Train Sim World 2
Turns, Shifters, and Manifests
Written by Gary Dolzall
With Train Sim World's Clinchfield route coming soon, author Gary Dolzall, who visited the legendary Clinchfield often, shares information on its remarkable operations.
Deep amid the stony cliffs, towering spires, and remote hollows of the American Appalachians, the Clinchfield put on one of the world’s most memorable shows of tough, heavy, and urgent railroading – and that extraordinary and memorable style of railroading is coming soon to Train Sim World 2 with the Clinchfield Railroad route.
The Clinchfield was both an originator and forwarder of titanic amounts of coal – which is to say upwards of 15 to 20 million tons of black diamonds a year. And, remarkably, as a link between the Seaboard Coast Line on its south end and the Chesapeake & Ohio at its north terminus, the Clinchfield was a steel artery for priority manifest tonnage moving between the American Southeast and Midwest.
Clinchfield’s multiple roles of hauling diverse tonnage, combined with the rugged and often remote territory the railroad crossed, resulted in challenging and fascinating operations. Let’s take a look at how the remarkable Clinchfield went about its business.
Coal was king on the Clinchfield. Of the million of tons of coal the railroad moved each year, approximately 45 percent originated on the railroad (with the vast majority of that coming from the many mines between Elkhorn City and Dante), while 55 percent was coal tonnage received from or forwarded to its connections.
Mainline Coal Extras: Moving the coal received from its connections was the task of a nearly endless armada of Clinchfield’s Coal Extras. The majority (but certainly not all) of coal received from connections moved south. For through movements of coal, Clinchfield’s primary partner was the Chesapeake & Ohio (CRR and C&O traded more than 110,000 hoppers of coal per year). Coal tonnage coming off the C&O’s busy Big Sandy Subdivision arrived at Elkhorn City. There, C&O power and crews were exchanged for Clinchfield locomotives and crews and the coal trains then proceeded south. These trains were run as Extras on the CRR, and the heaviest of such were given rear helpers (called pushers by CRR crews) from Elkhorn City to Dante.
Northbound coal movements from CRR’s connections were received variously from the Norfolk & Western (at Boody Junction in St. Paul, Virginia), the Southern/Interstate (at Miller Yard south of St. Paul), and Louisville & Nashville (via N&W trackage right to Boody). This coal was then handed off to the C&O at Elkhorn City.
Turns, Shifters, and Mine Runs: To collect and forward the mountains of coal that originated on the CRR each year, the Clinchfield operated a collection of trains it called turns, shifters, and mine runs (or in more general terms, “locals”). These trains tended the many mines, tipples, and loaders along the CRR’s main line and on its all-important branch lines (indeed, mines on the north-end branches produced a majority of the originating coal tonnage on the Clinchfield). Most of these trains and crews worked out of Dante, although several crews and jobs were also based at Elkhorn City.
For originated coal movements, Dante was, simply put, the heart of the railroad. The vast majority of coal that originated on the CRR was brought to Dante, where it was weighed, sorted, and made up into trains for further movements south or north. Accordingly, Dante was home to many CRR crews and hosted an active engine terminal and small but busy diesel shop.
Dante was the operating base for regular Clinchfield trains, including the “Greenbriar Turn,” which made a round-trip from Dante to the Greenbriar (Haysi) Branch to deliver empties and pick up loads from the branch’s various mines. The “Nora Turn” from Dante worked the Nora Spur and often also handled the large modern mine on the short McClure Spur. The “Rex Turn” worked from Dante and handled the numerous mines located along the CRR main line, usually working as far north as Splash Dam. And what was surely the toughest job on the railroad was the “Moss Turn” (which operated twice a day). The Moss Turn originated at Dante and worked the rugged Fremont Branch. A unique, and challenging, aspect of the Fremont Branch was that coal loads moved in both directions! Coal loads naturally moved off the branch from its several mines, and raw coal loads (from other mines) were taken to the great Moss mine and facility, where it was processed (many small mines did not have processing capabilities). It was not uncommon for the heavy tonnage on the Fremont Branch to demand five units and pushers.
Filling out the coal gathering duties were several yard and mine run jobs operated from Elkhorn City which would gather coal from the multiple coal docks and loaders adjacent to the Elkhorn City Yard and work south along the main line as needed.
Manifests Freights – and the Florida Perishable
Manifest and bridge traffic on the Clinchfield was literally outweighed by coal (manifest traffic per year accounted for about 6 million tons), but due to the much higher freight rates applied to such traffic as compared to bulk coal, manifest tonnage accounted for nearly half of CRR’s revenues. Thus, it was considered the railroad’s priority tonnage.
