St. Albans to Clifton Forge

At St. Albans (MP 465.1), there is a wye on the south side where the Coal River subdivision departs to the south, with a grade crossing within the east leg of the wye, and the double track line continues east-southeast, with speed limit 50 mph following the south/west bank of the Kanawha River, past a dirt road grade crossing, speed limit rising to 79-50 at MP 463.4, Intermediate Signals, a grade crossing, a dirt track grade crossing, speed limit falling to 65-50 at MP 462.2, turning southeast past a grade crossing, a bridge over a road, and a grade crossing, and then east past a dirt road grade crossing, signals and crossover at Spring Hill (MP 459.4), northeast, with speed limit  55-50 on the curve,  past a grade crossing, a wide road bridge overhead, crossovers and a six-track yard on the north side at South Charleston (MP 457.3), where the speed limit is 65-50 again, east-southeast past a road bridge overhead, a street alongside to the north, a bridge over a road, Elk, where the speed limit rises to 70-50, and an interchange track to a former Conrail line that climbs on a wooden trestle before heading away north-northeast across the river, a grade crossing, a highway alongside to the north, quadruple highway bridges overhead, a bridge over a road, crossovers, a street alongside to the north, bridge ramps and a road bridge overhead at the depot, and the brick depot on the north side, right at the bridge overhead, at Charleston (MP 454.2), the West Virginia capital, mainly located on the other side of the river.

There is a signal bridge east of the station, a crossover and extra track on the south side of the line at South Ruffner (MP 452.4), where the speed limit is 79-50, a bridge over a street, the road still alongside to the north, a bridge over a stream, a bridge over a street, Intermediate Signals on a signal bridge, a bridge over a street, a bridge over a line below, a bridge over a street, and a speed limit 65 sign, crossovers at Owens (MP 450.2), where a spur heads east to a terminal on the river and the main line turns south, past a grade crossing, I-64 alongside to the east, then a street alongside to the east, then I-64 again, Intermediate Signals at South Maiden, a bridge over a stream, detectors at MP 445.5, where the speed limit is 65-50 and the line turns southeast, a highway bridge overhead, a grade crossing,  Marmet (MP 445.1), where a line once headed southwest up the hillside to Hernshaw, two grade crossings, a road bridge overhead, extra track on the northeast side, a coal loadout on the northeast side, MP 444.3, where the speed limit drops to 60-50, a grade crossing, Intermediate Signals, a grade crossing, MP 443.7, where the speed limit rises to 70-50, and Winifrede Junction, where a line to Winifrede once headed southwest up the hillside.

The line turns east, with a bridge over a road and rail line below on the turn and speed limit 60-50 on the curve, past extra track on the north side, a road alongside to the north (with the river beyond it), crossovers and pole signals at Chelyan (MP 439.4), where the speed is 70-50, a bridge over a road, a through truss road bridge overhead, a bridge over a road, a street alongside to the north, a bridge over a street, a grade crossing where the street alongside turns across the line, a bridge over Cabin Creek, Cabin Creek Junction (MP 438.6), where a coal branch from the south once trailed in, the speed limit falls to 65-50, and  the line turns east-northeast, past the river adjacent to the north, a grade crossing, a street alongside to the north, a grade crossing, Coalburg (with speed limit 35 mph through the town), a grade crossing, a turn east through signals at East Bank, with speed limit 70-50, past two grade crossings, a bridge over a stream, a dirt track grade crossing, a bridge over a stream, and the river alongside to the north again, and south-southeast, with speed limit 55-50, past two dirt track grade crossings, a bridge over a stream, and a grade crossing into a plant on the riverbank, to Crown Hill.

The line turns east-northeast past Hansford, a grade crossing, a bridge over a road and stream below, crossovers at Paint Creek Junction, where a coal branch from the south once trailed in, on an embankment behind the town, a grade crossing, the river alongside to the north again, Pratt, where an extra track on the north side starts, and a spur beyond that, and the line turns south, past a spindly road bridge overhead, east-southeast past pole signals at Handley, where the extra track ends and there was once a spur to the south, a grade crossing, the river alongside to the north again, two grade crossings, a bridge over a stream, West Montgomery, where a spur to Donwood once headed south, the main street alongside to the north, a grade crossing, a signal bridges at Montgomery (MP 427.9), where the passenger platform and shelter are on the north side, the track runs along the south side of the main street through the business district and the speed limit is 30 mph through the town, a grade crossing, and a road bridge overhead just east of the grade crossing.

