- - NC&O Railroad in G-gauge - -
The North Carolina and Ohio Railroad, is like other garden railroads G-gaugers have built, or are building in our backyards. It is a continuing project, and like most such hobbies has many ways to be involved. It is understood to be an adventure in creativity and in many cases a way to learn and share with others our view of the world of railroading.
Motivations for why we do this are as varied as those who are involved in the hobby, with endless stories from childhood fascinations with trains, to simply needing a hobby, why not try trains? Everyone has a special story to tell as to why?
So, in the case of the NC&O, it is a story of being consumed by early train watching, while my Dad was on the road as an owner-operator . . yep, he was a trucker . . a contrast of sorts, trains and trucking, but over all, I am fascinated with both . . and was lucky enough to not only spend lots of hours watching trains with my Mom, but also driving eighteen wheeler for a number of years, all just for fun.
Now, to the train part of this note; the NC&O RR is my G-gauge RR slowly taking shape in my backyard. It is nearly ready for limited operation, after several years of moving many tons of dirt and fill, ballast and digging a valley. I'm nearly ready to pour a concrete damn for the 'Ledo flood control project'.
Yes, it is a work in progress, but the journey is part of the fun, an expression of individual imagination, creativity and perhaps some daydreams that all who participate in our hobby express in our own, very personal, way. Our railroads are like a canvas, in which we show how we see the world and especially how railroading fits into our perception of the world around us. Our railroads in miniature are, in every sense, an art form . .
In the case of the NC&O, I decided to write a 'fantasy history' of its origin and development into what is becoming the eventual modern day, NC&O. Because I also write as a hobby, as some of our BSGR members are aware, it was natural to develop such a history, starting with when and where and why the business of railroading and mining began back in the late eighteen hundreds in a fantasy town known as, Ledo.
Ledo is a substantial town east of the Western Wilds by many miles, and lays between the civilized world of the east, and the scary and foreboding mountainous wilds far to the west. The town of Ledo is the primary reason for the development of the old Ledo Northern Railroad that fell on hard times and was eventually purchased by the newly formed, NC&O. How and why this all came about is the backbone of the, 'for fun spoof and fantasy story'.
The saga involves several characters, including Luther Barlow, an authentic mountain man; Samantha Barlow, Luther's darling and also most beautiful wife; Billy B. Boring, a geologist; Sheriff Gravel, a local and official know it all; and Teddy, an almost pet grizzly bear . . . and, one very important character known famously as, Big Chuck, without whom none of the railroading in the Western Wilds would have ever happened.
My story is written in four parts and depending on the judgment and choice of the BSGR's Web editor, may appear in sections in our BSGR official Web site at the discretion and judgment of the web master. In any case, it is written simply for fun and is an adventure into yet another less often explored facet of our broad hobby.
And so, it is with this brief introduction to the history and documentation (with tongue in cheek) of the origin and evolution of the NC&O RR and railroading in the Western Wilds, I hope you might enjoy another aspect of our unique hobby; telling it's individual history in story form. If this effort is successful, there maybe additional reports from the NC&O's corporate management public relations department. Such reports would be published in the Ledo Gazette for release to the BSGR editor and web master as available.
Finally, if at some point you might smile, or grin, perhaps find some point of enjoyment while reading this detailed and thorough, “Barlow – A Brief History” as originally and recently published in the Ledo Gazette, then my efforts will have been worthwhile.
End . . .
PART II OF IV
THE LEDO GAZETTE
BARLOW – A BRIEF HISTORY
Concerning Big Chuck, Its Development And Ultimate Demise
By Staff Reporter, 'Snaps' Wordsman
Part II of IV
In Part I of this very concise history, review and in depth analysis of mining in the mountains west of Ledo, the discovery of coal, in a region overlooking the south slope below Oscar's ridge, was documented in vivid life-like detail, and included a lot of other important stuff, too. We learned of a Mountain Man, one Luther Barlow, who discovered what became a locally famous mine, and proceeded to name it, and file a claim for the soon to be famous Digs.