Manifests: Clinchfield’s manifest freights moved (in each direction) between the Seaboard Coast Line at Spartanburg, South Carolina, and the C&O at Elkhorn City. Over the years, the number of manifest freights operated varied due to the economy and the amount of tonnage to be moved. Typical for the late 1970s were southbound priority Trains 92 and 94, plus a less urgent Train 26. The northbound manifests included Trains 93/193, 95, and 97, the latter of which was the hottest train on the railroad.
The Florida Perishable: Train No. 97, northbound, formally “The Florida Perishable” in Clinchfield’s timetables and loaded with Florida citrus products, was received daily from the Seaboard Coast Line and hustled north by the CRR to be turned over to the C&O at Elkhorn City. The C&O then ushered the train on to Detroit for distribution of the products through the Midwest. For a railroad with roots in the coal hollows of Appalachia, the manifests, and the Florida Perishable in particular, gave the Clinchfield reason to proudly call itself “the Quick Service, Short Route.”
The Train Sim World 2 Clinchfield Route
In featuring the Clinchfield main line from Dante to Elkhorn City, along with the Fremont, Greenbriar, McClure, and Nora branch lines and spurs, the upcoming Train Sim World 2 Clinchfield route promises all the variety and challenges of the legendary railroad. Accompanying the EMD F7 and SD40 locomotives will be 80- and 100-ton coal hoppers, a 50-foot CRR boxcar, a Fruit Growers Express insulated boxcar, and a classic Clinchfield “Santa Fe” style steel caboose. And the action will be brought to life in a selection of scenarios plus a remarkable collection of approximately 50 timetabled services! – Gary Dolzall
Deep amid the towering spires and remote hollows of the American Appalachians, the Clinchfield put on one of the world’s most remarkable shows of tough, heavy, and urgent railroading – and that extraordinary and memorable style of railroading is coming soon to Train Sim World 2 with the Clinchfield Railroad route. On the upcoming route, CRR EMD SD40 3019 is crossing the Hills Mill Bridge near Splash Dam, Virginia. Screenshots by Gary Dolzall.
On a snow-dressed morn in the Appalachians, the engineer of Clinchfield F7A 815 has a captivating view from the covered wagon’s cab as a southbound coal extra departs Elkhorn City (above), and moments later the scene is unforgettable as the train crosses Pool Point Trestle (below). Note: Screenshots depict content while in development.
Representative of the armada of main line coal extras that plied the Clinchfield, CRR Extra 3019 South rolls through Berta. That’s the diminutive but grandiosely named Atomic loader at left.
Simply put, Dante was the heart of the railroad’s coal operations. Dawn is just breaking at the Dante diesel shop as veteran Clinchfield EMD F7A 820 awaits another day of toting coal.
Working from Dante, numerous turns and shifters served the north end of the Clinchfield and its many coal mines, loaders, and tipples. The “Greenbriar Turn” served mines on the Greenbriar (Haysi) Branch. On the upcoming Train Sim World 2 Clinchfield route, CRR F7 814 and kin are working the Rual Mine.
Worked from Dante by the “Nora Turn,” the Nora Spur was home to the railroad’s steepest grade (at 3.4 percent) and two busy mines, the Blue Diamond Mine (above) and the Kilgore Creek Mine (below).
The single largest coal tonnage producer on the Clinchfield Railroad was the Fremont Branch’s Moss No. 1, which provided tonnage as a mine and also processed tons of raw coal for other nearby mines. The “Moss Turn,” which operated twice a day, often required five diesels up front and pushers to handle the heavy tonnage and tough grades of the remote branch.
Elkhorn City was the northern terminus of the Clinchfield, interchange joint with the Chesapeake & Ohio’s Big Sandy Subdivision and home to numerous coal docks and loaders adjacent to the yard. A truck is preparing to dump coal into the Sadie Dock as CRR SD40 3013 rests nearby.
A Clinchfield southbound manifest has completed its crew change at Elkhorn City and is starting its pull with a classic A-B-B-A set of Electro-Motive F7s as power. The upcoming Train Sim World 2 Clinchfield route will include a CRR 50-foot boxcar and FGE insulated boxcar.
Accompanying the Train Sim World 2 Clinchfield route will be the CRR’s much-admired “Santa Fe” style steel cupola caboose (above), which features a full and authentic interior (below). On cold winter days, that stove was a welcome friend for the conductor and rear brakeman.
Tonnage always on the move! The extraordinary, challenging, and memorable railroading of the American Appalachians is coming soon to Train Sim World 2 with the Clinchfield Railroad route!
Train Sim World 2
Turns, Shifters, and Manifests