The line turns south, with speed limit 60-50 on the curve on the otherwise 65-50 line and the river alongside to the east, past a dirt track grade crossing to a small facility on the river side, a bridge over a street, a grade crossing, Eagle (MP 425.5), and the end of double track, with a 55-50 speed limit between MP 424.1 and 423.9, Mount Carbon (MP 423.5), a grade crossing to a tank farm on the river, a turn southeast, past West Deepwater (MP 422.1), under the through girder bridge once owned by the Virginian, past a bridge over a stream, a grade crossing, a street alongside to the northeast, Deepwater (MP 421.3), where a connector from that line trails in from the southwest, east, with the river alongside to the north again, past a detector at MP 420.8, north-northeast and then northeast, past a through bowstring girder road bridge overhead, a grade crossing just to the east of the bridge, and the resumption of double track at Kanawha Falls (MP 418.4).

The line turns north, with speed limit 45-35, past a street alongside to the west, with the line on an embankment, a bridge over a stream, a dirt track grade crossing (on the embankment), and whitewater at the Kanawha Falls themselves, northeast past Fort Defiance and southeast past Old Gauley, a 2,308 ft. center siding at Gauley (MP 415.1), and crossovers at GU Cabin (MP 415.0), where the Gauley Industrial Track trails in across the New River (as it has become above where the Gauley River trailed in from the north), and then south along the New River, with speed limit 40-35. The New River extends deep into the Appalachians, the furthest east of any west flowing river in the eastern US, and cuts a deep gorge into the mountains while doing so. The railroad runs along the bottom of the gorge all the way from Montgomery to Hinton, with the deepest and most scenic portion between Cotton Hill and Thurmond.

The line and river turn east-northeast, south past CH Cabin, a concrete road bridge overhead, signal bridges and crossovers at Cotton Hill (MP 410.8), southeast, north, past a dam on the river, and east southeast to MA Cabin (just an equipment box in November 2006, MP 409.1), where Track 1 bridges eastward on a through truss bridge, with speed limit 25-10 across the bridge, across the river to the east side, below the magnificent overlook known as Hawks Nest. South of Hawks Nest (MP 408.6) the double track of this section is split into separate tracks on each side of the river, both heading southeast with speed limit 50-35 on track 1 and 40-30 on track 2, south at Gaymont (1)/Bachman (2), southeast at Whitney (2), and south again at Ames (1) past Michigan Mine (1) and Newlyn Mine (1). In the middle of the gorge, it is spanned by a single-arch steel road bridge, billed as the 'second highest' bridge in the country (more than 1700 feet above the river, second only to the privately-owned suspension bridge across the Royal Gorge in Colorado), and the 'longest' of its type. Once a year the road across the bridge is closed to permit a day for parachutists and bungee-jumpers to jump from its span to, or towards, the river below.

As might be expected, the hillsides along this portion of the river are very spectacular during Autumn colors, and the Collis P Huntington Chapter of NRHS has run excursions along here twice each weekend for the several weekends during which the trees are in full Autumn regalia. The hills on both sides of the river are full of deep coal mines, still operating after over a hundred years of exploitation, and the former C&O main line carries hundreds of coal trains a year, with loads going out in both directions. The line turns south-southeast at the 5,501 ft. siding at South Fayette (MP 404.4) on track 2, and the 6,317 ft. siding at Fayette (MP 404.2) on track 1, with speed limit 40-35, east at Kaymoor (2), southeast at South Nutall (2), Nutall (1) and East Nutall (1), and south past Keeney's Creek (1), Elverton (2), Caperton (1) and South Caperton (2) to Bridge Junction, where the west bank line (Track 2) once continued south but today's line turns southeast across the river, with speed limit 10 mph on the bridge, to rejoin Track 1 at MJ Cabin. Somewhere along the east bank is a decaying coal loadout, no longer in use, with signals at MP 400.2.

