert until 1923, with the N&W line from

>Wharncliffe and joint Gilbert yard with the Virginian until 1933? After

>all, Jack Feller in his excellent compilations of South Mullens (then Guayan

>City or Mullins or Lambert) town history notes G&TR, C&O and Deepwater

>buying right of way in Wyoming County as early as 1902-4 (even referring to

>"the N&W shop").

>Supposedly the WWI and Federal Control intervened, but a decade after the

>Oceana "peace conference", and then N&W and C&O (and according to Feller,

>NYC) attempts to lease the Virginian, separately or jointly, and finally a

>ICC decision in favor of the Virginian, but with surprising lapses in all of

>this given the more aggressive competitive occupying of other spaces. A

>Feller extract says that real development along the Virginian line to

>Gilbert didn´t come about untili 1943.


>Lambie says that the people of the territory (the valley?) preferred the

>Virginian as opposed to the C&O or N&W, but the Feller journalistic extracts

>from that period report more audacious and home spun tactics by the

>Deepwater right of way purchasers in present Mullens itself.


>Finally, what are the real reasons for the curious present weed grown

>abandonment of use of the tracks connecting CSX and NS across Gilbert?




>Subject: 100 years ago...



>> Roanoke Times - February 16, 1907




>> Bluefield, W.Va., Feb 15 - That railroad development in this state

>> is in its infancy is an indisputable fact. The state is experiencing

>> an era in railroad development which is only seconded by the unusual

>> activity in the opening of coal and timber lands.

>> The latest developments are taking place in and about Logan. The

>> Chesapeake and Ohio, the Norfolk and Western, the Deepwater and the

>> Island Creek railroads are all trying to secure inlets and outlets to

>> this territory in which many new leases are being opened.

>> The Norfolk and Western and the Chesapeake and Ohio appear to be

>> working in conjunction to secure eastern and western outlets from

>> this new field.

>> The Chesapeake and Ohio has a corps of engineers located at the

>> mouth of Buffalo Creek. These men, it is thought, are planning a road

>> up Gilbert Creek and then down Ben Creek to connect about

>> Wharnecliffe with the Norfolk and Western.

>> The Norfolk and Western, it is said, will extend along the

>> Pinnacle Fork of the Guyandotte down to the mouth of the Gilbert

>> Creek, where they can secure a western outlet over the Chesapeake and

>> Ohio.

>> In this way it is expected that this entire territory will be opened up.

>> The Norfolk and Western would have a western outlet while both

>> roads will secure eastern privileges, by throwing their tonnage over

>> the main line of the Norfolk and Western down the Big Sandy.

>> The Norfolk and Western and the Chesapeake and Ohio were

>> undoubtedly compelled to join forces to meet the action of the new

>> Deepwater.

>> The Deepwater has bought the rights of way to connect with the

>> Island Creek railroad at Holden.

>> The Island Creek railroad is owned by the United States Coal and

>> Coke Company, a subsidiary of the Standard Oil interests are back of

>> the Deepwater, it is thought that they will build a branch line to

>> connect with the Island Creek railroad and go along Guyan Valley, and

>> by this route reach Huntington.

>> The Deepwater or some line is putting in piers near Huntington for

>> the evident purpose of transferring coal to barges, which ply the

>> river at that point.

>> The Island Creek railroad already covers the territory between

>> Logan and Holden and it will be an easy matter for the Deepwater to

>> connect with them at that point and in this way have considerable say

>> in the fixing of rates for carrying coal from this immediate tract of

>> coal lands.

>> Then again they will secure a cheap western outlet because they

>> will be able to load coal on barges at Huntington, shipping to

>> various points by water, while the Norfolk and Western and Chesapeake

>> and Ohio will be compelled to haul overland by a more difficult route.

>> It is difficult to understand the actions of the various

>> railroads, as the plans are in their infancy and no official

>> information can be secured. It is very evident that something is

>> being done which will undoubtedly affect most materially the

>> prosperity of Logan county.

>> Judging from the present activity the town of Logan will shortly

>> receive an impetus which will undoubtedly place it in a class with

>> other West Virginia towns which have doubled and trebled and in many

>> cases quadrupled their population since the last census.

>> The advent of the Deepwater and Tidewater has probably done more

>> than anything else to open up the state and develop it to such an

>> extent that last year it ranked second as a coal producing state.


>> Ron Davis



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