It’s steam, steel and coal at Peach Creek. Late in a chill February afternoon, the sun, growing old, bounces a coppery reflection off the track pattern in this West Virginia coal terminal. A Steamer, flaunting a wispy banner of vapor, girds herself for the tasks of hauling her long drag to the main line. She can do it and she knows it. More about the goings on in these parts in “High Iron In The Hills.”
High Iron In The Hills
There’s magic in the mountains of West Virginia, where iron men and iron horses tap the treasure vaults of King Coal.
Down in the valleys around Logan, W. VA., you can still hear that train blow. Any number of them blow, morning, noon and night and their music is not at the dirge the old balladeers made it out to be. Along the winding “runs,” the age-old creeks which carved out this jumbled mass of hills, powerful stream locomotives hug the walls of the timbered gorges as they snake their long trains from mines to assembly yard. Their piercing whistles and the full-throated bellow of their exhausts chant a lust work-song of “coal, coal, coal.”
Here where its Source of power lies locked in the treasure vaults of the mountains, the streamer is still monarch of all he surveys. When a diesel wanders into Peach Creek yard, it stands self-consciously, a stranger in an alien world. The eight-wheeled switchers, the barrel-bellied Mallets bustle officiously past the intruder, sassing it now and then with a derisive whistle hoot or a belligerent jet-last o steam this is their stronghold.
There is magic in these mountains, the enchantment of the high iron and the high wheeler, the saga of the black giant called Coal, who slumbered beneath the earth eons before men and machines awakened him to serve a nation. There is a story in the land and its people, for this region is a paradox. Only a few miles may separate the world of sleek motor cars, TV and rakish ranch houses from that of the buckboard, the dulcimer and the log cabin. Pioneer families who braved Indians and wilderness to settle here are remembered in their descendants, many of whom live on the original homesteads. But the modern era has brought new things, new names, new ways to this land and slowly the old order is changing.
Last month, to capture some of that magic, TRACKS went into the valleys of Logan County and came of them with the pictures and story which appear on these and the following pages.
March 1955, Tracks Magazine Photos
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