Custom Search

CSX'S Mountain Railroad: The Clinchfield

Erwin Terminal, TN, to Shelbiana, KY

CSX logo

Introduction

This guide covers, in great detail, the CSX ex-Clinchfield from the terminal in Erwin, Tennessee, thru Elkhorn City, Kentucky, and then continues on the ex-Chesapeake and Ohio to Shelby Yard in Shelbiana, Kentucky, a distance of about 149 timetable miles. You'll do much, much more driving than just 149 miles, however. Indeed, you should really do this tour over several days, and I suggest you look at the tour guide for some logistical tips to consider before beginning the actual tour. The basic tours page is here.

The Clinchfield Railroad was a late comer to the railroad building scene. In fact, it was one of the last major railroads constructed in North America. The reason for the railroad was simple: To connect the midwest and southeast with the vast coal deposits in and around the Clinch River country of far western Virginia and eastern Kentucky, and secondarily, to act as a bridge route between the midwest and southeast. Building the railroad was most definitely not simple.

The countryside, from the southern end at Spartanburg, South Carolina, all the way to Elkhorn City, Kentucky, is relentlessly mountainous and wild. Before venturing out on this tour, you're advised to become familiar with the geography of the region -- the Clinchfield isn't just a bunch of ties and tracks, it's the culmination of the railroad builders' art and science. The roadbed and its related structures were built, not just to get around or over an area, but were constructed to conquer the area. As well as human beings can, vis a vis Mother Nature, those railroad builders succeeded.

Contents And Navigation:

Chris Denbow CRR loco gif About This Tour

Chris Denbow CRR loco gif Other Tours

Chris Denbow CRR loco gif Contributors

Chris Denbow CRR loco gif Help

Chris Denbow CRR loco gif Site Listing

Chris Denbow CRR loco gif The Tour

Chris Denbow CRR loco gif Supplemental And Back-Up Data

Contributors To This Tour

Clayton Notgrass. Full text and data from south of Erwin, Tennessee to Shelbiana, Kentucky. Clayton has spent more than a full week doing on-the-ground research for the tour, and almost as much time putting that research on paper.

Chris Starnes and Curtis Wininger helped Clayton Notgrass in the northern sections of this tour.

Greg Hale provided background information on the St. Paul and Dante areas.

Peter Furnee, CSX logo

Train Gifs. All train gifs used within this tour are from the Ed Bindler's train gifs site, which is here.

Tony Hill,, retired Frograil. Any first person singular pronoun on this page refers to Tony, unless otherwise noted.

Help:

If you'd like to contribute to this, or any other tour, please contact me at webmaster@frograil.com, and let me know what you'd like to do. We'll work together: You supply the data/info, and I'll do the HTML stuff and upload it. You'll get a chance to review the fruits of your efforts before the general public sees the finished product, so you can let me have your corrections, additions and changes.

Chris Denbow CRR loco gif Chris Denbow CRR loco gif Chris Denbow CRR loco gif Chris Denbow CRR loco gif

Supplemental And Back-Up Data.

Clayton Notgrass has written this guide for you "Combat Railfans" -- those of you who grab a machete and a bucket of ice water, and get out and see the real railroads in North America. This is not meant to be a video -- this is live action participation -- a full-contact sport. This guide was designed for those people with some time on their hands to seriously fan the old Clinchfield. That said, I-181/US-23 roughly parallels the whole section of trackage covered below (at least up to Clinchport, Virginia), but is only used as an access point to begin the tour. The majority of the rest of the tour is done by back roads . However, many of the major areas noted in the guide are only 5-15 minutes away from I-181/US-23. If you need to get there, any friendly natives (e.g. restaurant/gas station/Wal-Mart employees) ought to be able to point you in the right direction. North of Clinchport, Virginia, however, you'll really be in the back country, so be well-provisioned.

You will only need a few scanner frequencies for your whole trip: CSX road 161.1000 - -this is your main channel. Plug it in your priority slot if you have one. CSX dispatch @161.5200. CSX yard @161.1600. Norfolk Southern road/dispatch @160.9500. If you don't have a priority channel, lock this NS channel out until we get to the NS, because any decent scanner will pick it up along most of the route and it will just confuse you and cause you to miss important CSX broadcasts.

This from Tony Hill: Clayton has done a terrific job of giving us the rights, lefts and straight-aheads on this tour, but it just isn't as simple as he makes it sound. He and I can guarantee you that you'll make mistakes on this tour. It's so easy to make mistakes that it's almost impossible NOT to make at least one! Therefore, the need for an excellent overall map (DeLorme Tennessee Atlas and Gazetteer, and the same for Virginia), local maps (Erwin, Kingsport and Johnson City are not Chicago, but they have NO STRAIGHT ROADS, and can be most difficult within which to drive and navigate), and the willingness to go up to a local and admit "Hey, Buddy, I'm lost! How do I get back to TN-xxx from here?" are paramount. This is not the A-Line bouncing along at 79 mph on the coastal plain of North Carolina -- this is the Clinchfield, and you are in the wilderness. Be wise and be alert. A cell phone with unlimited roaming might be a real good idea up here.

Mapwork: Much of the tour is not easy if you have no detailed map for back country roads. It is definitely recommended you get a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer, study it before your trip, and copy pertinent pages for your field work. You can find information here about Railfan Maps that are available.

Erwin, TN - Shelbiana, KY -- Railfan sites:
Alphabetical Order Sequential Order:
South to North
------------------------------------------ ------------------------------------------
Tennessee Erwin -- Station
Boone Station Erwin -- Diesel Shop Area
Boones Creek -- Viaduct Area Erwin -- Rock Creek Crossing
Erwin -- Diesel Shop Area Erwin -- North ErwinMP Z131.2
Erwin -- North Erwin Hannum/Unicoi
Erwin -- Rock Creek Crossing Johnson City -- Passing Siding
Erwin -- Station Johnson City -- Yard Office MP Z121
Frisco Johnson City -- CSX Thru Town
Fordtown Indian Ridge
Gray -- Cement Tower Boones Creek -- Viaduct Area
Gray -- Freehill Tunnel Boone Station
Gray -- Rock Photo Spot Gray -- Freehill Tunnel MP Z106.1
Gray -- Signal Tower Gray -- Spur
Gray -- South End Kitzmiller Curve Gray -- Cement Tower
Gray -- Spur Gray -- Rock Photo Spot
Hannum/Unicoi Gray -- Signal Tower
Indian Ridge Gray -- South End Kitzmiller Curve
Johnson City -- NS/CSX Photo Spot Fordtown
Johnson City -- Passing Siding Warriors Path
Johnson City -- Yard Office Kingsport -- South End
Kingsport -- Holston River Kingsport -- Station Area ~Z93.9
Kingsport -- South End Kingsport -- Holston River
Kingsport -- Station Area Frisco, Tennessee
Unicoi/Hannum Kermit, Virginia MP Z82.7
Warriors Path Speers Ferry
Virginia Speers Ferry -- Copper Creek Trestle
Bartlick Starnes MP Z70.0
Clinchco Dungannon/Miller Yard
Dante St. Paul
Dante -- SE Sandy Rdg Tunnel Dante
Dungannon/Miller Yard Dante -- SE Sandy Rdg Tunnel
Freemont TrammelMP Z31.9
Haysi Martin/Wakenva
Kermit Nora
Martin/Wakenva McClure
McClure Freemont
Miller Yard/Dungannon Clinchco
Nora Haysi
Speers Ferry Bartlick, VirginiaZ 7.5
Speers Ferry -- Copper Creek Trestle Elkhorn City, Kentucky Z00.5, CMG128.0
St. Paul Marrowbone
Starnes Millard
Trammel Shelbiana -- North End
Kentucky Shelbiana -- South End CMG112.8
Elkhorn City, Kentucky
Marrowbone
Millard
Shelbiana -- South End
Shelbiana -- North End

