Travel back in time to southern West Virginia, deep in the heart of Appalachia, to experience the busy double tracked stretch of Norfolk Southern mainline called the Pocahontas District. It’s the mid 1990s and you’re touring the famed “Pokey”, the Pocahontas Division, from Williamson to Bluefield to watch heavy coal trains labor upgrade and speeding time-freights rush across the system. This is the heart of coal country and the Norfolk Southern’s Coal fields.
The rugged terrain of this mountainous district has always been a challenge to the railroad. Numerous bridges carrying the tracks back and forth across the rivers are interspersed with eighteen tunnels that bore through the ridges along this line. The area’s steep grades bring most trains down to a crawl and helper engines are required on almost all eastbound trains. The long climb up to Elkhorn Tunnel is a steady 1.4 percent grade.
Coal is king in these parts. You’ll visit a coal mine where strings of hoppers are being topped off with this important commodity. Mine runs with cabooses are seen, as well as fleets of heavy mainline coal drags pulled by NS’s newest locomotives. The Pokey is a railroading adventure where the scenery is spectacular and the obstacles are met with brute horsepower and ingenuity.