N&W in 1907 -- Tunnels

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu Sep 4 13:10:46 EDT 2008

A few facts that may or may not be pertinent

1) By 1907 the area from Welch to Roderfield was fully populated with coal mining communities and the land leased. It would have been hard for any contractor to construct communities to house 1500 workers. The one exception would have been the Caples area (Shannon on early N&W Timetables). A Wm. Ritter lumber mill was located there rather than a coal mine. Commercial coal mining did not come to Caples until 1910, although the land was leased in 1908 by the Standard Pocahontas Coal Co.

2) Devon WV is located in Mingo County which is no where near the area between Vivian and Roderfield. However the Vaughan Tunnel (1,113 feet long) was constructed through the property owned by the Vaughn Coal & Coke Company about 1 mi east of Rodefield. Vaughn Construction company bought the property in 1902 and operated a coal mine on the property from 1903 until 1914. The property was sold a couple of times before it became the Fall River Pocahontas Collieries Company in 1917. Fall River operated the coal mine until 1929. The Hatch Mott McDonald reports on the Vaughan tunnel list their assumption the tunnel was built in 1905. It is more probable the tunnel was built in 1907-1908 time period.

3) John Serpell applied for a post office to be located at the mouth of the Clear Fork in 1907. A post office was established and operated until 1909. The location at the mouth of Clear Fork previously hosted the community of Ritter for the C.L. Ritter lumber company. By 1907 Ritter Lumber was probably finished timbering and had moved on leaving space for a new community at the location. In 1905 N&W had opened the Cleark Fork Branch which crossed the Tug Fork at the same location.

4) N&W Authority for Expenditure of Funds (AEF) No. 647 is simply noted as second track from Welch to Davy. Expenditures from Jul 04 through Jun 05 were $477,628.93; expenditures from Jul 05 through Jun 06 were $652,372.75; and expenditures from Jul 06 through FEb 07 were $165,249.16. These expenditures would have gotten the N&W through Hemphill No. 1 and No. 2 tunnels as well as Antler No. 1 and No. 2 tunnels. I expect that the engineering drawings for all of the tunnels from Welch to Wilmore were done at the same time which is why the 1905 date appears on the drawings.

5) I have not come across many AEFs for the 1907 tunnels expenditures (but I have only looked for a couple of hours and these were not my primary search interest). AEF 1024 does note $246,693.85 spent JUn 06 through Jun 07 for second track west of Davy. AEF 1047 notes $138,437.90 spent from Jul 06 through Jun 07 for second track from Wilmore to Iaeger.

Alex Schust
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From: NW Mailing List
To: N&W Mailing 2List
Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2008 11:18 PM
Subject: N&W in 1907 -- Tunnels

[Chronologically this article should have been posted this past April, but a legible microfilm of the newspaper with the article could not be accessed until now.]