The soon to be famous mine was located in a remote mountainous area, named Raffe's Ridge. The old records, found in a forgotten loft in what once was the horse stable attached to the One Shot saloon adjacent to the Gazette, confirmed Luther's claim, its location, and an innocuous comment about high grade coal and other peculiar substances that were unnamed in the original filing.
No one ever wondered, by the way, or questioned who found the old chest of documents. But local folk lore suggested it was one, Red Eye Wicker, a somewhat notorious horse thief of the times. He was never actually convicted of any thievery, claiming he sometimes tended to borrow certain animals, maybe on long term loan, with vague claims of eventually returning them. There was no record of any returns. No one ever saw him actually borrowing a steed, or even an occasional donkey, but again, the records of those raucous times are often little more than rumor.
No one knows what fate befell Red Eye, yet rumors and odd bits of scuttlebutt, to invoke a purely nautical term, suggested he eventually went west, perhaps even to Barlow . . . no one knew for sure. But, attentive readers, our slow order has been lifted, and we have a clear signal to enter the main. So, lets move on to the next important phase of our detailed history at authorized track speed . . .
So, concerning Big Chuck and its naming, after Luther had dispatched a hairy critter for an evening meal, and as unlikely as it might seem for the rough and tumble Mountain Man, Luther was deeply smitten by the necessary demise of the little beast that was the source of an ample supply of a tasty chuck steak. After all, the little critter was instrumental, or some might say essential, to the big guy's survival. In such a dire circumstance, there was no choice.
Luther had harvested the hairy critter and several of its relatives for his evening meal on that windy and stormy day back in the fall of eighteen eighty three. Then, he affectionately named his newly discovered digs, Big Chuck. Luther figured it a fitting tribute to the little beast, often known as a Wood Chuck, and several of his relatives, that would eventually make him a VIP . . er, very important person of some repute about town, and wealthy, too.
The act of naming his newly found digs was a curious and unique insight into the true character of the already, bigger than life, authentic Mountain Man. It seems in certain aspects, this totally real and macho man, was a closet softy, in spite of the image he presented to the world of weenies and thumb suckers back in Ledo . .
Now, Luther had duly registered his claim and made arrangements to begin digging for the high grade stuff that was eventually to make him a man of considerable means, and someone to be reckoned with over in Ledo, and other points down the rail line. It took a little time, but as the mine yielded up it's black gold, Luther became a sort of 'go-to' authority on most any topic one could conjure, that means imagine, for those less adept at English lingo. Even if Mr. Barlow was not schooled in anything except the famous and universal university, known to all as the 'school of hard knocks,' augmented with serious survival experience in the wilds, and add for good measure a smoothly amiable ladies man, he was considered by many as the 'The Man.'
Once Big Chuck was demonstrated to be worth mining, all sorts of really important stuff had to be arranged. There were engineering studies, survey work, finances for purchase of heavy equipment, housing for the initial band of sturdy miners, haul ways and tipples, living quarters for the bosses, horses, mules, and merchants who would run businesses in support of mining supplies, and other services for the community, like bars, hotels, and barbershops, along with proper provisions for ladies of the evening hours and such other incidentals as may present themselves to the organized and civil functioning of an authentic mining town.
Following Luther's find, preparations went on for most of the spring and summer of '84. Because to start, Luther had little hard money to finance his new endeavor, but with shear cunning and serious charm that was an undeniable trait of our authentic all man of the Western Wilds, few could resist his deep smile, and the curiously jolly arch of his right bushy eyebrow, in negotiating, financing, and acquiring special equipment for the extraction of black gold.
So, first excavations into the southeastern wall of Raffe's Ridge in late August of eighteen eighty-five, began in earnest. First shipments of coal began moving over the mountainous terrain by the tenth of January, eighteen eighty-six, in near blizzard conditions. But, by shear native toughness and the lucrative incentives to get first tonnages to the rail line over in Ledo, several hundred tons of very high grade anthracite was delivered and payment received.
But, of course dear attentive readers, this circumstance did not explain the natural charm exuding from Big Luther at nearly every moment. And, speaking of eyebrows, as we did in a previous paragraph, it might be noted, for accuracy in this highly detailed history, Luther's left eyebrow, was not bushy . . . no one ever asked him why, but upon inspection, at a distance, it seemed to be mostly missing!