There is a bridge over a side stream, and a stretch of single track starts at Sewell (MP 397.6), an old and now nearly vanished mining town that is no longer accessible since a 1990s/2000s washout, with speed limit 50-35, a short stretch of 40-35, followed by a detector at MP 397.0, where 50-35 resumes, and the bluffs are stepped back beyond medium wooded slopes for quite a stretch, S Cabin, East Sewell, and Pennbrook, a turn southwest (speed limit 45-35 on the curve) to Intermediate Signals at Fire Creek, west, past sheer rock walls on the east side of the river, to Beury, and then back to medium wooded slopes past a 7,440 ft. siding on the west/south side at Rush Run (MP 392.2), and a counter-clockwise curve around the mountain end, including southwest past Dimmock (MP 391.5), where the speed limit falls to 25 mph, and south past a dirt track grade crossing, housing on the hillside, and HD Cabin, before turning south-southeast to the concrete coaling tower on the west side of the line the departure across the river of the Loop Creek Industrial Track, and a dirt road grade crossing at Thurmond (MP 390.8), a very small town that was developed purely to service the railroad and the coal traffic. Today, it belongs to the National Park Service, and is being preserved in its historical state, so far as is consistent with safety, with the depot on the west side of the track used as a museum by the NPS. Thurmond has been the primary location for shooting a number of movies with an Appalachian coal mining focus, including the one dealing with the battles between Mines and Unions at Matewan (which is actually on the next railroad south, the former N&W, along the Pocahontas river). There isn't much left at Thurmond, except for the main street frontage right along the tracks, and some of the old steam locomotive servicing facilities.

Following Thurmond, where double track starts again and the speed limit reverts to 50-35, the line continues south-southeast past Thurmond Yard on the east side of the line, turning south past MP 390, CS Cabin (MP 389.4), Stone Cliff, Beechwood Junction, where a line once climbed the cliff on the east side to Beechwood Mine, a through girder road bridge overhead, a cantilever signal bridge at Claremont (MP 388.1), where double track ends, and the line swings east and then around a clockwise horseshoe bend (speed limit 40-35) in the river, with old silos on the east side in the middle of the bend, past Dunfee and Intermediate Signals at Thayer, heading west and then south past a dirt rack grade crossing, a slide fence below a rock cliff on the east side, Intermediate Signals at the end of the slide fence, and McKendree, southwest, past two slide fences below rock cliffs on the southeast side, and Intermediate Signals at Apple Orchard, and then south at XN Cabin, cutting off a westward turn and then counter-clockwise horseshoe bend on the river by passing through Stretcher's Neck Tunnel, past a through girder road bridge overhead just 'east' of the tunnel, and turning east along the river at NI Cabin, where double track begins again and the Piney Creek subdivision trails in from the southwest across the river, past a road alongside to the north, Prince (MP 379.9), where the depot and platform canopy on the north side of the line are in streamline moderne style, the image of Chessie the kitten (the old C&O advertising symbol) is tiled as a mosaic in the floor, and a center siding starts, and a signal bridge east of the station.

The line turns south to Quinnimont (MP 378.7), where the center siding ends, there is extra track on the east side, and a coal branch once headed east, at a still-extant wye, southwest past Intermediate Signals at QN Cabin (where there is no longer a cabin), where the speed limit rises to 60-50, and then around the inside of another counter-clockwise horseshoe bend in the river until it is heading east past Backus (MP 376.2, where double track ends (speed limit 55-50 on the switch), a slide fence on the north side, a detector at MP 374.5, Glade (MP 374.4), southeast past Camp (MP 371.3), MP 370.6, where double tack starts again (speed 55-35 on the switch), and Harwood, and south at Meadow Creek (MP 369.3), where there is extra track (five yard tracks) and a wye on the east side with the Sewell Valley subdivision headed northeast, a 6,519 ft. siding on the east side and a 5,102 ft. siding on the west side (speed 40 mph at one end), a grade crossing as the yard tracks decrease from two to one with crossovers at the east end of the sidings.

