August 4, 2012 Travis Dewitz

Norfolk Southern Across the Pokey in Southern West Virginia

Keystone Morning Rush Hour

After leaving the New River area, we drove through the dark to the Elkhorn Inn in Landgraff, West Virginia. Landgraff is in McDowell County in the southeast corner of the state. My fascination of coal and railroads made this ideal place for me to visit. McDowell County was once home to over 100,000 residents in the 1950’s that helped set many coal mining production records. Through the 1960’s and 1970’s the demand for the county’s metallurgical coal remained high. McDowell continued to lead the United States in total coal production. Increased mechanization of coal production had reduced the number of laborers employed, but miners enjoyed quality pay under improving conditions negotiated by the United Mine Workers. During the 1980’s the central Appalachian region lost more than 70,000 coal mining jobs. Between 1981 and 1992, according to the U.S. Department of Energy and the United Mine Workers union, coal mining employment in the state of West Virginia decreased by more than 53%. No county in the Appalachian region was more severely distressed by these losses than McDowell County. According to the United States Census Bureau, in 1980, the rate of poverty in McDowell County was 23.5%. By 1990, the poverty rate in McDowell County had climbed to 37.7%, the highest rate of poverty for any county in West Virginia. By 1990, 50.3% of all children in McDowell County were living in families below the poverty level, up from 31.2% in 1980. The major losses in McDowell County during this period were the result of the closing of all mines and facilities operated by the United States Steel Corporation, terminating more than 1,200 jobs. Today the area is still one of the fastest declining populations.

Having arrived to this area in the night, I really did not have a clue what I was to expect to see the next morning. The area was far more depressed than I had expected. All the research I did before my trip did not prepare me for what I was going to see. There are no words to describe the area and my photos can’t even tell the story of abandonment and poverty. The coal is still the heart of the area where monster trains battle steep grades to bring the coal to outside markets. If you can find a way to look past the poverty in the area will allow you to see the beauty that was once there and which still remains. The area probably isn’t very high on many lists of places to travel but I know that there are many like me which would love to visit. For those that find themselves drawn to a place like McDowell County I highly recommend the Elkhorn Inn. The owners of the Elkhorn Inn are known for setting up their guest for great trout fishing and amazing ATVing on the many trails in the area.

Abandoned Business on Main Street in Keystone Abandoned Business in Keystone WV Williamson WV Very Nice Brick Homes in Northfork - NS Coal Train Two Brothers at Kimball WV Tunnel and Abandoned Building in Kimball West Virginia Train Heading Through Keystone WV The View of Maybeury West Virginia The View of Keystone West Virginia The State of West Virginia - Iaeger WV The River That Flows Behind Iaeger WV The Homes of Switchback WV The Cricket - Pocohontas WV The Bridges of Coopers WV Telephoto Down Elkhorn Tunnel TECO Coal Mine in Hurley, Virginia Sunshine Over Williamson Coal Yard Storm Over Welch WV School Bus in Keystone WV Save Coal Jobs - TECO Mine Near Hurley, VA Red House Overlooking Coal Trains Rear View of Iaeger Buildings Railroad Tunnel Behind House - Roderfield WV Railroad Through Iaeger Pocohontas WV Fire Station and Fire Truck Overlook of Keystone West Virginia Old RC Cola Painted on Building in Iaeger WV Old Railroad Crossing at Coopers West Virginia Old Church in Pocohontas Old Cemetery and Grave Stone in Gary WV NW Powerhouse in Maybeury WV NW Position Signals at Elkhorn Tunnel NW Caboose and Goats on the Tracks NS Train in Elkhorn Tunnel NS Top Gon in Iaeger WV NS Helper Set Emerging From the Fog in Elkhorn WV Northfork Abandoned Chevrolet Dealership Norfolk Southern Through Welch West Virginia Norfolk Southern Passes Through Northfork WV Norfolk Southern in the Wooded Appalachian Mountains Norfolk Southern in Iaeger WV Norfolk Southern in Gary West Virginia Norfolk Southern Coal Train Near Ennis WV Moving Coal Cars to be Loaded at Teco Mine Mountain Top Coal Mining Keystone WV Looking up at the Abandoned Switchback Church Looking Over Williamson West Virginia Looking Over Welch WV Loads of Coal Through the Wooded Hills of West Virginia Loading Coal at Welch West Virginia Loading Coal at TECO Mine in Hurley, Virginia Loaded Coal Cars in Capels West Virginia Leaving West Virginia Kids Care Clinic - Keystone WV Junk Yard - Tow Truck with a Firebird on the Hood Iaeger West Virginia House on the Hill Overlooking Keystone Homes in Coalwood WV Friendly Goat Elkhorn Inn - Landgraff WV Driving Through Keystone WV Downtown Pocohontas West Virginia Downtown Iaeger West Virginia Down Pour in Upland - Coal Train Donkey Along NS Branchline Crowell Chevrolet in Iaeger WV Containers Through West Virginia Coal Trucks Start Morning in Keystone WV Coal Trucks and NS Coal Train - Keystone WV Coal Truck Drivers Waiting for the Train Coal Train Through the Tunnel Under Welch WV Coal Train Through Kyle West Virginia Coal Train in the Rain Through Switchback West Virginia Coal Through Switchback West Virginia Coal Over Maybeury West Virginia Coal House Row in Wilcoe WV Coal Hoppers Through Northfork West Virginia Coal Hoppers in Williamson Coal Hopper Loading Conveyor Coal Camp Row Kyle West Virginia Closed Down Car Dealership in Iaeger WV City of Iaeger WV Church in Powhaten WV Chevy Pickup Hauling Coal and Shaving Cats on a Railing in West Virginia Bluestone Coal Mine in Keystone West Virginia Bluefield Painting of the Hayday of Coal Ball Park at Vivian West Virginia Abandoned Power Plant in Maybeury WV Abandoned House in Keystone West Virginia Abandoned Home Near Matewan Abandoned Home in Upland WV Abandoned Home in McDowell County Abandoned Church in Switchback WV

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travis dewitz soo 2719 coal web 150x150 Photograph

About the Author
Travis Dewitz is a professional photographer located out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He has been published in many books and magazines including many in the railroad industry. He does a lot of photography work and environmental portraitures for many companies and heavy industries in and around Wisconsin. He has grown up with trains and railroads are one of his passions that he pursues. His railroad photography can be seen on his website The Railroad Collection.


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