It was a mystery not entirely resolved. But, with untold hours of research, this skilled writer found a snip-it of an article in an early Ledo Gazette of the times. It referred to a Mr. L. Barlow, a young strapping man of the wild country to the west who came to Ledo. He'd been badly wounded, was in a desperate way from want of food, water and loss of very red blood.
The brief article was penned by a Dr. T. R. Tough, the only saw-bones in Ledo at the time. It described treatment of a stalwart young man, one L.E. Barlow, who had ridden an old mule into town. In some unexplained way, said mule found the good Doctor's office and deposited Mr. Barlow by allowing him to fall from his perch on the sturdy beast, directly in front of good Doctor Tough's tiny office.
Later is was learned the faithful and talented animal, found grazing along the banks of No Name Creek, was none other than Raffe, Mr. Barlow's ever faithful and trusted companion and fellow adventurer in the the Western Wilds country. Indeed, it was the first thing muttered by Mr. Barlow as he regained his senses after several serious adjustments to his person by the good doctor. “Where's Raffe? By my oath, someone had better be tending to him, or there will be a heap of trouble!”
Now, in the interest of propriety, decorum, civility, not to mention respect for the tender ears of any ladies who might be within ear shot of Dr. Tough's tiny office, I can report, in the interest of complete and thorough documentation, not to mention impeccable attention to detail, our Mr. Barlow did invoke colorful adjectives not often heard on the streets of Ledo . .
Suffice it to say, one might get the feel of Mr. Barlow's exhortations, if one had spent a Friday or Saturday evening, or afternoon, down along the river. Yes, for some who might have patronized “Lucy's Lounge and Dance Hall, or Rita's Midnight On the River, would be well disposed to fathom the degree of complaints emanating from the good Dr. Tough's backroom operating room. In any event, Mr. Barlow as not happy.
The young mountain man had suffered greatly, and then some; was generally delirious and was said by the good Dr. Tough to have mumbled delirious nonsense about deep shadows, large hairy beasts, little men with long flowing beards, thin dancing spirits in flickering flames of campfires in the night; and other stuff too crazy to mention, according to accounts of the incident.
The brief article made no specific mention of the cause of multiple wounds, but reading between the several lines, which by the way, were very close together, one might surmise young Barlow had been pummeled by a bear, or tiger, or lion of more than gigantic proportions, or perhaps sturdy blows from a highwayman's crop. No matter; the several wounds had cost young Luther his left eyebrow. Yes sir-re, Mr. McGee . . . the hairy out crop just above Luther's left eye was shorn away as though swiped with a keen razor. . .
Ultimately, this visible mark and signature of manly combat, enhanced Luther's rugged countenance, adding to his already substantial mystique. It also seemed to augment his natural magnetism with a significant portion of the available, and unavailable, ladies of Ledo. This phenomenon was predictably
much to the frustration, chagrin and embarrassment of lesser men of the community, not to mention a number of wimpy, thumb sucking husbands, too.
But, dear readers, it's clear signals ahead, with the fireman shouting out confirmation to our engineer from the left side of the cab. So,with dry track and clear skies, let's move up and through the signal, ease out of the lead and onto the mains without spilling the soup. Now, if curiosity is allowed to flourish, there are always some folk with more than average curiosity who will want to know how Big Chuck progressed once real mining began. Was there any black gold? Was there any financial reward for Luther's efforts? It is completely natural for the curious and nosey to be inquisitive.
So, to answer frankly, the answer to all the questions posed, was a well orchestrated and enthusiastic, yes! For a time it was all excitement, and with first digs, the town of Barlow sprang up a few miles immediately to the west of the main staging and mining operations.
A hotel was built, with accommodations for Big Chuck's supervisors and critical engineering staff. As production got underway, so did the lavishness of accommodations for top management and staff, and especially for Luther. But as an aside, Luther didn't spend much time in the fancy apartment his management had designed for the big guy.
And of course, you may ask why. Because Luther was a true and honest and authentic man of the mountains and totally not used to the fancy ways of uppity city type accommodations. Consequently, when he was in town and using his apartment, he often brought his bed roll, yes, the same one he would use while trekking the wilds of Crazy Horse Mountain and other remote and mysterious areas even further afield.