The line then turns southeast, south past signal bridges and crossovers at Sandstone (MP 366.3), with dual road bridges overhead in between the crossovers, southwest past two dirt road grade crossings, a road alongside to the southeast, a bridge over a side stream or river (on the southeast side of the main river), rocky cliffs on the southeast side of the tracks, Intermediate Signals on a signal bridge at Longbottom, southeast to Intermediate Signals on a signal bridge at RK Cabin (MP 362.0), where there is no longer a 'cabin', south past a road descending the valley wall to the east, a grade crossing off that road, detectors at MP 360.5, and Barksdale, southwest (speed 55-50 on the curve) past two grade crossings, signal bridges and crossovers at CW Cabin (MP 359.0), where the old two-storey brick cabin remains on the southeast side, a bridge over a side stream with a waterfall, and an old coaling tower on the southeast side in an area of derelict land, to a crossover at Tool Car (MP 357.4), south past extra track on the east side, the brick depot on the east side at Hinton (MP 357.0), where speeds are 25 mph, and there is a yard on the west side of the line, and east (speed 45-40 on the curve), away from the New River (and finally resuming the eastward course of the main line), past a road bridge overhead, rocky cliffs to the north, and a through girder road bridge overhead, to Intermediate Signals at MX Cabin (MP 354.6), where there is no longer a 'cabin'.

East of Hinton, the speed limit is 60-40, with many reductions of passenger speeds to 50, 45, or 40 on curves, the  line curves northeast (speed limit 35 mph on Track 2), past a slide fence on the northwest side, and a grade crossing, east, past a slide fence on the north side, a dirt road grade crossing, a slide fence on the north side, and MP 353, south past a grade crossing, Intermediate Signals at Wiggins, and a dirt road grade crossing, to Hilldale (MP 349.5), where double track ends (speed limit 35 mph from Track 1 and 25 mph from Track 2), east past an old closed tunnel on the north side and through the long Big Bend Tunnel (40 mph), after which double track resumes at Talcott (40 mph through the turnout), past a grade crossing, a road alongside to the north, a grade crossing, a dirt track grade crossing, a through girder bridge over a wide river, a bridge over a stream, and a dirt road grade crossing, north past Intermediate Signals at Lowell, a dirt rack grade crossing, a grade crossing, the river alongside to the north, and detectors (MP unstated).

The line turns east at Pence Springs (MP 342.8), through a broad valley between wooded hillsides with fields bordering the river in the valley between the hillsides, past a dirt track grade crossing, scales (25 mph) on track 2 at the Intermediate Signals at Riffe (MP 341.3), and a bridge over a stream entering the river from the south, northeast past a dirt track grade crossing to Intermediate Signals on a signal bridge at Wolf Creek, north and then east, with a road alongside to the north, past detectors, a grade crossing, extra track on the north side west of the crossovers at AD Cabin (MP 336.7), where there is no longer a 'cabin', a road bridge overhead, a grade crossing, the brick depot on the south side at Alderson (speed limit 35 mph between MP 336.6 and 335.3), northeast to Frazier and Snowflake, east through a tunnel to Fort Spring and two more tunnels, southeast past a crossover at Rockland (MP 327.0), with a brief section of single track around a sharp counter-clockwise curve (40 mph on the turnouts, 50-40 on the curve), north-northeast to WR Cabin (MP 324.0), now just a metal box on the south side, northeast past a 12,200 ft. siding and yard tracks on the south side at Ronceverte (MP 322.6), where a spur to Lewisburg once trailed in from the north, MP 320.0, where a speed limit of 30 mph on Track 2 starts, north-northeast to crossovers at Whitcomb (MP 319.8), whence the line to Cass once headed northeast (and the grade is still visible as it heads away), curvily east past a slide fence on the south side with the line up on a ledge above the valley to the north, Intermediate Signals on a signal bridge at Caldwell, I-64 curving alongside to the north, a bridge over a road well below, an extensive golf course on the south side, and Intermediate Signals at Harts Run (with speed limit 35 mph on Track 1 as well, through the curves).

