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Alleghany Station
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Turntable - Operational Routine
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Photo by Bob Rodriguez

Cresting the Eastern Continental Divide at 2,072 feet, Alleghany, Virginia is the second highest point of elevation (North Mountain being the highest at 2,082 feet) on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad. From here to Virginia's Tidewater region, via the James River and Rivanna Subdivisions (the "James River Line") it is essentially all downhill.

 

Despite its remote location, Alleghany was an exceptionally busy and exciting place to be during the age of steam. As many as 36 trains passed through or stopped at Alleghany Station each day including the C&O's famed passenger trains, the George Washington, Fast Flying Virginian, and Sportsman. Sandwiched amongst this traffic were several locals and numerous freight manifests. C&O's magnificent Allegheny H-8 locomotives led an eastward parade of coal extras bound for Newport News, meeting an equal number of empty hoppers being returned to the mines of West Virginia.

 

Alleghany's function was to facilitate the smooth and uninterrupted flow of all this traffic. The "A" Cabin operator was responsible for the railroad between Lake's Tunnel to the east of Lewis, and Tuckahoe (West Virginia) just to the west of Alleghany. The two mainline tracks, two passing tracks, and the interlockings represented in these modules spanned a distance of 1.5 miles between Alleghany and Lewis Tunnels.

"A" Cabin at Alleghany, Virginia
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Photo by Bernie Kempinski

After climbing into Alleghany the eastbound coal trains stopped between the tunnels. While the engine took on water at East Alleghany the brakemen walked the length of the train to turn up the retainers on the hopper cars for the downhill trip to the classification yards at Clifton Forge. Since the helper engine (on the rear of the train) was no longer needed for the downhill run it was cut off and then turned on the 115' turntable located just to the west of the station. It returned "light" to Hinton, West Virginia to repeat the process of shoving coal over the mountain.

 

The operational process became much simpler and efficient after dieselization was completed in 1956. The role of helper engines remained, but the need for a turntable vanished. The diesels, of course, didn't need to be turned and the development of dynamic braking eliminated the need to turn up the retainers on the hoppers.

 

Inevitably, Alleghany's importance quickly diminished. The turntable was removed and the pit filled in. The operators left "A" Cabin in 1961 when a large CTC panel was installed in the Hinton depot to control the entire Alleghany Subdivision. The station was closed in 1962 and then torn down in 1971. In the mid-1970s the westbound passing track was taken up, as was the trackage through the westbound Lewis Tunnel.

 

Modern efficiencies achieved, today's CSX trains and Amtrak's Cardinal simply pass through Alleghany. "A" Cabin houses relay equipment and the two Maintenance-of-Way buildings remain in service.

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Alleghany, Virginia in HO Scale. Photo by Jim Connal