Clinchfield Challenger #676  aka UP's #3985

The Clinchfield's last Challenger was #675. 

All photographs are Copyright Allan Gartner, 1997


Welcome to the Clinchfield Railroad!

This collection of web sites is the collaborative effort of several Clinchfield railfans bringing to you the glory of this somewhat remote railroad.


Elkhorn City, Ky.:

Northbound entering Elkhorn City, Ky.  The end of line for the CRR.  Onto the C&O!

Clinchfield Country is the land of articulated steam. These large locomotives used a lot of coal. The Clinchfield needed a way to fill it's coaling towers as fast as it was emptying them. Coaling trestles were ramps used to dump coal cars directly into the tops of their coaling towers.

Just as important as coal, was the bridge traffic that the Clinchfield handled.  This included freight and Florida perishables as well as coal.  

By building through, rather than around, the mountains the Clinchfield directly confronted a major challenge.  The result ... was a railroad generally conceded to have had the best engineered physical plant in the country.2 pg.10  The most obvious examples are it's penetration of Clinch Mountain and The Breaks - the Grand Canyon of the Southeast. (Allan Gartner)  Bob Loehne favors the Sandy Ridge Tunnel at am impressive length of 7,854 l.f.1 pg. 104 as notable examples of this impressively engineered railroad.


Breaks Gorge, Ky. & Va.:

The tunnel and the bridge at Pool Point.  This is the beginning of exciting Breaks Gorge- the Grand Canyon of the Southeast!

The Clinchfield was one of the finest engineered railroads in the world built to unheard of standards of it's time. The most obvious examples are it's penetration of Clinch Mountain and Breaks Gorge.

Passing through spectacular Breaks Gorge required four tunnels and two bridges. Each of the two bridges is paired up with a tunnel making rather picturesque scenes. In another example of determination, one of the bridges extends about twelve feet into one of the tunnels!

Breaks Gorge features class six rapids (read deadly for all but the best kiyakers) and is 920' deep.

Even when not in this fabulous park, the mountain sides are very steep. Homes are nestled tightly to a narrow flat spots alongside creeks. The creeks are reminders that these home occupy the old creek bed. Occasionally heavy rains briefly reclaim those creek beds. The area is riddled with swinging bridges.


View into the Gorge

Towers Tunnel north portal

All Breaks Gorge views are about 900 feet down to the tracks!!!

Tower Tunnel passes through this "tower."

Northbound helper exiting Skaggs Hole Tunnel & Bridge.  The bridge extends 12 feet into the tunnel!  This is effectively the south end of Breaks Gorge.


Fremont, Va.:

The Moss #1.  Thanks so much go to Rob Wolshlager for providing this photograph.  Clinchfld@yahoo.com ( ROB WOLSHLAGER)  Check out Rob's excellent Clinchfield web site!  http://www.clinchfieldcountry.com


 Starnes, Va.:

The Starnes Bend Bridge1 pg. 38 of the bridge and tunnel at Starnes, Va.  Note the unusual construction.  Tunnel is out of sight and unfortunately in dark shadows most of the time to the right.



Making a straight shot through Clinch Mountain took more than just a long tunnel. It required a short bridge on the north side, a short tunnel, and then the famed Copper Creek Trestle. Southern and the highway department took the easy way out by having let a river cut a path through. This little detour took the V&SWRR, now NS,30 miles out of it's way. The V&SWRR also crosses Copper Creek but it's trestle is dwarfed by the Clinchfield's. This is not a condemnation of the V&SWR, but rather just an example of the Clinchfield's determination to lay a straight track!

Note how much NS likes to use the Clinchfield's, now CSX's, trestle.
The diminutive NS trestle is to the right.  This small trestle built by the V&SWRR is part of the 30 mile avoidance by the V&SWRR to penetrate Clinch Mountain.  NS & CSX have joint trackage rights over these trestles.
  CSX Catawba Viaduct, Marion, NC

Catawba Viaduct

Marion, NC


"The Jitterbug" is published quarterly by the Carolina Clinchfield Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society.  POBox 412, Bostic, NC  28018.  Outstanding!

Yahoo eGroup - CRRlist. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CRRlist/?yguid=189870489



Regional map of states that the Clinchfield covers.