Odd, quirky, strange . . . perhaps, yet Luther was the man with the mine. And he was the source of their livelihood. There is no record of anyone ever questioning his wild ways, at least as Big Chuck was providing bread and board, which we learn was eventually called to question . . . but that story is several stops down the line.
The hotel in Barlow was aptly named, Deep Digs and although not a large structure was adequately appointed for management visits, engineering staff, official inspectors, and the occasional visitors to the new mining town. Such visitors were usually engineering specialists, salesmen . . . the usual run of camp followers drawn by the potential for new business in the vicinity of the new mine. Of course, the Deep Digs provided hot water plumbing, and real indoor toilets! An excellent dining room, with the best liquor and steaks as any back in Ledo, for businessmen anxious to close a deal with Luther's management team. Venison and other sturdy fare from the wilds were also a popular and coveted feature of the Deep Digs establishment . . .
And Luther did not forget the social aspects of this remote and isolated town. He provided a quaintly executed balcony attached to the rear of the Deep Digs, accessible by a stairway located in an alleyway behind his finely appointed establishment. Astute observers, if they were by chance observing at the right times of day, might witness an occasional and especially handsome lady, in fine costume and coiffure (that means hair well attended to) drift into the discretely shrouded alleyway we've alluded to earlier.
Now, if one were truly, ah . . . attentive, one would note, that after an hour or two, perhaps three, said lady would re-appear retreating from said discretely shrouded alley, blushing and smiling coyly and seeming to tuck a fat little purse under her arm as she regained the street and it's rough wooden sidewalks. Yes, Luther had thought of most everything, including plans for a rail spur, if Big Chuck continued to produce as it seems it would, during its first year of production. In the beginning, mule trains were the first transporters of Big Chuck's black gold to Ledo. But, by the fall of eighteen eighty-eight it was confirmed production would soon outstrip transportation capacity, so Luther in true Mountain Man fashion, had already begun engineering studies propositioning (that means, let's make a deal) the existing railroad, the Ledo & Northern, that had a mainline operation out of Ledo and points west, to develop a dedicated line through the west mountains specifically to service Big Chuck and the burgeoning town of Barlow.
The proposed line would branch from the mainline of the Ledo & Northern Railroad, as it emerged from a cut below the foot hills of the Crazy Horse Mountains, turn southwest and curve through a remote and wilder than wild mountainous cut, known as Crazy Horse Pass. The single track would skirt the west end of Oscar's Ridge as it exited from Crazy Horse Pass. It would follow the grade along the south side of Oscar's Ridge, where The Ridge dropped to meet the expanse known famously as the South Slope.
Well, as we now know, Luther Barlow, his very superb engineering staff and his highly talented financial management team, were extremely persuasive. One might guess, although not at all recommended, that with due attendance to technical details, generous invitations to enjoy the delights of Barlow's ample hospitality as offered at the the Deep Digs hotel, had became a coveted invitation for those wishing to do business in Barlow.
Involved in such maneuvers and negotiations, there were what some might call, quietly agreed to, 'financial incentives' in the form of Big Chuck preferred stock, as well as generous portions of common stock in the new branch line railroad itself. Lines of credit were approved with smiles and hand shakes, bottles of Bourbon passed round, and without saying, access via the famed, and discretely mentioned alleyway leading to the 'social life' of Barlow.
Work began almost immediately, with first rail laid in a miserable blizzard, later described as one of the worst in recorded history, along with other descriptions, such as, 'wow, that was a doozy,' and 'nastier than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick,' not to mention, 'colder than a witch's er . . . broom stick.' But, by the saints, dear reader, it was December of eighteen eighty-eighty! I hope to tell ya, friends, and fellow history students of the far Western Wilds, what would one expect in Crazy Horse Pass in the Western Wilds at that time of year?
Never the less, survey and excavations in 'The Pass,' along with work on the approach grade, started where the Ledo & Northern came out of the excavations below Dead Pine Mountain. These efforts started in spite of the viscous, mean and really chilly winter weather. This branch line was to become known as the Barlow Branch, and is so referred to even into the modern day.