Chris Denbow loco gif Chris Denbow loco gif Chris Denbow loco gif Chris Denbow loco gif

The Tour
TENNESSEE

Webmaster's note:The following text continues as if you have come up from the south via the Clinchfield South tour. If you're just starting here, use mapQuest to find the streets mentioned below to start your tour at the depot. Erwin is not a large city, and is easy to get around in. All the text in this tour is from Clayton Notgrass. To go to the Clinchfield South tour, go here.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Erwin -- Station. Continuing on, go back along the industrial park road to the stop sign and turn left on Jackson-Love. After passing under the RR bridge, turn left onto Carolina Avenue. You're going to by-pass the southeast part of the area at this time and head up to the north end of the yard.

Continue up Carolina Ave for about 1 mile until you see a Free Will Baptist Church on your left. Turn left at the church onto Academy Road. Travel through 2 stops signs, but at the 3rd one turn left onto South Main Street. Follow this straight to the Army National Guard Armory for hard to find northbounds hiding in the middle of Erwin yard. I've never had any trouble parking my car, walking out to the tracks, or taking pics here. Just be careful and courteous -- get your pictures and leave.

To continue the tour, head back down Main the way you came in until you get to Opekiska Street. Turn left onto this and follow it to its end. Turn right onto Nolichucky Avenue. This will take you by the yard office and old depot (now a library). You can park in any lots on the left for pics. Just stay off the tracks here and you'll be fine!

[Webmaster's comments about the depot: Here, the glorious Clinchfield Railroad station sits in all its splendor. Today, the station serves as the public library, and the library and station are both in A-#1 shape. This is a great place to watch trains when the snow is flying, it's raining, or you're just plain worn out! You can sit with a good book in civilized comfort, while watching the big dogs start their attack on the mountains outside. Just a little to the south of the library is an employee parking lot, from which you can get pix. North of the building is another parking lot, this one enclosed in a vicious chain link fence. However, the latter has a break in it, in order to allow CSX employees access to this portion of the yard. You can get good pix here, without venturing out into railroad property.]

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Erwin -- Diesel Shop Area. To continue the tour, jump back on Nolichucky and continue in the same direction. Follow this road through a stop sign and around a right-handed curve to a traffic light. Turn left onto North Main Street. Sonic Drive-in will be on your right. Head to the next light and turn left onto TN-107 westbound. You'll cross several mainline crossings at the northeast end of Erwin, and you can park at businesses on the left or right for pics, but again, be courteous and ask for permission, if possible.

Continuing on, keep going down TN-107. McDonald's will be on your right, and just before you cross the bridge, you'll see North Industrial Drive on your left. Take this road to the diesel shop. This road has at least one nasty curve, and watch out for the power pole in the middle of the road. I can imagine someone checking out the sights and not paying any attention -- I've almost smacked into that stupid thing myself! I usually park at the "Beautification" sign and walk up and down beside the mainline (w/o crossing the tracks!) for pics.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Erwin -- Rock Creek Crossing. To continue on, head back out the way you came in (mindful of the pole!) and turn right at the stop sign (McDonald's will then be on your left). Go to the traffic light and turn left onto North Main Street/TN-107 eastbound. You are now headed towards Rock Creek crossing, Unicoi, and Hannum.

Just before reaching Erwin yard from the north, the mainline splits into two lines (which you crossed coming from and going to the diesel shop) to help the traffic flow in and out of the yard. The one closest to McDonald's is called Rock Creek lead. Continue heading down North Main Street to see where the line splits. You'll travel about 1 1/2 miles from the traffic light until you get to a flashing caution light. Turn left here onto Jackson Avenue. Jackson will take you across Rock Creek crossing, where you will be able to see the switch to Rock Creek Lead and the "approach to Erwin" signal. You can park in the gravel lot just before the crossing for pics.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Erwin -- North Erwin. Bear to your right as you go over the crossing and head up the hill to the stop sign. Go straight at the sign and follow the s-curve past tennis courts and a small pond. The mainline will appear above and to your right. Soon the road will climb slightly to meet the tracks. This is an AWESOME place to pace trains in either direction! Just make sure to have a friend along unless you are really good at the "film-and-drive" technique (which I've done myself, but don't recommend!). This is technically North Erwin, and you'll see the North Erwin electronic defect detector on your right. Scanner Channel 161.1 will pick up EDDs, so make sure you have it plugged into your scanner. There are lots of crossings along the way to hear the big diesels blow, too, which is a nice effect while pacing. [Webmaster's Note: One kind of gets the feeling that Clayton really enjoys this part of the tour!]

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Hannum/Unicoi. Just follow the tracks and soon you'll see the signals for Hannum passing track. Southbounds often go on the law here, and you might even get an invite up in a cab if your lucky. [Webmaster's Note: "go on the law" refers to a situation where a crew has worked for 12 hours, and their train must be stopped and re-crewed. Dispatchers, obviously, try to do this at logical places like yards and sidings.] Eventually you'll go around a left-handed curve and come to a stop sign.

Chase trains in N. Erwin/Hannum all day long if you want, but to continue the tour, turn right at the stop sign onto Tennessee Street. You'll cross over the tracks and turn left at Unicoi Baptist Church onto Unicoi Drive. You are now heading "north" through Unicoi. There are a few crossings on your left, so if you see a sign and want to check it out, go for it! Just remember where you turned and how to get back to the tour! The tour will continue on Unicoi Dr. towards Johnson City.

[Webmaster and Author's Note: For African-American railfans: This is not an attempt to slander this area, and while the area is not now known for such, Unicoi especially has had a poor historical record in this area for causing trouble (to put it mildly) for African-Americans. From what we can understand, it is not nearly as bad as it used to be, but Unicoi is historically pretty bad. Erwin not so much. We're not saying steer clear; we're simply saying be wise. We remind all fans that it's always much, much safer to do your fanning with at least one male friend.]

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Johnson City -- Passing Siding. You will stay on Unicoi Drive for several miles, so sit back and enjoy the ride through the country. The tracks will eventually disappear, but don't worry -- we'll catch up to them! In fact, as you go, you might notice a large quarry on the mountain face to your left. The rails go right by here. There is a signal here, and CSX sometimes picks up ballast here, also. In regards to the latter, just look for the road on your left that goes right up to the quarry -- it's easy to spot. It's probably a good 200 yards from Unicoi Road to the quarry, and the road is easy to see, because, unbelievably, it's STRAIGHT!. It's not a part of the tour, but check it out if you want. It's a straight shot from Unicoi Drive to the quarry. If you're not interested, continue down Unicoi Dr. which will become South Roan Street as you enter Johnson City.

