News & Reviews News Wire Owner of Beech Mountain Railroad prepares to close mine

Owner of Beech Mountain Railroad prepares to close mine

By Alan Byer | May 22, 2023

Future of West Virginia short line appears bleak

Email Newsletter

Get the newest photos, videos, stories, and more from brands. Sign-up for email today!

Blue Alco end-cab switcher moves hopper cars in forested area
Beech Mountain Railroad Alco S4 No. 115 moves a string of hopper cars. The remote West Virginia operation faces closure as the mine it serves is closed. Alan Byer

ALEXANDER, W.Va. — The Carter-Roag Coal Co. plans to close its Morgan Camp mine, the last coal mine in Randolph County, W.Va., as well as the Star Bridge coal preparation plant, likely spelling the end of the company’s Beech Mountain Railroad.

Local news reports say Carter-Roag, a subsidiary of United Coal Co., announced last week it was beginning permanent layoffs at the two facilities, which will close once layoffs are complete. These reports did not mention the railroad, but with the closure of the mine and prep plant, its reason for being will vanish, along with more than 200 jobs.

Rumors have circulated for years that the Sewell coal seam mined by Carter-Roag in Randolph County was playing out. A source indicated the company has been mining ever-narrowing seams, with a corresponding increase in rock waste to be disposed of. Recently, for the first time, Carter-Roag opened a strip mine near the community of Helvetia to obtain the last of this coal.

Beech Mountain Railroad’s fortunes have fluctuated for decades as the demand for high-quality metallurgical coal has waxed and waned.  Most recently, the railroad was reactivated in April 2009 after several years of inactivity when Ukrainian company Metinvest bought United Coal. The Russian invasion of Ukraine systematically destroyed the intended destination for that coal, the mammoth Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. But with Sewell seam metallurgical coal in demand worldwide, the production was shifted to other buyers.

Carter-Roag has not publicly addressed plans for the 10-mile railroad or its equipment. The railroad owns three vintage diesel locomotives: Alco S2 No. 113; onetime New York Central Railroad EMD SW7 No. 114; and Alco S4 No. 115.

Silver and red switcher with hopper cars
Ex-New York Central SW7 No. 114 is one of Beech Mountain’s three locomotives. Alan Byer

One thought on “Owner of Beech Mountain Railroad prepares to close mine

  1. I have a feeling that at this point, the rock waste is going to be disposed of first before the railroad gets shut down. The ROW will likely get pulled up, turned into a trail, or become some small tourist line as this line does appear to run in the mountains (the last one is probably not very likely, but you never know).

You must login to submit a comment