Train Sim World 4
Train Sim World 2 - Appalachian Gem
Words and photographs by Gary Dolzall
The legendary Clinchfield Railroad is coming to Train Sim World 2 and we take a look at the iconic railroad’s history and captivating appeal!
The Clinchfield: In the annals of American railroading, the name is magic. The Clinchfield spun steel rails across, over, and through America’s great Appalachian Mountains, hauled 20 million tons of coal a year, annually forwarded 6 million tons of manifest freight ranging from Florida citrus to steel and automobiles, generated outstanding profits, and operated with such verve and through such memorable and majestic scenery to be called the “Rio Grande of the East.” In short, the Clinchfield was railroading’s Appalachians gem.
It was no simple task to build a railroad through the Appalachians. The oldest section of what became the Clinchfield was a 19-mile line laid down north from Johnson City, Tennessee, in the late 1880s by the diminutive but grandly named Charleston, Cincinnati & Chicago. The “Three-C” went no farther and a successor, the Ohio River and Charleston, added but another 14 miles of track. But then came George L. Carter, a man with a steel will that proved more than a match for the unforgiving Appalachians. With his South & Western (later to become the Carolina, Clinchfield & Ohio), Carter carved a superb railroad through the mountains at an average cost of $201,000 a mile. By 1909, the CC&O had reached Dante (rhymes with “ant”) Virginia, a tiny village tucked in the coal-rich country north of Sandy Ridge. Carter soon extended his railroad, with what was called the “Elkhorn Extension” 35 miles from Dante through the Breaks of the Big Sandy to Elkhorn City, Kentucky, thus tapping the coal-laden hills of northwestern Virginia and providing a connection with the great Chesapeake & Ohio. Dressed for the occasion in a long-tail coat and derby hat, George L. Carter drove home the main line’s final spike 3 miles north of Dante in 1915. In the following decades, the railroad would add branch lines – the Fremont Branch, Nora Spur, Greenbriar (Haysi) Branch, and McClure Spur – to tap ever more coal mines, tipples, and loaders. Eventually, between Elkhorn City and Dante, the railroad would serve more than 30 coal-loading facilities. And in a final count, the railroad had hewn from the Appalachians more than 50 tunnels totaling more than 10 miles in length. For the duration of its life, George Carter’s railroad would, legally, be the CC&O, with the Clinchfield Railroad serving as its operating entity.
From its northern terminus at Elkhorn City, Kentucky, where it connected with the Big Sandy Subdivision of the Chesapeake & Ohio, the Clinchfield extended 276 route-miles south to Spartanburg, South Carolina, where it connected with the Charleston & West Carolina subsidiary of the Atlantic Coast Line (later Seaboard Coast Line), as well as the Southern Railway. The Clinchfield also had connections with the Norfolk & Western and Interstate Railroad (later a part of the Southern) at or near St. Paul, Virginia.
In 1924, the Atlantic Coast Line and Louisville & Nashville (the latter of which was itself largely controlled by ACL) gained control of the Clinchfield. In the steam era, the Clinchfield was, not surprisingly, famed for its big steam, which culminated with its roster of 4-6-6-4s, a group of which were largely copies of Union Pacific’s famed Challengers. The Clinchfield began to dieselize in the late 1940s, primarily with Electro-Motive stylish gray-and-yellow-clad F-units and Geeps. In the second-generation of the diesel era, the Clinchfield would call upon EMD and GE motive power, with the EMD SD40 becoming the latter-day workhorse of the railroad (wearing first gray and yellow and later black and yellow liveries).
The Clinchfield was both an extraordinary coal hauler and a busy and vital bridge line for manifest freight traffic by providing a link between the Chesapeake & Ohio on its north and the Atlantic Coast Line in the south. Indeed, the CRR regularly carded multiple priority manifest freights a day and called itself “The Quick Service, Short Line Route between the Central West and Southeast.” The hottest train on the railroad was Train No. 97 – the “Florida Perishable” – which via ACL, Clinchfield, and C&O hurried fresh citrus to the Midwest. But the heart of the Clinchfield and its fame remained coal hauling. Despite its relatively limited size when measured by route-miles, the Clinchfield was one of America’s preeminent coal haulers.
Although controlled by ACL/SCL and L&N for decades, the Clinchfield maintained an independent identity into the 1980s. That finally changed in December 1982 with the merger of its two owners, Seaboard Coast Line and Louisville & Nashville, into Seaboard System. In January 1983, the Clinchfield was likewise folded into the Seaboard System as the new railroad’s Clinchfield Division. The Seaboard System, in turn, became a part of today’s giant CSX system in 1986, and today the ex-Clinchfield remains an active rail line serving as CSX’s Kingsport Subdivision.