The line turns northeast past detectors at MP 312.1, to a signal bridge and crossover, road bridge overhead, platform with umbrella shed and brick depot on the north side at White Sulphur Springs (MP 311.9), a resort community (site of the greenbrier Hotel) once served and owned by, the C&O railroad, where the heavyweight car Virginia (CSXT 306) is parked in one of the three bay tracks, all with platform space, on the northeast side of the depot, a line to Columbia Sulphur Springs once headed northeast, there is a dirt road grade crossing east of the station, and the main line turns south-southeast, past Intermediate Signals at Sugar Cane, and Tuckahoe, where it turns east past dual road bridges overhead, and a short tunnel, and then through a long tunnel and crosses the summit and the state line into Virginia.

The track 2 speed limit ends at MP 307.0 and the line passes Alleghany (MP 306.7), where there is extra track and rocky cliffs on the north side, a short stretch of single track starts at the signal bridge at East Alleghany (MP 305.3), while the line passes through the Lewis Tunnels (35 mph) immediately east of that location, a rocky cutting east of the tunnel, and a wooded area, with the line turning east and double track (formerly) resuming at Jerrys Run, past a speed limit sign for 45-40, a short tunnel, a dirt track grade crossing, a medium-length tunnel, and a short tunnel, east-northeast, northeast past Intermediate Signals at Backbone, east-northeast with speed limit 40 mph on the turn, past Moss Run, double track resuming (in November 2006) at a (former) crossover and (current) signal bridge at OX Cabin (MP 298.1), now just a metal box on the north side, a rocky cutting, a bridge over a road well below, and Intermediate Signals at Callaghan.

The line turns east past a bridge over a river just west of  a tunnel, and then that tunnel, McDowell, dual road bridges overhead, a bridge over a river, a bridge over a road and the river, a road alongside to the north, a road bridge overhead, a bridge over a river, a crossover and an 8,800 ft. center siding, with a signal bridge governing the westerly exit, at BS Cabin (MP 292.3), where there is extra track on the north side of the north track, a line from Hot Springs once trailed in from the north with a spur still present, the east end of the center siding, and the main line turns south (35 mph on the curve), past the extensive Westvaco paper mill on the east side (and on the west side), a through girder bridge over the river, a bridge over a road, extra track on the east side, where there are also paper mills owned by others,  and the Covington Industrial Tracks start on the north side (five tracks), a bridge over a street, a cantilever signal bridge at Covington (MP 289.7), where a branch once headed southwest, dual road bridges overhead, MP 288.1, where the industrial tracks end, a short stretch of single track begins and the line turns sharply east-northeast (40-35 on the turnout and curve), past a detector at MP 287.1, a grade crossing, a bridge over the river, a bridge over a road, a short spur on the north side trails in, the river alongside to the north, and an Interstate highway alongside to the north, to MP 283.1, where double track resumes (40 mph on the turnout).

The line continues, on a ledge above the valley to the north as the Interstate turns away, past Mallow, detectors at MP 282.1, a rail-served plant on the north side, a grade crossing, a spur trailing in, and Intermediate Signals at Low Moor, and the Interstate on the north side again,  to a crossover at Clifton Forge Yard (MP 280.8), the west end of the yard on the south side of the line, where the line turns east, past a road bridge overhead (in the yard), a dirt road grade crossing, a through truss bridge over the river, signals, an elevated road alongside to the north, an unused coal loadout to the north, MP 278, two spurs on the north side, Intermediate Signals at Clifton Forge (MP 277.6), an on-line fuel pad, a turntable on the north side, the spurs trailing in, the Clifton Forge passenger station, with platform and wooden depot on the north side, extra track on the north side, east of the station leading to spurs with old passenger cars on them, and  speed limit 20 mph, a road bridge overhead, east of the spurs, and the junction at JD Cabin (MP 276.0), a metal box on the south side, where the speed limit is 35 mph, the double track James River line turns away south and the single track North Mountain line turns northeast.