The Origins of Switchers 1553 and 1554

by Terry Patrick

Click on photos for an enlarged view

switcher photoThe ARR #1553 was formally the Kelley's Creek & Northwestern #1.  It was purchased brand new in December of 1976 for a cost of $452,000.  It was used 18-20 hours daily until October of 1980 when #2 (ARR #1554) was purchased.  The price for the 1980 model was $796,000.  At this time, the two locomotives were alternated out daily.  The #1 was always an overall better locomotive than #2.  We had a lot of main generater and traction motor problems from #2.  The #2 was a better shover on a long grade than #1.  This is because the gearing was a little different.  We had very few problems from #1 during the entire 17 years that it spent on the KC&NW.  The main problem that both of these engines had was that they only had a single clasp brake system on them.  I can see from the pictures of them now that they have been changed to a double clasp system (a much needed change).

switcher photoThe Kelley's Creek & Northwestern Railroad was an eight mile shortline owned by a coal company called The Valley Camp Coal Company.  This railroad was in operation for 90 years (from 1903 until its closing on April 3, 1993).  It was used to haul coal from the mines to a river loading facility where the coal was loaded into barges shipment to its customers.  The railroad also interchanged with Conrail for some of its shipments.  Most of this railroad was on a 2 1/2 to 3 percent grade.  The railroad averaged moving around two million tons of coal annually.  The company owned the two MP1500 locomotives as well as a couple of GE 700 HP locomotives which were hardly ever used after the 1500's were purchased.  The railroad also owned a fleet of 140 100 ton coal hoppers that were never interchanged.  In the mid 1980's, the coal company was purchased by the Quaker State Oil Company.  Quaker State decided after a few years that they did not want to be in the coal business any longer so they sold all their contracts along with the equipment.  Between all the men who worked at the mines and the railroad, they put around 500 people out of work.  I had 17 years on the railroad when they shut down.

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Everyone who worked for the railroad belonged to the UTU (United Transportation Union). This railroad was located in Cedar Grove, West Virginia.  The last day of operation for the railroad was April 3, 1993.  The locomotives were sold and shipped to the ARR in June of 1993.  All the coal hoppers were sold and shipped to Florida Light and Power Company in August of 1993.  The railroad was abandoned and all the track was removed about a year later.

As for me, I am now a supervisor for a railroad contract switching company called Railserve, Inc.  We do inplant switching for chemical plants, mills, etc. in about 60 different sites throughout the U.S. and Canada.  My particular location is at a Dupont plant in Belle, West Virginia.  We do all the switching and track maintenance for this plant.

 And yes, I still get behind the throttle from time to time.



© 1999 Terry Patrick