You will go under I-181/US-23 along South Roan, and will soon spot I J's (a food shipping and trucking company) on your left. Just after passing I J's, turn left onto Buffalo Road. (If you accidentally turned into I J's, don't worry. I did it too while making this guide! Just take the next left.) You'll soon see log cabins and split rail fences on your right. No, it's not East Tennessee living at its best; it's Tipton Haynes, a historical site. Highridge Road is coming up on your left, and you'll take it to continue. This road will take you uphill and across a double crossing. As you go across the tracks, keep to your right. You are riding alongside Johnson City passing track near the south end of the siding. Pull into the gravel at right for pics, or keep following Highridge for the tour.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Johnson City -- CSX Yard Office. The road will curve L away from tracks, and you'll soon see Rolling Hills Drive on your right -- take it and follow this road through the neat two-lane railroad underpass under the CSX yard. This next part is kind of tricky. As you go under the underpass, then the road bears left. As the road bears left, turn right onto an un-marked road. Travel for about 50 yards and turn right onto the one-lane gravel road. If you miss it, you'll end up at an auto-salvage place and will have to come back. If you find it (it's not too hard!), it will take you straight over a crossing to the yard office. Just stay clear of operations and tracks, and you should be fine parking and taking pics here. Stay close to (or even in) your car, and don't linger.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Johnson City -- CSX Thru Town. Head back out the way you came and take a right on Rolling Hills Drive. Follow this road to the stop sign and turn left onto Buffalo Road. Follow Buffalo past the golf-course to the stop sign and turn right onto Cherokee Road. You're going to want to get into the left lane to turn left at the traffic light onto University Parkway. Take the first road to your left after the light and head into the East Tennessee State University campus onto Southwest Avenue. Follow Southwest Avenue to the stop sign. You can turn left and follow Southwest Avenue under the railroad to get to a parking spot for the north end of the Johnson City passing track, or continue straight thru the stop sign onto J.L. Seehorn Jr. Road. Follow Seehorn to the stop sign, where you can turn left and go over the railroad, or continue on Seehorn to continue the tour.

Follow J.L. Seehorn to the stop sign, where you can turn left, and go over the railroad, or continue further on Seehorn for the tour. Follow Seehorn to its end and turn right (you'll notice a railroad bridge on your left. There's a spot to hang out there if you know something is coming.) onto South Greenwood Drive. Take an immediate left onto Ashley Road, which will curve around to the right, but you can pull into the dirt/gravel path straight ahead to follow the tracks a little further.

Continue on Ashley to a stop sign, and turn left onto Lovelace Street, and then take an immediate left onto Wheeler Street. Follow Wheeler to the stop sign and turn right onto Embreville Road. Follow Embreville to the stop sign at West Walnut Road. Take your next left onto McKinley Road. Be sure to unlock your scanner's NS channel, because you're really close to the NS now. Follow McKinley over the NS crossing, and then along NS and under CSX. Take the first left after going under CSX (onto L.P. Auer Rd), and then you can park in the lot immediately to your left for pics of both railroads, (probably better ones of NS because of the layout here). [Webmaster's note: This area is much more complicated to explain than to explore. Once in this location, slightly west of the CSX and south of the NS, you'll have great photo lighting most of the day.]

Reverse direction and go back up Auer and McKinley. Take a left onto West Walnut Road. Travel about 1/2 mile to a left on State of Franklin Road/US-321 at the light. Follow it through town and eventually things will thin out. After a few miles, things will begin springing up again, so get in the left lane. You'll want to turn left at the traffic light onto Knob Creek Road. If you go past Home Depot, you've gone a tad too far. Follow Knob Creek around several curves and soon you'll pass under the RR through a one-lane underpass. CSX RR will be on your right as you go up the hill. You're headed towards Boones Creek.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Indian Ridge. Continue up Knob Creek and you'll pass t he Indian Ridge EDD and signal (go ahead and lock out NS again for awhile). As you crest the hill, you'll see a huge stone wall just sticking up on your right. This marks the Stoneridge subdivision, so go ahead and turn right onto Redstone Road to enter. Follow this road around and you'll spot Granite Drive. Take a left on Granite, which will lead you to Stoneridge Road, so turn left here. At the end of Stoneridge Rd., you'll be at the top of Indian Ridge tunnel! Below, the CSX heads south towards Johnson City. Michael Ball points out the the view south is of a perfectly straight stretch about 1.75 miles long (MP 116Z - 114.25Z), and it includes the Indian Ridge EDD and one of the longest built up grades in the eastern United States.

You can climb the hill and look north towards Boone (your next destination) and even Bay's Mountain in Kingsport, a future destination on this tour (well, not Bay's Mountain, but Kingsport, for sure). Now, as you probably noticed, Stoneridge isn't your typical neighborhood, so hang out as long as you like, but don't be surprised (or alarmed- -just be friendly and cool!) if one of Johnson City's finest stops by and asks you to leave. If one does, or if you're just ready to continue the tour, head back down the hill the way you came in and t urn right on Knob Creek Road.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Boones Creek -- Viaduct Area As you travel down Knob Creek, you might spot a crossing or two on your right- -go check 'em out if you want! We'll continue down Knob Creek without you, but you can catch us at the stop sign in a mile or two. At the stop sign, turn right onto Jonesboro /Boones Creek /TN-354. You'll see the awesome Boones Creek Viaduct straight ahead.

At the north end of the viaduct is the south end of the Boone Station passing track. We'll head up to the passing track first. Just before going under the viaduct, turn left onto Keefauver Road and pull into the gravel on the right side of the road. The viaduct will be on your right. Park it and lock it if you want, and walk towards the viaduct. You'll see a jeep trail going up the L side of the trestle. My car would bottom out at the beginning of the trail, but you CAN drive up to the top- -I've seen it done. A jeep can do it, and the hi-rails do it, too.
May 31, 2012 Update: That trail as a "road" is pretty much gone. No trucks or Hi-Rails drive up it any more. In the winter it is not too bad to hike up it. I visited the area a few weeks ago and it was a real challenge to get up there. Once I got through the overgrowth, the old trail was the path of least resistance.
Edward Maglott, Frograil user

GPS coordinates: 36.364002,-82.437435

Google Map

However you get there, at the top is the south end of Boone siding. Park it if you drove it, or rest it if you walked it! As you came up the trail, straight ahead is a rock outcropping. The outcropping is on the left side of the tracks next to the south end signal tower for southbound trains. The trestle is directly behind railfans. After you've looked around and admired the view, make this outcropping your objective. It yields AWESOME pics of northbounds coming across the trestle. To access it, you'll have to walk in the woods a little, so break out the machete! It's a little hard to explain how to get there, but you can't get lost: The track is on your right and a barbed-wire fence is to the left. There is a trail there, but it gets grown up in the summer. Sniff it out -- you can find it! It's also a great place for southbounds coming around the curve.

After you're done, head back down and turn left onto TN-354. Head under the trestle. There are lots of places to park on both sides of the road for pics of trains going across the trestle, but we're going to turn left onto Christian Church Road, across from Boones Creek Christian Church. (Hang out if you want, and position yourself to wait for a train -- this road isn't that hard to find. It's about half-way between the trestle and I-181/23, and right across from the church.)

