Old 10-31-2011, 10:48 PM   #1
ken45
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Default Sell me on NC and the Clinchfield

Last March, my best friends moved to Raleigh, North Carolina. I'm going to visit them in early December and left a couple of extra days for trains. Aside from Rocky Mount, Old Fort, and a couple other random locations, I don't know a whole lot about this area, and haven't really seen any pictures that get me excited at all.

I was leaning towards possibly hitting up the Clinchfield territory, since it's a pretty popular spot, but mostly it seems to be trains running through trees and past a couple churches. The Copper Creek bridge and Natural Tunnel would be interesting places to visit, but aside from that, nothing that really stands out to me about this line. The Pokey and New River Gorge would be neat to visit but are probably a little too far away for me on this trip.

Basically, I'm thinking of eliminating the train portion of this trip and saving the vacation hours for a trip next year, but figured that there'd be some folks on here who know the area better and might be able to enlighten me on what this area has to offer.
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Old 10-31-2011, 10:50 PM   #2
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Hmmm, I just Googled and found out the Pokey is much closer than I initially thought. I guess that might clarify things a lot for me, since I'd love to shoot some of the last CPLs before they disappear and there are some cool coaling towers still standing down there.
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Old 11-01-2011, 04:12 AM   #3
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Pokey is a lot more accessible than the Clinchfield. I have done both extensively. Pokey has more traffic too.

Dont get me wrong, the Clinchfield has some REALLY, REALLY scenic spots, but they are hard to get to, or the shots can be obstructed by trees. The area on the North end between St Paul and Elkhorn City is my favorite. Also on the South end between Poplar and Toecane, NC are awesome.

South of Toecane/Spruce Pine, there is nothing worth photographing IMHO. The famous "loops" are pretty much inaccessible unless you are into hiking along the ROW (trespassing). There are a few neat bridges like Copper Creek, Boones Creek, etc too.

Pokey and the neighbor the Christiansburg district is rugged, not as much scenery, but it has more of a personality IMHO, although NS is doing it's best to homogenize it. The Pokey also runs by some kind of schedule, you can always expect certain trains at certain times, like the Westbound intermodals in the early morning followed by the Westbound freights, then Eastbound stacks, and a late afternoon autorack train, with coal and hoppers with grain sprinkled in at other times. You have helpers on all Eastbounds except stacks.

Clinchfield, you can go hours without seeing a train, which pisses me off, then you may get 4 in a row fleeting one way or another.
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Old 11-02-2011, 03:21 AM   #4
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It's not too bad of a drive from Raleigh to here (Sister-in-law lives in Durham), and I would certainly be willing to give you the grand tour of the pokey or the (better scenery IMO) New River Gorge area. Since time would be of a premium, the Pokey may be the best option due to traffic levels. As Troy stated, the Clinch isn't known for being easy to chase on. You basically pick a jaw dropper location, and commence stand by.

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Old 11-04-2011, 05:53 PM   #5
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Thanks for the suggestions Troy and Lloyd. I've started my hard-core research into the area and am learning a lot. Specifically, I'm learning that there's a lot more rail lines still operating in this area than I would have guessed.

I think for this trip I want to focus on the remaining N&W CPLs, and photograph as many various arrangements of them as I can. Where do they still remain in use? Looks like there probably aren't too many west of Bluefield. Lots of photos of new signals out there, and even shots from 2009 that show CPLs may not still have them, so it's hard to do research and know with certainty that they still are there. East of Bluefield seems to have a few, specifically Willowtown, the Christiansburg area, and at least part of the Bristol Line.

Where are some other areas that have CPLs? Are there any left on the Clinch Valley Line?

Where are some of the more uniquely arranged CPL's, if there are any?
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Old 11-04-2011, 08:58 PM   #6
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There are no CPL's on the Clinch Valley or Dry Fork branches (except at Auville Yard), they were all replaced in the 90's. On the Pokey west of Bluefield, there are CPL's as follows, at least as of my last visit 2 weeks ago:

Bluefield, VA
Falls Mills
The EB intermediate inbetween flat top and Falls Mills
Elkhorn Tunnel
Maybeury
Keystone (WB only)
The EB intermediate inbetween Eckman and Keystone
Landgraff
Welch (EB only)
Hemphill (EB only)
Farm (WB only)
Roderfield (WB only)
Hull (the WB was being replaced when I was there, but both EB/WB CPL's were still in service)
Marytown
Rogers
Old Joe
A few around Matewan too
Sprigg

I did not spend any time West of Panther, just going by recollection the last time I was there.

A bunch still on the Christiansburg District too between Bluefield and Roanoke. They just replaced Singer though.

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Old 11-07-2011, 01:46 AM   #7
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Thanks for the info Troy. I think I've got a pretty good idea for a game plan, and want to photograph a variety of CPLs. Seems like I should be able to do that pretty reasonably. Might have to leave the Clinchfield for another trip, but if my first day goes really well, I might slip down there for a day before spending my final day back around Christiansburg.
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Old 11-07-2011, 01:42 PM   #8
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You can get Falls Mills in REALLY good light for Eastbounds in the morning.
Hull Mid-morning (10-12) for EB, although you can get them most of the day, WB is mostly inaccessible
Landgraff first thing AM for EB
West Portal of Elkhorn Tunnel mornings to noonish for EB (note: this spot is only accessible if you trespass)
East Portal of Elkhorn Tunnel mid-late mornings for EB (note: this spot is only accessible if you trespass)
Welch, late afternoon for Westbounds

You will find a lot of the other ones dont have good light this time of year or are very hard to get to. Inbetween Mohawk and Cedar, the RR is pretty much inaccessible.
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Old 12-02-2011, 10:24 PM   #9
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Thanks all for their help. I ended up having to pretty much wing it on this trip, so my photos won't be world beaters, but I'm enjoying my visit to the Bluefield area regardless. One more day, and then it's off to Raleigh.
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