Appalachia, Barboursville, C.A. Coulter, Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Newsletter, coal, Empty Yard, Gay Coal and Coke Company, Guyandotte River, history, Huntington, Logan, Logan County, Mount Gay, Peach Creek, railroad, Red Onion, Slabtown, West Logan, West Virginia, World War I
From the Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Newsletter (June 1974) comes this history titled “The Shops at Peach Creek” composed by C.A. Coulter. This is Part 1 of Mr. Coulter’s account.
The railroad was first built to Logan in 1904, the first train arriving on September 9 of that year. The line was started at Barboursville, West Virginia, on the main line, and ran up the Guyan River for 65 miles to Logan. By 1913, rail lines had been run to the heads of all the main branches of the Guyan River in Logan County. As soon as the rail lines reached the branches, coal mines were built, and coal immediately began to move to outside markets.
The first shop facilities were built at Slabtown, a small settlement just north of Logan. Just when the shops were built, I have no record, but it was soon after trains had begun to arrive from Huntington. A short pit track, a shed track with a shed for the freight that was handled, a wye track, and a small yard of three tracks that held about fifty cars each were constructed. This yard is still in use, and is known now as the merchandise yard. Later, another yard was built just north of this one, with about three tracks; this was used to assemble the loaded coal cars. This yard was later lengthened and more tracks were added; it is now known as the Empty Yard. A yard office building was located along the main line between the two yards.
There was also an old bunkhouse located near the pit track at Slabtown, called the “Red Onion.” I have heard my father mention this many times, as he would lay up in it when he came in from the run from Huntington. I have heard him tell of how he would have to wait until someone got out of bed so he could get in and get a few hours of rest before being called back to Huntington. This was a long, hard run with the small, hand-fired G-4s, G-6s, and G-7s that were in use at that time. The trains were much shorter than they are today. By World War I, trains were lengthened to 55 loads for a single engine and 85 loads for a doubleheader. This limit held for many years until the Mallets and Mikados arrived, then the car limit was done away with.
The first carload of coal was run out of Logan County on Thanksgiving Day, 1905. It was loaded in wagons at the Gay Coal and Coke Company mine at Mt. Gay, about one mile south of Logan, and hauled and dumped into a coal car at Logan. The old coal loading records show that for 1905 about 55 carloads of coal were mined in the county. As the years passed, coal loadings began to boom, and by 1907 15 companies were operating in the county. By 1923, 148 mines were working in the county. According to the records, this was about the peak year for the number of mines in operation.
It was not long after the first small shop facilities were built at Logan that it became evident that a much larger one had to be built. The company finally decided to build at the present site of Peach Creek. Peach Creek was an old town, having been established as a small settlement about 1806. Quite a number of houses were clustered near the mouth of the small creek that emptied into the Guyan at this point. It is said that the town got its name from a small peach orchard that stood near the mouth of the creek.
I am not sure just when construction began on the new shops. It was some little time before 1916, as the company moved the shops from Logan in 1916. The town of Peach Creek was laid out in lots and streets at about the same time, as the town of West Logan, on the west side of the Guyan River. A swinging foot bridge across the river, near the site of the present highway bridge, connected the two towns. Soon, employees of the company began to build their homes in both towns.