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Boone Station. This road will take a hard left at the top of the hill and turns into Boone Station Road. Follow the left-handed curve and you'll go across two tracks. This is Boone Station. Pull into the gravel at right and wait for pix opportunities. The tour will then continue down the road, down a hill, and through a couple of curves. Next, you'll want to turn right onto Old Stage Road (which, for the historians out there, really is the route of an old stagecoach route). You'll go around a sharp curve and then straighten out. Ahead of you is a crossing, on the north side of which, on the right, is a dirt/gravel area beside the metal box.

Note for those of you who have been thru here in years past: The old way to get to this crossing was via Boone Road, but a bridge washout has closed that road. The county has apparently decided not to repair it. Frograil is grateful to Clayton Pierce for this important update.

Southbounds often stop at this crossing to wait on Northbounds coming into Boone. To continue the tour,turn right on Old Stage Road (away from the crossing, i.e., right as if you were coming off of Boone Road.) This will take you around some pretty sharp curves and to a stop sign. Turn left at the sign onto Old Gray Station Road. You are now headed towards Gray.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Gray -- Freehill Tunnel. Travel about 1 1/2 miles or so until you see a red brick apartment building (Gray Manor Apartments) on your left. Park in their lot to walk across Old Gray Station and a field. This will put you at MP Z109.1, just south of Freehill Tunnel.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Gray Spur. Travel towards Gray on Old Gray Station Road, but about 3/4 mile, as you crest a hill, take Sid Martin Road on your right. After about 200 yards, you will see Bob Davis Road on your right. Here, a one-lane wooden bridge passes over the tracks. You can get railroad traffic from either direction from the bridge, but there is no good place to park. Continue down Sid Martin to the traffic light. Turn right onto TN-75/Bobby Hicks Highway.. After passing under the concrete and steel railroad bridge, get in the right hand lane, and turn right onto Spratlin Park Drive.

Follow this street for about 200 yards until it ends at a small gas industry -- Holsten Gases. Park at the end of the road, or turn left to park at the indoor climbing gym -- "The Hangout." [Webmaster's Note: I didn't even know such things existed. Gray must be pretty New Age!] For night shots at this location, walk between the fence surrounding the industry and the tracks, so that the industry lights shine on passing trains. This is not going to yield super perfect lighting conditions, but it does well enough so that you can pick up engine numbers, read reporting marks, and identify engines reasonably well. Besides, it's fun!

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Gray -- Cement Tower Travel back to TN-75/Bobby Hicks Highway and make a right. Immediately, get in the left lane for a left turn onto Roy Martin (Sid's brother?) Road. Follow this to the stop sign, and make a left-handed U-turn onto Judge Grisham Road. You can follow this to the top of the hill and park out of the way of the cement trucks for train pix in either direction. In the 10+ years Clayton has been 'fanning this area, he never saw the cement spur used. The spur and short siding were torn out in 1998, for the new bridge at MP Z108, but the railroad put a spur back in for storage and maintenance-of-way materiel.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Gray -- Rock Photo Spot. Head back down Judge Grisham Road to Gray Station Road (NOT to be confused with OLD Gray Station Road), and make a left on Gray Station. Head under the railroad through the one-lane underpass. About 20 feet on the right is a place to pull into a gravel lot where truck trailers are often parked. This is a good place for afternoon shots -- if the trailers aren't in the way. if you are facing the tracks, to your left about twenty feet up the rails (timetable north) is a rock outcropping that is excellent for pix in either direction.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Gray -- Signal Tower. Make a right-handed U-turn out of the gravel parking lot and onto Cherry Street. Follow this to the stop sign and turn right onto Oak Street. Take Oak to the 4-way stop and turn right onto Liberty Church Road. Travel about 1/4 mile until you see South Patrick Drive on your left. Turn left and follow this road straight until it dead ends at the signal tower. Northbound trains will sometimes stop here to let higher priority northbounds clear out of Fordtown siding.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Gray -- South End Kitzmiller Curve. Turn around and head back towards Liberty Church Road. Turn left onto Liberty Church, and then turn right onto Spurgeon Lane. Follow Spurgeon until you cross the tracks at MP Z107.0. It is hard to find a place to park here, but once you get settled in, this is a great place to hear those AC4400 horns echoing thru the East Tennessee hills! This is also the southern end of the huge horseshoe curve called the "Kitzmiller Curve." Facing the tracks here, MP Z106.2 is almost directly behind you! Continue across the tracks to the stop sign.

You are now back at Gray Station Road. Turn right to head back towards Gray. As you come around the right-hand curve, you'll recognize Roy Martin Road. Turn left onto Roy Martin, and then right onto TN-75/Bobby Hicks Highway to head back towards I-181/US-23.

[Webmaster's Note: Whew! That's a lot of info about a small area -- which is typical of the most difficult railroad to fan in the east -- The CSX ex-Clinchfield. Clayton Notgrass has done a bang-up job in presenting this info to us.]

After you pass over the RR at about MP Z107, you'll go around a right-handed curve and Roy Martin Road will appear on your left again. You're going to re-trace your steps to the 4-way stop (right on Cherry, right on Oak to the 4-way stop). Head straight through the 4-way onto Kitzmiller Road. In about 1/2 mile you'll head through another 1-lane underpass. On your left, right before you go under the RR, there is a private drive where you can park for pics.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Fordtown. Continue under the railroad for this tour. After about 1 mile you'll come to a stop sign. (Note: Turn left here and travel about 1/2 mile to a railroad crossing for pics). Turn right onto Ford's Creek/Old Fordtown Rd. Follow this for about 1 mile around a few curves to another stop sign.. You can go straight here and park at the Fordtown Ruritan entrance to shoot from the bridge, but the tour turns left onto Hidden Valley Road. Cross the bridge and take a right onto Lebanon Road. Follow this road through a right-to-left S-curve.

As you go around the left-handed part of the s-curve, a guard rail will appear on your right. Just before this there is an access road on the right that goes down the hill to the south end of the Fordtown siding. This is hard to spot, and you'll probably have to go down the hill, turn around, and come back up Lebanon Road to get down there, but it's worth it because of the great photo ops the spot affords.

Turn right onto Lebanon Road to continue the tour, and follow this road to the 4-way stop sign, and turn right onto Fordtown Road. Cross over the railroad and Grief Bros will appear on your left. Park in their lot, or travel some 50 yards further to Deck Street, where you can turn left and park in a gravel lot at the double crossing. To continue the tour, turn right back onto Fordtown Rd and travel back to the 4-way stop sign, where you'll turn right onto Lebanon. As you travel along this road, you will pass out of the Fordtown area and head towards Warriors Path State Park.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Warriors Path. Follow Lebanon Road for 3-5 miles until you get to the traffic light. Go straight through the light across Fort Henry Drive/TN-36 onto Colonial Heights Road. After about 2-3 miles you will cross the railroad at the Warriors Path crossing, where you will see the signal tower. There is also an EDD in this area [Webauthor's note: Hemlock at MP 99.3.]. You can park here for pics, but go over the crossing to continue our tour. Turn left onto Hemlock Road at the stop sign. Soon after this left, you will pass under the railroad, and the tracks will appear on your right for about 200 yards. Follow Hemlock to the traffic light, and turn right onto Ft. Henry Drive/TN-36. You are now leaving Warriors Path and closing in on Kingsport.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Kingsport -- South End. Follow TN-36 over the railroad, which will appear briefly on your left before disappearing to cross the Holston River. You will cross the river yourself, and will see Fort Patrick Henry Dam on your right. Go through the two traffic lights for Wal-Mart (two lights for Wally World alone! Sheesh!) , and follow TN-36 around a right-handed curve where you'll spot another traffic light. Get in the right-hand lane and as you go under the bridge, take a right to get up onto John B. Dennis Highway/ TN-93 heading south. Travel about 200 yards to another light. Here you will see Eastman Chemical Company's "skyline." Take a right onto Lincoln Street at this light and head down the hill.

