The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Category:Towns of the Winding Gulf Coal Field

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During the early-1900s, both the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O) and the Virginian Railway (VGN) began construction of branch lines into the yet undeveloped Winding Gulf Coal Field. By 1910, ten new mining operations had opened along the Virginian Railway's Winding Gulf branch which had been completed 21 miles into the field to the headwaters of the Winding Gulf. The C&O reached the area later than the Virginian but within a few years had extended its lines into the field providing many of the mining operations with an additional outlet to ship their coal to market. In 1915, the C&O and Virginian built a jointly operated railway line up Stonecoal Creek, facilitating the opening of even more mining operations.

Most of the company towns of the Winding Gulf field were small in size. The largest of the towns probably had a population of no more than 1,200 persons and the smallest were around 200 in population. Beckley and Mullens were the largest nearby cities. In 1920, Beckley had a population of 4,149 and Mullens a population of about 5,000. The C&O and the Virginian both operated passenger trains, but only two trains daily was typical in the region. The passenger train service was reportedly very slow. A government report from 1923 noted that it took 2 hours to travel 8 miles on a passenger train traveling from one of the coal camps to Beckley.

Coal mining boomed during World War I era through the 1920s, but by the 1930s, the Great Depression impacted the industry negatively. Business improved dramatically during the World War II era. Following the war however, the coal industry began a gradual decline as coal began to be used less for home and business heating and the railroads switched from coal fueled steam locomotives to diesel-electric locomotives.


Map of Winding Gulf Towns

View an larger version of this map or view the USGS topo map version of the map.