Coal Burning Power Plants : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

I would like to model coal burning powerplants in Georgia or Florida that may have been serviced using SAL coal drags. Does anyone have information as to where to begin searching for pictures or histories?

Thank You

Larry Boyd Traverse City, MI

-- Larry Boyd (, March 08, 2005


I can't say that SAL used it, but there was a source of coal closer to Hamlet than that received from C&O at Brown Street or CC&O at Bostic. Until the 1930's, coal was mined in North Carolina's Egyptian field, near Gulf, NC -- not far from Sanford. It was not a high quality coal, but Norfolk Southern RR used it because it was an on- line industry. One NS engineer noted that a lump of Egyptian coal packed all the BTU's of a day-old cow pie.

-- Harry Bundy (, March 14, 2005.

Larry's question about coal fired power plants has still got me thinking. I don't know if anyone remembers when the big power generating plants came on line. During the 1920's through the 1950's there must have been many small power plants in the ACL/SAL territories and I guess that many must have burned coal. But they probably weren't served by unit coal trains. I remember when I was a child everyone used to refer to the power company as the light company because that's most of what they provided, along with the few electrical appliances that you might have in the home. No one had electrically heated and cooled homes. In fact, I can't remember anyone when I was growing up that had air conditioning. Most of the homes were heated with oil or coal furnaces, or stoves. In the fall you'd call the oil or coal company and they would come out and fill up your oil tank or coal bin to get ready for the winter. Which brings me to the point that all towns had coal companies. The father of one of my childhood friends owned one. It was located on the N&W near the passenger station in Petersburg, Virginia. His company periodically received a few coal cars at a time which were unloaded and then coal was delivered to people's homes in the coal company's truck. While there weren't any unit coal train movements to big coal burning power plants until the 1960's, there must have been many movements of a few coal cars to coal companies located in many towns along the railroad and some movements of less-than-unit-train coal shipments to the power plants.

-- William E. Griffin, Jr. (, March 11, 2005.

A bit off the subject, but in addition to the movement of coal to industries a lot of coal that moved over the SAL and ACL during the days of steam was what was called "company coal". There were no coal mines located on the SAL or ACL, so they had to purchase and ship in coal to fire their steam locomotives. SAL engineer Bob Craddock told me that he was called many times for trains that would depart Hermitage with lite engine (or engines) and pick up a whole train of coal from the interchange with the C&O at Brown Street. It would all be "company coal" for terminals on the Virginia Division. The SAL also purchased coal from mines on the Clinchfield and received it at Bostic, then transported the coal to Charlotte, Monroe, Hamlet and Wilmington. Similarly, the ACL purchased coal from mines on the Clinchfield, which moved via the Clinchfield to Spartanburg, then via the C&WC to Yemassee where it was delivered to the ACL and then transported to Waycross, Jacksonville and Sanford. The movement of company coal was interesting because the railroads were acting not only as carrier but also as shipper or consignee. Shipments were waybilled to the junction then rebilled to the consuming point.

-- William E. Griffin, Jr. (, March 10, 2005.

Very interesting - whose hoppers did these trains use?

-- Larry Goolsby (, March 09, 2005.

SAL did begin operating unit coal trains in 1965. They operated over the Virginia Division to the Virginia Electric and Power plant at Wheelwright, Va. (See pg. 20 W. E. Griffins' ALL LINES NORTH OF RALEIGH for photo.) If memory serves me correctly, these trains came off the CRR at Bostic thence SAL to Wheelwright. There were also unit coal trains handled for export at Lambert's Point, Va which were interchanged to the N&W at Petersburg, Va.

-- Wharton Separk (, March 09, 2005.

The only coal fired power plant served by unit coal trains of the SAL that I can recall was the Virginia Electric and Power Plant at Wheelwright, Virginia in Chesterfield County near Hopewell. Unit coal trains began operation over the SAL to Wheelwright in 1965.

-- William E. Griffin, Jr. (, March 09, 2005.

Well it isn't in Georgia nor Florida, but how about the CP&L plant at Moncure, NC ? About large movements of coal -- back in steam locomotive days, there was, of course, a volume of coal en route to Hamlet, NC. An ex-SAL trainmaster once noted that in one of those peculiarities of rate-making, it was cheaper to have the coal billed to stations in South Carolina than it was to Hamlet. Many a car of SAL coal had been billed to Wallace, SC, but in fact when it arrived in Hamlet, it stayed there. Wheel reports, consists etc. were completed showing movement to and from Wallace --- just in case.

-- Harry Bundy (, March 09, 2005.

Can't think of any offhand in Ga. or Fla. in pre-merger days. I believe the power plant north of Mount Holly, NC, was built before the merger and that SAL forwarded coal to the P&N for delivery to that plant. I don't think in the pre-merger days there were any solid coal trains on the ACL or SAL, but that instead it was delivered in cuts of cars - how many at a time, I'm not sure. Good question and I hope others will chime in.

-- Larry Goolsby (, March 08, 2005.

Larry : There may be others, but the only coal-fired power plant served by CSX that I can think of is Plant Gallatin TVA power plant at Gallatin, Tennessee. HOwever that is on a local spur off the old Louisville & Nashville Railroad, and not the Seaboard. The local newspaper is the Gallatin Examiner, which is my only suggestion to obtain photographs. For whatever reason, 3 out of 4 coal-fired power plants in the Southeast are served by Norfolk Southern. Most of the Pocahontas coal mined in Kentucky and West Virginia seems to move East via the old C&O James River line to Tidewater Virginia for export. In pre-merger days, I do not recall Seaboard being a large coal hauler, whereas Southern Railway was, along with it's future partner the Norfolk & Western Railway. I would assume that most power plants are similar in that they use a rotary dumper to dump an entire carload of coal at once. This coal is then ground into a very fine powder and blown into the boilers under high pressure which gives the appearance of natural gas being used as a fuel as it ignites just as soon as it enters the high temperature of the boiler firebox.This explains why you never see black smoke coming out of the smokestack at a power plant,but rather, just a light white wisp known as fly ash.

-- Bill Sellers (, March 08, 2005.

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