Eastman Chemical will be on your left. [NOTE WELL: Eastman has it's own tracks and engines, but don't take pictures/video of Eastman's property or operations. There's top secret stuff brewing over there, and the company has to contend with locals who don't like chemical odors, environmentalist wacko's who want to shut the place down, and thieves and nuts in general. Eastman does not like company. Stay away.] As you go down the hill you'll cross a bridge. Take a right onto the gravel road just after the bridge. You'll go across 3 or 4 NS spur tracks and then take an uphill left at the fork. This will take you to the south end of the Kingsport siding, just north of the Holston Tunnel (the shortest tunnel on the line- -150 ft).

To continue the tour, go back out the way you came to Lincoln Street and turn right. The tracks (and pig yard) will be on your right. Along this road there are many places to turn right and get pics of trains, but I don't recommend it because the pig trailers create a maze of blind spots, and the truckers hauling those things around are not going to be expecting you to be standing out there taking pics -- and many of them drive like maniacs. This is not a railfan site.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Kingsport -- Station Area. Continue down Eastman Road until you see two sets of green bridges coming up on your right. Turn right onto Sullivan Street to go under the first set of bridges and go through the light across Wilcox Drive. The railroad will be on your left, and in about 200 yards you will take the left fork onto East Main Street. In about 1/2 mile you will see the old Kingsport depot on your left. There are several places to park here on the left. "Yellow Dog" (the locals for Erwin-Kingsport and Kingsport-Dante) and Q690 often park their engines here and wait for their trains to be switched. You'll also notice the crossing here off of Main. This is just north of the Kingsport scales. To continue the tour, turn left back on Main Street (which becomes Clinchfield Street!).

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Kingsport -- Holston River. As you travel here, you might want to unlock the NS frequency on your scanner. Go around a right-handed curve and get in left lane to turn left onto West Center Street. You will go about 1 1/2 miles; get in right lane and turn right onto Netherland Inn Road at the yield sign under the railroad bridge. The railroad will now be on your right, and you will travel about 1 mile until you cross over the Holston River. Turn right onto Big Elm Road immediately after going over the bridge. This road is curvy and narrow and will follow the Holston River most of the way. You will go under a cool railroad bridge along this road, and then the road will fork. Take the left fork onto Tarnbarger to get to a crossing where you can park for pics.

To continue on, return to the fork, take the right fork, and continue on Big Elm Road. Follow Big Elm Road to its end (about 3 miles) and turn left at the stop sign onto TN-346/Carters Valley Road. Travel about 1/2 mile and turn right onto Oak Road. Although there may not be road names posted here, there are two other prominent signs, one for Frisco Yard and the other for Calvary Lighthouse Baptist Church. Follow Oak to the church on the right and park.

Frisco. Frisco is complicated, and if you aren't familiar with the area, you would be well advised to sit for a few minutes and read the following discussion about local trackage and operations. First, however:

[NOTE WELL: CSX and NS trains travel on both sets of tracks here, so expect ANYTHING! Also, NS is difficult to understand on the scanner, so they often sneak up on fans. Both CSX and NS trains can fly thru here. For these reasons, some fans are not fond of Frisco.]

Overview: Real estate upon which to build railroads is very scarce north of Kingsport, and two important railroad lines are forced into the extremely narrow confines of Frisco. Norfolk Southern lines from Knoxville and Salisbury/Linwood, NC, both via Bulls Gap, Tennessee, come thru here on their way to Appalachia/Norton/St. Paul. CSX's Clinchfield comes up from Kingsport (our tour), and on to St. Paul and Elkhorn City, Kentucky. Because both railroads can serve various mine and power plant customers, and because both eventually squeeze thru St. Paul, Virginia, you can throw the "program" out the window, because as Clayton says, you'll see any train of either railroad at any time.

The railroad on ground level right in front of you is a connection track going from CSX (on your left) up to NS (which is in front of/up above you). This is the NS going from Bull's Gap to the southwest (your left) to (eventually) St. Paul, Virginia to the northeast (your right). OK, so now what? You have 3 options here at Frisco:

1) Go over the crossing and turn left onto the dirt/gravel road -- which looks like a lane into someone's yard -- that goes timetable south. Be stout of heart here, lads, as this is the correct "road." You can follow this almost all the way to the signal where the connection track and CSX join. The bridge is TN-346/Carters Valley Rd. This is a decent place for CSX action.

2) Go over the crossing and under the NS. Take an uphill right just on the other side of the tunnel onto the gravel road and park at its end. The NS track splits here. The right-hand road goes into the NS's Frisco yard (which you can see from here) while the left-hand road goes down to CSX. Park here for action on the NS line.

3) Go over the crossing, under the NS and down the one-lane gravel road to its end. This is Waycross, where the NS connection track comes down to CSX on your right and the CSX mainline is on your left.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

VIRGINIA

Overview: On our way north thru Tennessee, we saw some rugged, wild country. Well, it gets worse. Tectonic forces in the earth's crust have created an almost impossible barrier to railroads. Imagine placing a bed sheet on a flat, smooth tabletop. Place your hand, palm down, on the sheet and push it a few inches. What happens? The sheet contracts in a series of ridges, rather than individual bumps. That is what the topography north of the Virginia border looks like. The country was formed, not by volcanoes, but by the Atlantic Ocean's tectonic plate diving under the eastern seaboard, which has created these ridges.

The Blue Ridge northeast/southwest of Marion, North Carolina, has been the most significant ridge encountered so far by the builders of the Clinchfield, but at Clinch Mountain, they encountered what was perhaps the most significant barrier on the railroad. The problem with these ridges is that they extend for miles and miles. Going around them requires a detour of many miles in both directions, and the so-called "gaps" in these ridges are just low places on the ridges, and are therefore pretty horrendous for railroad construction. As Clayton takes us further on the tour out of Frisco, you'll see the countryside change dramatically, and you'll find it harder to stay near the railroad tracks -- where there aren't any roads, it's kind of tough to railfan! One suggestion. Make sure you have food, water, gas, and any other essentials, cuz you're gettin out in the boonies.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Kermit. To continue the tour, turn left at Calvary Lighthouse Baptist church to head under the NS (Frisco Yard is on your right) on Rte-713 (Note: This road and several following ones are marked by numbers only. The counties are in the process of putting up names (for 911 purposes), but these were not completed at the time of this writing. Also note -- We're headed through some back roads. Enjoy the scenery and marvel at how the engineers and construction men could have built a railroad thru here!) Travel about 1/2 mile and after you go over a bridge, turn left onto Rte-632. From here it's about 1 1/2 miles to Winenger crossing, at MP Z86. Go over the crossing and travel another 2 miles. Take Rte-636 on the right, and you will travel 1 mile on this road (through a cool one-lane underpass/ tunnel!) until you get to a stop sign. Turn left onto Rte-614/Yuma Road to head to Kermit. [Webmaster's Note: In January 2005, some of the very minor roads in the country had been closed, so do plenty of map work ahead of your tour, and be flexible.]

