N & W

A collection of information and personal research

Keen Mountain Railroad

The Keen Mountain Railroad was a 48-inch gauge line operated by the Red Jacket Coal Corporation at Keen Mountain, in Buchanan County, Va. Construction of the little railway was begun February 1, 1937. The mine was served by the Norfolk & Western Railway, which wrote about the line in 1946. At that time, the line was reported as being 2.8 miles long. The line operated two Shay locomotives.

Shay Locomotive Info from the Shay Locomotives site.
Keen Mountain #10
Keen Mountain #1935

Tiny But Tough

Article from N&W Magazine, February 1946, pp. 60-61, about the Keen Mountain Railroad-Narrow Gauge Coal Mine Carrier.

Location of Keen Mountain and the Keen Mountail Railroad (but no indication of where the railroad was located) on 1916 and 1950 topo maps.

Images from the Virginia Tech Library imagebase

These images are from various years and turn up in a search on "Keen Mountain" or "Red Jacket."

Island Creek Coal Company, Keen Mountain, Virginia, coal mine, August, 1956

Keen Mountain Mining Camp, August 29, 1944

Loading cars with graded coal at Keen Mt. near Grundy, August 29, 1944

The mine served was the site of an explosion in 1938, which at the time was one of the worst disasters in Virginia mining history and was reportedly the worst mining disaster in that year.

Information about the 1938 Mine Explosion

Ed Talbott's site about the disaster, with recent (2003, 2006) photos

Grundy, VA Coal Mine Explosion Kills 45, Apr 1938 (mentions "four-mile narrow gauge railroad")

Coal Heritage Trail

The Virginia Coal Heritage Trail is a project to "highlight the coal mining history, structures, and culture" of the region while it provides economic opportunities. Part of the 325-mile trail runs through Buchanan County, but not near Keen Mountain.

Corridor Management Plan Meeting, October 21, 2010, discussed changing or adding to the route to include the Keen Mountain coal camp.

There is more information about Buchanan County coal camps, including Keen Mountain, in the subsection of the Coalfields Of The Appalachian Mountains site.