The upcoming Train Sim World 2 Clinchfield Railroad route will re-create the legendary railroad as it existed in its final independent years of the 1970s and early 1980s. The upcoming route extends from the railroad’s northern terminus and connection with the C&O at Elkhorn City, Kentucky, 35 main line route-miles to Dante, which served as the key point of CRR’s coal operations. And the upcoming Train Sim World 2 route will include each of Clinchfield’s captivating, and extraordinarily challenging to operate, north-end coal branch lines – the rugged and tonnage-rich Fremont Branch, steep Nora Spur, remote and famed Greenbriar (or Haysi) Branch, and the modern McClure Spur. Together, these remarkable branch lines will add another 27 miles of trackage to the upcoming route.
As an engineer on the upcoming Train Sim World 2 Clinchfield Railroad route, you will take the throttle of first- and second-generation Clinchfield Electro-Motive diesels in the form of the classic F7 and potent SD40 to battle heavy tonnage and twisting grades as you make your way through the towering Breaks of the Big Sandy, glide across 115-foot-high Pool Point Trestle, and bore through 7,854-foot-long Sandy Ridge Tunnel, making the unrelenting tough climb to sprawling Moss Mine and Preparation Plant on the Fremont Branch – and much more!
Keep a close eye on Dovetail Live in the coming weeks, as we’ll be presenting further information and advance images of the upcoming Train Sim World 2 Clinchfield Railroad route! Follow @trainsimworld on Twitter and Facebook to make sure you don't miss anything! – Gary Dolzall
Coming soon to Train Sim World 2 is the legendary and challenging Clinchfield Railroad route! Fulfilling the vision of founder George L. Carter, Clinchfield EMD SD40 3016 and sisters have heavy coal tonnage on the move as the southbound train emerges from Tunnel No. 14 and strides over the Second McClure bridge amid the fall foliage of November 1975. All photographs by Gary Dolzall.
Dante, Virginia, and its yard and engine terminal served as the heart of Clinchfield’s north-end coal operations. A gentle rain is falling as Clinchfield first- and second-generation power congregate at Dante awaiting their next call. Veteran Clinchfield F7A 801 helped dieselize the railroad in 1948 and served in the Appalachians for nearly three decades.
Elkhorn City, Kentucky, in addition to serving as the Clinchfield’s northern terminus and interchange point with the Chesapeake & Ohio, was a source of originating coal tonnage. As a southbound Clinchfield train awaits departure, Elkhorn City’s numerous coal dock and loading tipples line the yard in the distance. The caboose belongs to parent Seaboard Coast Line.
Keeping the Clinchfield’s thousands of coal loads and scores of trains on the move required record-keeping and communications, and a CRR clerk is busy in the Elkhorn City yard office, which offered a picture-window view of yard action.
Night has fallen at Elkhorn City and big EMD motive power awaits it next Appalachian assignment. On the left is GP38 2005 and on the right is a trio of husky Clinchfield SD40s that with the morn will no doubt be totting heavy coal tonnage south.
Framed by Appalachian foliage, a set of Clinchfield SD40s glide across 115-foot-high Pool Point Trestle just south of Elkhorn City. The EMD SD40 was Clinchfield’s second-generation main line workhorse, and CRR rostered 25 units which arrived on the railroad between 1966 and 1971.
The Appalachian majesty of the Breaks of the Big Sandy is on full display as a Clinchfield coal train emerges from State Line Tunnel and grinds its way upgrade along the path of Russell Fork amid 1975 fall foliage.
To stretch its steel rails through the Appalachians, the Clinchfield constructed more than 50 tunnels with a cumulative length of more than 10 miles! Nearing Clinchco, Virginia, CRR SD40 3016 and a coal train exit Sykes Tunnel.
A captivating and busy location on the Clinchfield main line, Fremont, Virginia, was host to a depot, the Fremont River coal tipple, and the junction point between the main line and the rugged Fremont Branch which alone generated more than 8 million tons of coal annually
Amid the last lingering rays of a November 1975 evening, the Clinchfield puts on an unforgettable show as southbound coal behind SD40 3016 meets an empty northbound at Trammel, Virginia. CRR 3016 and kin have just emerged from 7,854-foot-long Sandy Ridge Tunnel.
The upcoming Train Sim World 2 Clinchfield Railroad route will feature the railroad’s first- and second-generation Electro-Motive diesel workhorses. At Dante, Virginia, in November 1975, Clinchfield F7A 810 (above), a 1951 product of EMD, and SD40 3000 (below), delivered to the railroad in 1966, await call. Several of CRR’s classic F-units served into the 1980s.
Two of Clinchfield’s distinctive steel cabooses stand at Dante. The upcoming Train Sim World 2 Clinchfield Railroad route will include the railroad’s well-known “Santa Fe” style caboose as exemplified by CRR 1064 on the right.
Always, more coal to haul. As dusk settles amid the Appalachians at Elkhorn City, a trio of Clinchfield SD40s have tied onto 90 loaded hoppers and 11,000 gross tons of coal delivered by the Chesapeake & Ohio. Unforgettable Appalachian railroading will be coming to Train Sim World 2 – with the Clinchfield Railroad route!
Photos by Gary Dolzall
Train Sim World 4
Train Sim World 2 - Appalachian Gem