The south end of the Kermit siding (MP Z82.7) is 1 mile on left after turning onto Rte-614. You can pull into the spot on left before the private drive on the left. Continue down Rte-614 about 1/2 mile and turn right onto Rte-776 before going under the railroad. This road will take a right-handed curve, but a gravel road continues along the railroad to the north end of Kermit siding. It is POSSIBLE to drive up to the north end, but it's not advisable. As always, be careful and cautious.

Here we run into the same problem that the railroad builders ran into -- Clinch Mountain. Those men solved the problem in a bold, but very expensive and dangerous way -- they bored a tunnel straight thru the mountain. However, we're going to have to take the long way around because there is no short way. The tunnel is about a mile long, and we're going to drive about 23 miles to get to the other end of that tunnel!

Turn around here and head back up Rte-776 to Rte-614 the way you came in. Take a left on 614. Travel about 5-10 miles on Rte-614/Yuma Road. The NS line up from Frisco and NS Yuma Yard will appear on your left. Travel until you get to a traffic light (when was the last time you saw one of those?). Food City will be right in front of you. Turn left (north) at the light onto US-23! Yes, Highway 23 -- civilization! You are back on the highway! No more car sickness, no sharp curves, no one lane roads! This is the real deal! A 4-lane divided highway! Congratulations on making it this far!

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Speers Ferry. OK, party's over because it's still over 10 miles to our next stop, Speers Ferry. Continue north on US-23 and the NS tracks will cross over/under the highway a few times before settling in on your left. After awhile you will see Speers Ferry Church on your left, and a CSX bridge will appear up ahead. To go to "Upper Level Speers Ferry," take a right onto a gravel road (you had to know it was too good to last!) that leads up to a quarry. Bear to your left after making the turn and follow the one lane gravel road to the old EDD. You can park here for pics. To get to "Lower Level Speers Ferry," head back down the way you came up and turn right (north) onto US-23. Travel under the CSX bridge and turn left across the NS. Park along the railroad for pics.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Speers Ferry -- Copper Creek Trestle. Turn left from "Lower Speers" and head north on US-23. Travel only about 1 mile or so and the highway will go across a bridge over Copper Creek. Before you cross the bridge, turn right onto Rte-627 (which Charles Bogart says is Copper Creek Road). Follow this road for about 200 yards and you will go under the NS portion of Copper Creek. Park here and sniff out your own spots for pics! NS is on the bottom and CSX is the tall trestle. To see the whole phenomenon, travel back up the road, turn right (north) onto US-23 and in about 1/2 mile, the bridges will appear on your right. Be careful taking pics here -- there are signs warning against solicitors. Charles Bogart points out something I've noticed in the past:The chances are high that you will not hear a CSX train on the upper trestle at all -- they just suddenly appear, so be alert at all times.

(Note: Natural Tunnel State Park is a little further up US-23 on your right. This is where NS goes through a natural tunnel -- i.e., one that is not engineered. It was formed by water. Check it out if you've got a chance. It's pretty cool!)

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Starnes. After visiting Copper Creek, if you're not going up to Natural Tunnel State Park, turn right (north) onto US-23, and you will see a sign for Dungannon on your right. Turn right onto VA- 65 north towards Dungannon and you will soon pass under NS. From here on up the line, it is either feast or famine for railfans. You will be away from the RR when you first hit this road, but it will wander away from and towards the railroad several times. CSX is remotely off on you right now. Travel about 5 miles on this curvy road until you see Rte-862. Turn right onto Rte-862 and follow this road to its end to reach the south end of Starnes siding (MP Z70). Starnes will be on your left, and a really neat bridge will be on your right. Head back out to VA-65 and turn right to continue the tour. You will soon see Rte-662, and you turn right here to get to the north end of Starnes. Head back to VA-65 and turn right to continue the tour. In about 1/2 mile there is a place to pull off on your left for pics.

Not far after this, you will intersect VA-72 (Note: VA-65 northward curves to the left, but go straight onto VA-72 to get to a crossing). Also, there is a new road being constructed here that will go over the railroad via a bridge. This place will provide a great photo ops place for traffic in both directions), but continue the tour by going back to VA-65 and go north. VA-65 and VA-72 are the same road north for awhile. You will soon enter Fort Blackmore, where there is an EDD ("Fort Blackmore [MP 64.8]).

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Dungannon/Miller Yard. There is a great place coming up where the road parallels the railroad for about 1/2 mile. Again, the railroad and VA-65/VA-72 will wander towards and away from each other, and each "intersection" will provide a place for pics. As you near Dungannon, the old Louisiana and Pacific building will appear on your right. Travel through Dungannon and VA-65 and VA-72 will separate. VA-65 will bear to the right and go over the railroad, but for now continue straight on VA-72. About 1/2 mile on the right is Osborne signal. There is also a place to pull off the road for pics. This is also the "Approach to Miller Yard" signal. Miller Yard used to be a small CSX yard, but is now reduced to a passing siding. Turn around and head back to the VA-65/VA-72 intersection, and turn left onto VA-65 (north) to continue on up to St. Paul. There will be about a 15 mile railfan famine here as we navigate to St. Paul.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

St. Paul. [Webauthor's note: Greg Hale has given us this overview of the strategic role that St. Paul plays in Appalachian railroading today: Saint Paul, Virginia, is where the old Clinchfield Railroad crosses the old Norfolk & Western's Clinch Valley Branch. Modern day CSX uses the superbly engineered Clinchfield at near maximum capacity, running as many as 25 trains per day between division points Erwin, Tennessee, and Shelbiana, Kentucky. Modern day Norfolk Southern runs about 8 trains per day on the Clinch Valley line, which runs from Bluefield, Virginia, to Norton, Virginia. St. Paul is where southbound NS coal trains enter on the old Clinchfield, to Frisco, Tennessee, where the NS trains roll back onto Norfolk Southern rails to continue their journey south. This "shortcut" actually saves about a day on a NS unit train turnaround. CSX utilizes NS trackage from Big Stone Gap, Virginia (only 8 miles from Norton) to shortcut over to the old Clinchfield at Frisco.]

Clayton continues: Take VA-65 north to Castlewood Drive/US-58Alternate, and go north towards St. Paul. Approaching St. Paul, turn right onto Rte-270, and then right onto Riverside Drive. After turning onto Riverside, take an immediate left to get parked at the NS/CSX intersection. CSX will be closest to you and NS will be on the other side of CSX. Walk around the left-handed curve to see the signals and the interlocking where CSX and NS actually cross. The CSX enters the NS main on a left-hand switch, and then immediately departs on another left-hand switch. There is no crossing/diamond, per se.* Head back out the way you came in and turn right to go under the NS/CSX bridge at St. Paul. Turn right onto VA-63. Follow this over a steep hill, and at the bottom of the hill take your first right to get to the other side of the NS/CSX interchange. Turn around and head back to VA-63 north and turn right. Soon you will see Boody passing track coming up on your right. Turn right onto Rte-739 to get down to the crossing at the south end of Boody. Turn around and turn right on VA-63 to leave the St. Paul area and continue the tour.