Work had started in Barlow, and simultaneously at the Ledo & Northern cut off into Crazy Horse canyon. All this in spite of blizzard conditions, piling snow, freezing temperatures, and, and well, just miserable conditions beyond anyone's memory. Completion of the new line to Barlow was finished in mid summer of eighteen eighty-nine.
Once the Barlow line was in service, other mining operations sprang up at higher elevations along this new rail line. These mines, namely Alto Verde, Hones Number One, Mercury and Gold Stripe, generated many tons of mostly coal, but also serious quantities of heavy metals such as gold and some exotic stuff, too. For several years, success of these mines contributed mightily to the early success of the rail line to Barlow, adding to the growing wealth and prosperity of our true and authentic Mountain Man.
Now this reporter, after extenuating, diligent and excruciatingly thorough efforts, uncovered a map, dated eighteen eighty-two, showing details of the completed branch line through the canyon leading to Crazy Horse Pass and eventually to loading and staging yards at Barlow. Several mine locations and tipples along the way are noted too, remnants of which are, in some cases, still visible today. At your gracious and kind indulgence, please refer to this rare document and it's descriptions of the L&N's branch line to Barlow, for an overview of this once famous rail line.
But, dear and attentive readers of this totally concise and thorough account of Barlow and Big Chuck, we see an approach signal ahead, suggesting we must proceed with caution. And as we all know, a yellow signal means a possible full stop indication in the next block. Yes, we might get a green indication allowing full authorized speed but, we must have our story under control just in case . . .
So, the approach yellow might be suggesting events are about to take a turn from the break-neck pace of this narrative, that has been describing Big Luther's success and good fortune thus far. Consequently, we'll keep a sharp eye, ease the throttle back a notch or two and be ready to dump air off the train line, just in case we get a full stop at the next block.
Time has now moved forward, and we're on schedule for the final run to the end of the line for this section of this highly abbreviated concise history of the rise and fall of Big Chuck and its owner, developer and self made entrepreneur, Mr. Luther Barlow.
Now, Luther's success did result in an astounding array of other, how shall we say, monikers . . . some less than appropriate for mixed company and attributed to his rapid rise to fame and wealth, at least over in Ledo. Such vocabulary was reserved, in most cases, for regular denizens (that means patrons) of the several pool halls, bars, and such. Most of those who might have indulged in this certain colorful means of expression were motivated by the Mountain Man's mercurial (that means rapid) rise to wealth.
In several well rumored cases . . . his ah, err . . . his success, so to speak with the ladies of Barlow, and in Ledo, whenever he might be in town on business, incurred many an unsavory reference to the whispered chatter among those who were jealous of Big Luther. One case in particular, to illustrate a point, involved a gent by the innocuous name of Thomas Tompkins, and in some cases also known as Timid Tommy. He was a day hand down on the No Name River docks.
Mr. Tom was said to have audaciously (that kinda means boldly) confronted Luther, one late evening, at a bar down by the No Name River. The issue was rumored to concern a certain Miss Beatrice Buttercakes, who was, according to Mr. Tompkins, “his woman,” or so he was disposed to explain to Mr. Barlow, in somewhat specific and spirited terms, one late summer evening in August of eighty-nine.
Now, loyal and perceptive students of this report, the consequences of such a confrontation with the likes of our totally authentic Mountain Man, are probably predictably obvious. But solely for illustration purposes, Timid Tommy, after several moments of verbal abuse and accusations, the detail of which you can easily imagine, felt compelled to inflict some level of physical disturbance on the person of Mr. Luther.
This effort by the hapless Timid Tommy, took the form of a gigantic swinging wind-up punch, the target of which was reported as Mr. Luther's chin, or perhaps nose. It was never clear just what the target was, because the intended punch was aborted by the game Mr. Tommy. In fact, the intended punch was doomed from the start of it's launch. And who would have guessed? Who could have predicted the ensuing event, that actually made the Gazette the next day? It was spectacular!
Luther was of course heavily engaged in very quiet and perhaps, intimate conversation, with the lovely Miss Buttercakes at the time Mr. Tompkins decided to intervene. Now hapless Tom, with the misguided intent of reclaiming possession of the comely young Miss from the Mountain Man, met total disaster of bodacious proportions.
