Book Review – Appalachian Coal Hauler

by Ed Wolfe and Hugh Wolfe TLC Publishing 2001 ISBN 1-883089-67-0

5starReview by Dan Bourque

Appalachian Coal Hauler - CoverThis book is an absolute “must have” for anyone who wants to model mine run operations realistically. This book is the second in Ed Wolfe’s series on the short line Interstate Railroad which served the coal fields of southwestern Virginia. Ed’s father and co-author, Hugh Wolfe, worked for the Interstate (and later the Southern Railway) for many years, and this book goes tipple by tipple, switch by switch along the Interstate’s route describing in incredible detail the moves required to work each tipple. In reading the descriptions and following the maps, you get a great feel for how real railroaders approach switching challenges. No other book comes close in providing this kind of first-hand education of mine-run operations.

In addition to the detailed descriptions of operations, the book is full of track charts and photos depicting the dozens of loaders along Interstate rails from pre-WWII to the Norfolk Southern era. Some of the photos are repeats from Ed’s first book, but there are certainly enough new photos to keep it from seeming like a repeat. As with any first-hand description, the interviews contained in this book are an invaluable resource which capture the memories and stories of many employees who worked these rails and sadly are no longer with us.

When someone asks me “if I could only buy one book to help me model the coal fields better, what would it be?”, my answer is Appalachian Coal Hauler!

Subject: Interstate RR’s coal tipples and the mine runs that served them
Primary Era: 1920s-1990s with focus on ’40s to ’60s
Facts: Pages: 160, Cover: hardcover, Photos: 290 photos (mostly B&W), 50+ maps and diagrams
Photos: 4star Excellent historical photos of most of the loaders along the Interstate
Text: 5star Well-written text with brief history of each loader and operation with many transcripts of first-hand descriptions
Maps and Diagrams: 4star Track charts for each loader and yard, maps of each coal line on the Interstate
Value for the Modeler: 5star Details of switching and mine run operations you can’t get anywhere else
Purchase Value: 5star Well worth the price

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