by Scott Jessee
This article is a first-hand recollection of operations on the Fremont Branch as told by Scott Jessee, a Train Order Operator and Yardmaster at Dante, VA. To view a track plan for this area, click here. -Dan Bourque
The 1st Moss Turn would go to work at 0700 hours with 9000hp on the Head end and 6000hp Pushing. It would usually get 10 to 20 Mtys out of Dante for the Lick Dock that was located at Moss #1 and would take more mtys if Moss #1 would need them. The 1st Moss Turn would then pick-up raw coal off Allen Extension that the Rex Turn had set off the previous night. The Rex Turn would go to work at 1201PM and work Splashdam and Jacobs Fork pulling raw coal from these 2 tipples and would also work on the Haysi RR if needed and had the time. The Moss Turn would pick-up the raw coal off Allen Extension each morning, which then would give the Rex Turn a place to set his raw coal off the next evening.
The 1st Moss Turn, upon arrival at Moss, would pull a cut of raw coal onto the Main Line or Runaround Track and the pusher would than shove the raw coal into the unloading tracks. Both the Headend and Pusher Engines would “work” the tracks at Moss, setting/spotting mtys, switching Lick Dock, and switching the outbound loads from Moss #1. Much of the coal from Moss #1 would go to Lamberts Point and Sandusky, OH, these cars being forwarded from Dante to the N&W at St. Paul. Later, after “CSX” was formed, most of this coal would then be going to Newport News on CSX via Shelby, Ky. On the way out of the Fremont Branch the 1st Moss Turn would stop and work the “Truck Mines” along the branch. Virginia Iron Coal and Coke used 3 loadouts to assemble unit trains to Duke Power and other destinations. These tipples were Victor, Delp and Mullins Dock. The 1st Moss Turn would also pull loads from Dickenson Dock and Holly Creek. the 1st Moss Turn would set any North Coal off at Caney, McClure, Allen Extension, or Allen Siding. 90% of the time it would be Caney, but if set off at one of the other locations you needed to get it out of the way ASAP for several reasons including needed Allen Extension for the Rex Turn to set Raw Coal off in, Allen Siding to meet/pass trains, and room at Mcclure to work Mcclure Prep Plant. The 1st Moss Turn would then bring the South Coal to Dante and call it a day, usually after 12 or more hours.
The 2nd Moss Turn would usually be called to match up with Units off the 1st Moss Turn about 630pm or so. If units were available, we would call the 2nd Moss Turn about 400 to 500PM, get them out of the yard, and make a line of road train meet with the Moss Turn at Trammel, Allen, or in the clear at Nora. The 2nd Moss Turn would leave Dante with 9000hp and 6000hp Pushing and would usually take 60 to 75 mtys with him and pick-up Raw Coal at Nora that the Nora Turn who went to work at 555AM would leave at Nora. When departing Nora the consist from the head end would be the 9000hp Lead Engines, Raw Coal, 6000hp Mid Train Pusher, Mtys, and Caboose. After making the Grade over and thru Bear Pen Gap Tunnel, the head end would cut off and head to Moss with the raw coal leaving the pusher crew behind to shove mtys into Holly Creek, Dickenson, Mullins, Delp, and Victor Docks. The head end would get to Moss and pull the Raw Coal onto the Main Line or Runaround and then use the other track to runaround it and spot up or wait for the Pusher to come and shove the raw coal in. Both Crews would work the tracks at Moss #1 as the 1st Moss Turn had done. After assembling their train together at Moss, it was southbound again towards Caney and Dante, setting North coal off as the 1st Moss turn had done and taking the south coal to Dante. This is also a 12 + Hour day.
The Moss Turn would then be on duty at 0700 to do it again. The 2nd Moss would be waiting for their turn once again that evening. Both Moss Turns worked Monday thru Friday. On some occasions when we would get out of cycle we would run an extra crew into the “hollow” behind either of the Moss Turns to work the Truck Mines (Holly Creek, Dickenson, Delp, Victor, and Mullins). This was something that you tried to avoid but had to do on some occassions.
This is what I recollect of the Moss Turn Days while working Train Order Operator and Yardmaster at Dante.