*Dave Baker has provided a clarification of the interlocking area. He also says: "(It is) not a safe place to hang out." It is also trespassing, and I can see no reason to try and fan the area.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Dante. Continue on 63 and you will soon see a sign for Dante on your left.

[Webauthor's note: This excellent information is given to us courtesy of Greg Hale of St. Paul: Dante is just a small town in far western Virginia, but it's railroading importance and history are legendary.

HISTORY Until the Elkhorn Extension was finished in 1915, Dante was the northern terminus of the Clinchfield, then known as the Carolina, Clinchfield, and Ohio. (CCO reporting marks could still be found on Clinchfield equipment into the 1980's.) Clinchfield's builder and visionary, George Carter, knew his railroad would have to connect with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad in Elkhorn City, Kentucky, in order to actually be a true bridge route from the south to the midwest. Unfortunately...

...Two miles north of Dante lay the ominous Sandy Ridge...the main barrier to northern expansion. Mr. Carter presided over the creation of an 8,000 foot bore known as the Sandy Ridge Tunnel. The remaining 30 miles to Elkhorn City were some of the most difficult and expensive railroad construction efforts ever undertaken in North America! In 1915, George Carter himself drove the golden spike at Trammel, Virginia.

Today, the Elkhorn Extension produces trainload after trainload of coal from the surrounding mountains, and allows CSX to profit from the well-engineered line as a true bridge route. There are still a few mine branches and literally dozens of small- and medium-sized tipples along the mainline north of Dante.

All in all, Dante Yard and the Elkhorn Extension offer plenty of modern-day action, with nearly a century of storied railroading history.

Clayton continues: Driving north on VA-63, in the Dante area (the "town" of Dante is really, really hard to find), there is a CSX sign and turn-off into the yard. Drive in and park well back from the tracks. Be unobtrusive, and you probably will not be bothered. Cross no tracks -- a 65 mm telephoto lens will do the job for you. There isn't as much action in Dante as there used to be, but the Yellow Dog locals frequent it, as well as Q690.

Back on VA-63, continue north. and you will shortly see a green sign (across from the fire station) for the town of Dante. Turn left here to travel along the RR through the town of Dante.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Dante -- South End Sandy Ridge Tunnel. [Webmaster's Note: The following text has been provided by Kathy Shearer, Editor and Publisher of the Clinch Mountain Press. If the weather is iffy, or you really don't like mountain driving, I suggest you check out Dante as Clayton suggests, and then get back on VA-63 for the drive to Trammel. For those of you who consider yourselves Combat Railfans, Kathy's approach to going from Dante to Trammel looks like a hoot.]

As folks drive thru "downtown" Dante, they can turn left at the forks and travel through Sawmill Hollow, past old miners' houses, now mostly deserted. Take a left just before the end of the hollow (WM: Should be VA-627), and follow the road around the ballfield, which still hosts games, and was once the home field of the fiercely competitive Dante Miners. This ballfield was built from CC&O tunnel dirt and rock, and -- according to legend -- bones. Take the first gravel road to the right, but don't start up to Trammel Gap on the mountain. Stay to the left on the level, and park and walk up to the south entrance of the Sandy Ridge Tunnel. (WM: Do not trespass on railroad property. Tunnel entrances are dangerous places.)

Consider that many tunnel builders died here, and their bodies are buried in trenches on either side of the tunnel. Many were foreigners without known family to claim them. Folks used to walk through the tunnel from Trammel to shop at the Dante Company Store and go to the movies.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Trammel. This concludes Kathy Shearer's instructions for driving from the south end of the Sandy Ridge Tunnel to the north end.

Continue by driving up the mountain road (VA-626) to Trammel Gap. Turn left at the top of the mountain and come down the Dickenson County side to the north entrance of the tunnel at Trammel, which you'll see on your right as you cross the tracks. Turn left onto VA-63 to continue the tour north.

We now resume Clayton's text, which also allows access to the north end of the Sandy Ridge Tunnel: As you continue north along this highway, you will pass the small mining towns of Trammel, Martin, Nora, McClure and Fremont, which are dotted along the CSX mainline. After passing through the town of Trammel (which can be spotted by the line of houses on the left and right sides of the road), turn left onto Rte-626 to get to the south end of Trammel siding [MP 31.9] and the north end of Sandy Ridge Tunnel (which, at 1 1/2 miles long is the longest on the Clinchfield!). Because the siding is only 3,691' long, you won't see many meets here. Go back down and turn left on VA-63 to continue north.

[Webmaster's Note: As you continue north along the Clinchfield tour, you'll bob, weave and swerve through some of the most remote country in the east. You'll be impressed with the size and scope of our great country, and you'll also continue to be impressed with the men who built this amazing railroad. The towns mentioned below are as the previous few: Tiny -- not much more than crossroads, but each is unique, as are their railroad crossings. Mark your own favorites here.]

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Martin/Wakenva. After passing through the town of Trammel, you will soon find the town of Martin [Webmaster's Note: Oddly, this is identified as Wakenva in the DeLorme Atlas.]. After entering the town, turn left onto Rte-655. This will take you up to a crossing where you can get pics. From here to Haysi, VA-63 will roughly follow the railroad, and you will be able to see it most of the time.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Nora. This is the next small town. Soon after passing by a large elementary school on your right, you can get to a railroad crossing if you turn left across a bridge after passing by a ball field on your left.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

McClure. Continuing north on VA-63, the next town you'll encounter is McClure. Here you can turn left after passing by a baseball field to get to another railroad crossing.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Freemont. Soon after McClure will come Freemont. You will see a white sign on your left for the Community of Freemont. Turn left here to parallel the tracks through the town of Freemont (just like at Dante), and you will soon come back up onto VA-63. A little further up and you will intersect VA-83 take a right here (heading east), and continue on VA-63/VA-83 toward Haysi.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Clinchco. Continue north on VA-63/VA-83 thru the twisting and turning McClure River valley, and Clinchco will be the next small town. The tracks will be on your left, but will pass overhead on a bridge, go through a tunnel on your right, pass back overhead and be on your left again (whew!). Turn left on SR 781/Banner Street to get to a railroad crossing. To continue the tour, continue on VA-63/VA-83 towards Haysi.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Haysi. Just north of Clinchco, VA-63 splits off to head due north, and US-83 heads more to the northeast. There is a crossing of VA-63 just north of this point, but to continue the tour, follow VA-83 to a stop sign. Turn right here onto VA-83 heading northeast towards Haysi. The railroad, as you approach Haysi, will go off to the left and the town of Haysi will appear off to your left as well. It is possible that back roads follow the tracks more closely along the railroad through town, but the tour continues along VA-83. You will come to another stop sign: Turn right here to continue into the "highlands" of Haysi (as opposed to the "lowlands" along the railroad).

As you entered Haysi, VA-80 came up from the south. VA-83 will shortly break off to the right to head east, but continue on VA-80 (compass north) for the tour. You will see a 55 mph speed limit sign -- HAH!. This sign is very deceptive, because the road is so curvy. Just be careful! After leaving Haysi, you will depart from the rails all the way until you get into Elkhorn City, which is our next stop. It should be noted that the tour becomes sketchy at this point. Any contributions or corrections would be greatly appreciated.