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
January 25,1907

Though Work Will Be Pushed Night and Day Nearly Three Years Will Be Required for Completion
The six tunnels for the construction of which the Norfolk and Western railway, as noted in the Daily Telegraph yesterday, has let the contracts are to be cut between Vivian and Roderfield. These tunnels will be constructed at a cost of between $2,500,000 and $3,000,000 and will be completed in about three years. In addition to the tunnels about ten miles of grading will be done, which is intended to straighten out many of the curves. From 12 to 15 miles will be saved by the construction of these tunnels and the grading.
By these improvements the company will save thousands of dollars annually in mileage in addition to the enormous cost of repairs and the wear and tear caused by rounding curves.
Within the past few days the company has let the contracts for the six tunnels to be constructed by the following firms at the places named:
At Welch: Tunnel and grading cost $400,000*. The tunnel will be 1,500 feet long. Contractors, J. C. Zobrist* & Co., of Roanoke.
At Vivian: Tunnel and grading. Tunnel to be 600 feet long with four miles of grading. Contractors, Rhinehart & Davis, of Washington, D. C.
At Devon: Tunnel, bridge and masonry, tunnel to be 1,000 feet long. Contractors, L. H. Vaughn & Co., of Roanoke.
At Twin Branch: Tunnel, two miles of grading and masonry, tunnel to be 1,000 feet long. Contactor, J. R. Surpell, Louisville, Ky.
At Roderfield: Two tunnels or twin tunnels. Tunnels to be 1,000 feet each in length. These tunnels go from one mountain into another [?]. The contractors are Carpenter & Boxley, of Clifton Forge, Va.
These six tunnels are to be standard gauge, double tracked and lined with concrete. Each of the tunnels will be 36 feet wide and 26 feet in height. They will be large enough to admit all of the latest types of large engines. Work will be commenced on them immediately and will be pushed night and day until the work is completed.
The tunnels will be driven from both ends by the most modern methods to insure speed in construction.
Communities will be erected at the different points. Shanties will be built for the men, of whom there will be about 1,500 employed. The buildings will all be substantial, as the contractors do not expect to finish the work much under two years and a half.
Preliminary work on the tunnels commenced Wednesday. Men are at work at the various points unloading lumber and other materials for the construction of the camps for the men who will be employed.
At Welch yesterday a representative of the Daily Telegraph called on Mr. M. F. Foley, who will be superintendent of construction at the Welch tunnel. Mr. Foley will personally supervise the work for the J. C. Zobrist Company, of Roanoke, who have secured this contract. The contract price is $400,000* and that sum is expected to do about a mile of grading and drive a 1,500 foot tunnel.
Mr. Foley had a number of men at work yesterday unloading three cars of lumber and other material for the erection of a camp for his men. He told the Daily Telegraph representative that he expected to have twenty men at work today. These men will be carpenters and laborers and will build the shanties and commissaries for the camp. Mr. Foley says that first class buildings will be erected as the company expects to have from 200 to 250 men at work for the next two years. The main force will arrive in about a month, as by that time the work of grading and tunneling can be commenced.
The tunnels will be driven from both ends by compressed air. A plant for this purpose will be erected at once. Power for this compressed air plant will be furnished by the Welch Electric Light and Power Company. Mr. Foley told the Daily Telegraph representative that the local power house is able to furnish sufficient power to run the plant night and day.
The new tunnel will enter the mountain near the power house and will extend 1,500 feet to a point near the miners' hospital.
The contractors do not expect to meet with any insurmountable difficulties. They think the ground is hard and this will facilitate the construction work. Improved methods will not be impeded by the presence of rocks, as they are much easier to remove than the softer material, which when found is always a drawback.
When asked if the company expected to strike coal, Mr. Foley said that they expect to strike a two foot vein near the bed of the tunnel. No such strike as was found at Coaldale is expected. Mr. Foley said that he does not think the company will even mine the coal, as it would cost too much in time and labor. Coal, he said, is cheap in this section and it would cost the company more to mine it than it is worth.
Mr. Foley well remembers the finding of coal at Coaldale. He says that he came to this section from Pennsylvania to work on the Coaldale tunnel. However, if the construction company should strike a nine foot vein they would mine the coal.
The new tunnel will save a mile of track at Welch and will cut out a number of curves.
According to the present plans of the Norfolk and Western the depot at Welch will not be moved, but will be used for local passenger service. Through passenger and freight trains only will use the tunnel.
By these improvements and others which are under way and projected the company expects to haul passengers and freight to tidewater at a reduced cost. These plans are necessary on account of the new Deepwater and Tidewater railway, which has a perfect natural grade to the coast and can haul coal and freight much cheaper than the Norfolk and Western does at present. The present improvements will place the local railway company in a position to compete with any new railroad.
The advent of the 1,500 new men in this section for the next three years will add greatly to the business opportunities and give the merchants a chance to do a great volume of business.

Gordon Hamilton

*Blurred. Best interpretation shown.


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