N&W 1904

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Wed Nov 21 07:10:46 EST 2007

In my comments associated with the May 1, 1904, newspaper article below, I stated that the N&W's Widemouth Extension of 1904 involved the branch lines north (timetable west) of Matokoa. This was based on "modern" documents identifying one minor branch line as the Widemouth Branch and showing a different minor branch line leading to "Widemouth," but I wondered why the opening of these minor branch lines would attract "several hundred" passengers on the first passenger train as stated in the newspaper article that I quoted. The question was cleared up by N&W Ry. Annual Reports (available on a CD from the NWHS Commissary).

Referring to the attached low resolution sketch of the Bluestone Extension, the Widemouth Extension of 1904 began at Montcalm, WV and extended down the Bluestone River to Rock, WV, where it turned up Widemouth Creek. North of Matoaka, the several minor branch lines followed various tributaries upstream as part of the same 1904 Widemouth Extension.

Note that the connections of the three oldest branch lines with the main Bluestone Branch were arranged for trains to move off each branch in the direction of Clift Yard. This likely would not have been the original arrangement of the Simmons Branch. The Simmons Branch was the first of the three to be built, and it, along with the line up Mill Creek, was part of the next coal field expansion (known as the Flat Top Extension of the New River Division) after the line to Pocahontas, VA was built. It is reasonable to assume that when the Simmons Branch was built its inner end turned south (timetable east) at Simmons, WV toward the connection with the Mill Creek line.

Incidentally, the map on Page 6 of the Nov/Dec 2001 issue of The Arrow lists 23 mines on the Bluestone Branch in 1927. Additionally, the traffic was heavy enough as late as 1956 to justify the installation that year of Traffic Control from Clift Yard to Giatto. Today the entire line is out of service except for a mile-long siding at Bluestone Junction.

For additional information on this confusing, but interesting, complex of branch lines, see articles by Jim Nichols and Charles H. Wilson, Jr. in The Arrow for May/Jun 2001, Nov/Dec 2001, and Mar/Apr 2002 (copies available on a volumn by volumn basis from the NWHS Commissary).

Finally, thanks to NWHS Member Louis Newton for assistance in interpreting the 1927 Pocahontas Branch track chart in the NWHS Archives.

Gordon Hamilton

----- Original Message -----
From: NW Mailing List
To: N&W Mailing List
Sent: Friday, November 02, 2007 10:42 PM
Subject: N&W 1904


First Train Passes Over Norfolk and Western's New Branch Line

The Widemouth extension of the Norfolk and Western was opened up for traffic on Sunday. The first passenger train went over the line that day and several hundred people took the trip. The train was in charge of Conductor Marion Jennings and Engineer Henry Shufflebarger. Yesterday the Spring Coal Company, one of the operations on the new extension, was given three cars and they will commence to ship at once.

-- Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Tuesday, May 31, 1904

[The Widemouth extension was one of the branches off the now-dormant Bluestone Extension of the Pocahontas Division north (compass direction) of Matoka, WV.]

Gordon Hamilton


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