"Elkhorn City Quadrangle" - USGS8

DeLorme's Atlas & Gazetteer for Tennessee9

DeLorme's Atlas & Gazetteer for Kentucky10

DeLorme's Atlas & Gazetteer for Virgina11

DeLorme's Atlas & Gazetteer for North Carolina12

DeLorme's Atlas & Gazetteer for South Carolina13


Carolina Clinchfield Chapter of the NRHS. This people produce a fantastic quarterly on the Clinchfield. http://www.carolina-clinchfield.org

Check out Rob's excellent Clinchfield web site!  http://www.clinchfieldcountry.com

Elkhorn City Railroad Museum (Clinchfield) http://elkhorncityrrm.tripod.com/index.htm

Do you want to know how to find all the hot Clinchfield railfan spots? http://www.frograil.com/tours/csx/clinchfieldNORTH.htm

Need Clinchfield rolling stock?  Check out Coal Country Carworks  http://www.clinchfield-link.com.  Also contains links to other Clinchfield and train and modeling related sites.

Dan Bourque's Appalachian Model Railroading website. Check out his Clinchfield photos at http://www.appalachianrailroadmodeling.com/crrphotos.html

Clinchfield equipment photos, railroad data, and models at http://www.rr-fallenflags.org/clin/clin.html


"Building the Clinchfield", James Goforth1

"Clinchfield Country", Steve King2

"When Steam Ran the Clinchfield", James Goforth3

"The Clinchfield Railroad in the Coal Fields", Robert A. Helm

"Clinchfield in Color", C.K. Marsh, Jr.

Videos by American Alta Vista:

"Coal Story" This is Clinchfield! CSX Hotshots4

This is Clinchfield! CSX Hotshots Elkhorn City to Erwin5

Cabride Erwin to Elkhorn City This is Clinchfield! CSX Hotshots6

Clinchfield, Santa & the 6767

Personal References Sited in this Web Page:

Bob Helm, RHelmOD@aol.com         He started the Yahoo eGroup. He's a wealth contact information!

Bob Loehne, OEZBob@aol.com        He sold the Alta Vista video tapes. Contact him to see if they are still available.


The High & Xiety Model Railroad - Allan Gartner's interpretation of the Clinchfield North End emphasizing the natural beauty of the area and a tribute to the engineering effort that created the fantastic bridges and tunnels when the Challengers and other steam locomotives ruled the land.  Will feature a nearly full depth (floor to 10' ceiling!) Breaks Canyon, full scale Copper Creek Trestle, and a coaling trestle.

This layout is usually on the Plano (Dallas) Train Show in January.

If you are interested in help build this master piece (scenery, kit builders, and especially kit bashers desperately needed), write me.


When visiting Clinchfield Country, be sure to check these out:


Little Stoney Falls, just west of Dungannon.  

East of Clinchfield Country on Virgina I-81 - prototypes for hot & cold water towers!


1) The Breaks Interstate Park Lodge is $52.25 a night for two. The rooms are quite large and face the towers. 540-865-4413 x200. Cancellation requires 7 days advance notice. The restaurant serves steak dinners. Decent, although rather ordinary - no doubt to keep the prices reasonably priced at around $10 so no complaints.

2) I think I actually discovered a new railfan vantage point which may be THEE spot. Veteran Bob Helm was impressed with it as well. Go to Stateline Overlook which views the north end of Stateline Tunnel. Follow the canyon rim trail back towards Clinch Overlook - which views the south end of Stateline Tunnel. You will arrive at an vista which permits you to see the train coming around Potter Flats and enter the tunnel. It is also the closest clear shot of the train exiting the south end. You can see headlights through the excavation opening as well as the waterfall - if present. Like I said - THEE spot!

3) The DeLorme "Atlas & Gazetteer" are very useful in exploring Clinchfield Country.

4)  Before exploring Clinchfield Country, purchase at least one of the American Alta Vista videos covering the area.  Prior to the running of the Santa Claus Express, I spent a few days scouting the area for photo op's.  The hot shot and cabride tapes contain enough detail on where to find photo op's I could have saved valuable vacation days and hotel, gas, food costs that I could have easily paid for a tape.  When watching these tapes, be sure you have a note pad handy!


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© 2004, 2005 Allan Gartner