Bartlick. Here's another point reached from Haysi, submitted by Alvin France.

From Haysi, go north on VA-80 towards Breaks Interstate Park and Elkhorn City. After about 4.5 miles on your left will be VA-611, and there may also be a sign for the "Barlick Community". Take this left, and after about 4 miles, you'll pass the Bartlick Country Store on the right (an ugly green building). Be careful beyond the store, as you will shortly meet up with some impressive rock cliffs, meet the Russell Fork River, and then see a road crossing the river. Just beyond the turn is the Tom's Bottom defect detector, at MP Z7.5. Alvin states that he has gotten some great photos from this location.

[Webmaster's Note: Only once have I driven this stretch of road. We are talking about a very large area, and a legendarily rugged one at that. The railroad sneaks thru the Breaks Canyon in the heart of the immense, wild Breaks Interstate Park. Let us quote from the DeLorme Atlas:

"Largest canyon east of the Mississippi River. Carved by Russell Fork Creek. Five miles in length, with sheer vertical walls 1,600 feet...high."

There are camping areas, hiking trails, bike trails, and lots and lots and lots of solitude and peacefulness. To me, this would be a wonderful place to spend several delicious vacation days. The sights and sounds of the big trains working thru the canyon should be spectacular.]

Clayton continues: After Haysi you will pass through the Breaks Interstate Park. The railroad passes through this park, but VA-80 goes uphill away from the RR. Allegedly, there is a way to see the Clinchfield in the park, but this tour does not take the time to do that. We will continue the next 15 or so miles without seeing the rails again for some time.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

KENTUCKY

Elkhorn City. You will see a sign for Elkhorn City, and then the rails will appear on your left. It seems as if there should be more access to the rails here, but this tour only covers one. With only 1,100 souls, the town is small, and this site will give you the exposure to the railroad you're seeking. Continue on KY-80/Patty Loveless Drive until you see Ohio Street on your left. This will soon turn into a gravel road that curves to the left (timetable south) and parallels the railroad through Elkhorn City. Get back up on KY-80 and turn left to continue our tour to the north. At this point, the railroad continues north on the east bank of Russell Fork, and KY-80 goes over the stream and swings north again in the town.

You will soon go under the railroad and a convenient convenience store will appear on your left. At this point, you are once again switching sides of the stream, as the railroad continues northerly on the west bank, and you'll cross the river once again and head north on the east bank. This is a great place for gas, snacks, and pics of trains coming/going across the bridge over the river just north of Elkhorn City.

Officially, Elkhorn City was the northernmost point of the Clinchfield Railroad, for it was here that a connection was made with the Chesapeake and Ohio. Since CSX eventually gobbled up both railroads, the CRR/Kingsport Sub was logically extended on up to Shelby Yard at Shelbiana, Kentucky. That's where we're headed next!

Continue on KY-80 north (west) from Elkhorn City, and if you're observant, you may see the remnants of the short branch up to Mikegrady come in from your right. This is about 1/2 mile north of the convenience store, and is just past the crossroads of Cedarville and Beaver Bottom. The ex-branch crossed the highway and the river, and joined the main line at Dunleary. From here north, you'll be close to the railroad, but it isn't visible. It's on the west bank, and you're on the east.

Again, note that Elkhorn City is the "end" of the Clinchfield, and the "beginning" of the Chesapeake & Ohio. As a holdover from those days gone by, the road and defect detector channel north of Elkhorn City becomes 160.230, and the dispatch channel becomes 160.320.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Marrowbone. As you travel north, you'll reach the town of Belcher, where US-460 swings in from the east. Turn left at the flashing red light to continue on US-460/KY-80. As you continue to head north, you'll cross the ex-branch to Republic. This is just about one mile south of Marrowbone, and Morgan Branch Road thru Road Junction (the name of the local village) goes up along the ex-branch. Further up on US-460/KY-80, you'll come up to KY-195, which joins you from the southwest. Just before KY-195, you can look closely and see the remnants of the fairly major ex-branch out to Manco.

One remnant still in use is the passing siding at Marrowbone, which is accessible by taking KY-195 across the river.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Millard. Continuing north on US-460/KY-80, you'll enter the Millard area. There is a still active branch going east from here to a mine, via Levisa Junction. This latter is reached by taking a left onto Millard Lane, and going over the stream. Use your railfan nose here. The road paralleling the branch east is variously Millard Lane/Millard Highway, Rte-1789. To roll on in to Shelbiana, continue north on US-460/Ky-80.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Shelbiana -- North End. To be specific here, the town is Shelbiana, and the railroad yard is designated as Shelby Yard. This is a typical, coal country, mountain railroad yard. There is no elegant bowl, no plethora of in-bound and out-bound tracks, no fluid hump, and no big-time aura of motion here. The yard twists and turns to fit the mountains, valley and water course. There aren't dozens of tracks, but rather a few which never seem to have any traffic over them, but every time you visit, there are different cars on them! As was the case in Elkhorn City, it seems that there should be a way to access the timetable eastern side of the RR, but this tour only explores the western side.

In fact, because of the way you enter Shelbiana from the south, and the way the yard is laid out, we will, on this northbound tour, actually explore the north end of the yard before going on to the south end!

Continue through Shelbiana until you get to the light at the KY-122 intersection. Turn left onto KY-122. Your first left will be C&O Road, which you can take to get to the north end of Shelby Yard. This is technically the northernmost point of the tour, but not the end.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Shelbiana -- South End. Go back up to KY-122 and turn left. Take the next left (after C&O Rd) which will head over a bridge. This road is not marked, but you'll know it by the signs for Track's End Restaurant. Travel about 1/4 of a mile to the first road off to your left. Take it and you'll soon spot the yard office at Shelby. This is also not far from the north end of the yard, which you saw earlier. Head back out and turn left to continue timetable south past the office towards the south end of the yard.

Soon after this the yard splits. You will spot a church on your right, and then a road will appear on your left: You can take it across a few tracks to get back to the main yard lines. This road will continue up through a small neighborhood (situated in the middle of Shelby Yard!) and to a dead end. It is advised that you stop after going over the crossing for pics. There is a small business or two here, and lots of gravel area for parking. Traveling on up the road will get you nowhere and will afford no opportunities for pics.

Head back out and turn left (the church will now be on your right) to continue following the yard southbound. Here the road either turns into Tom Adkins Road, or at least is first marked as such. At any rate, Tom Adkins becomes a one-lane road that parallels the railroad. Follow it southbound and you will soon head uphill as the yard disappears below you on your left. After going uphill for a while, you will head downhill. There will be a private drive on your right, and Tom Adkins will cross the RR and head down to another private drive (according to RR employees -- a SB train had just pulled in as Clayton arrived. The train was blocking this road and Clayton didn't get a chance to explore it.) This is the south end of Shelby Yard, and the end of our tour.

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top

Head back out the way you came to KY-122. Turn right on KY-122 to get to the intersection with KY-80. Turn left (west) on KY-80 and travel about 2 miles to its intersection with US-23 -- our old friend! This is the highway that began your tour way back at MP Z140! It is about 2 1/2 hours from this point back to the south end of Erwin by Hwy 23 (which regains I-181 just north of Kingsport)

Back to the Site Listing Back to the top