The brief mention of the incident down at the Gazette described the trajectory of Mr. Tompkins as he was lifted off the floor, arched through the air in a beautiful arch. . .something to behold indeed . . . an example of a human failing to achieve flight, and a subsequent disastrous landing on an ornate buffet on the opposite side of the dining room.
The entire incident was elegantly described as a beautiful sight, with a noisy landing on a buffet used to hold glasses, plates and an assorted array of spirits for quick and immediate servicing of customer's tables with maximum efficiency. It was said, to everyone's delight, there was a brief round of applause for the spectacular encounter and the doomed Mr. Tom's less than aerodynamic flight and subsequent hard landing on the buffet, with all the attendant noise and confusion.
It was predictably a total calamity for Mr. Tom, and another example of the famed Mount Man's rough and tumble personality, when a perceived interloper was interfering with his legendary talent for pleasing such persons of the opposite gender . . in this particular case, the delectable young Miss Buttercakes.
In the streets, later it was said, Luther found Mr. Tompkins and demonstrated his true benevolent character. The hapless Mr. Tom was in a state of painful disarray. And although he didn't apologize, the Mountain Man, Mr. Luther, personally carried Mr. Tom to Doc Tough's office. There he gently deposited him in the good Doctor's operating room.
He then advanced a most generous sum to pay for the pugilisticly inept Mr. Tom's visit to the good Doctor. Luther instructed the good Doc Tough to administer any and all repairs of the extensive array of scuffs, abrasions and contusions the hapless Mr. Tompkins had incurred during his less than skillful landing on the ornate buffet.
Rumor also held that Big Luther staked Tom for some new clothes and helped arrange for Tom's and the lovely Miss Beatrice's wedding, later that fall. And who would have guessed, dear readers? Yep, Big Luther, offered Tom a job down at the mine as a wedding gift, if Tom was so disposed, of course.
Now, as one might guess, such a performance by Big Luther, only served to enhance his already legendary reputation, as not only a man of violent action when provoked, his very skillful ways with the ladies, his acumen as a businesses man, and as genuine explorer and entrepreneur. He was known in Ledo, and the Westward Mountains as an authentic Mountain Man, and if one were in dire straights, Luther might listen to one's plight with an open and sympathetic mind.
But, now we're seeing another yellow approach signal and we might begin to wonder what might be the reason for these restrictions . . . what might have happened in the signal blocks ahead, requiring us to reduce speed, and expect possible trouble on the rails?
So, let us proceed with caution . . . These stories of our fabled Mountain Man are, of course, only bits and pieces of gossip, best left to the streets, sewing circles, and other gatherings where people indulge in spates of hushed envy. But, in time, even the most apparently successful folks are, in the long run, may be not so 'lucky' after all.
In the specific case of Big Luther, those who expended much adrenaline, elevated body temperatures and blood pressure too, invoked much colorful language that would have shamed even a hardened fireman on a long grade. They might well have conserved their vitriol for important issues of the day. Perhaps an issue that was to be very consequential for all of Barlow and its denizens was about to unfold.
Who could have predicted the looming shadows of darkness about to overtake the wondrous, Big Chuck? Who indeed! Perhaps an alert engineer of the mining persuasion, an alert supervisor from the work underground, perhaps a bookkeeper in charge of weights and production figures; but no one seemed to read early tell-tale clues. Or, it might have been a bit of intimidation, or desire driven by human frailty and greed, to ignore certain information being provided by a staff too giddy with the generous proceeds of early production tonnage being extracted from the bowels of Big Chuck.
No one seemed to have 'come clean,' so to speak . . . but, bits, fragments and rumors of production records found in the forgotten attic of the Deep Digs Hotel, was stark documentation of events that spelled big trouble afoot. The Deep Digs, which by the way, was the away from home, home of the chief comptroller of mining operations and Big Chuck's chief financial officer, when he was in Barlow. This famous structure survived some later unfortunate events, we shall soon describe to you, the attentive readers of this concise history. But, back to the story.
The records began to show Big Chuck was not entirely healthy, indeed he, Chuck, was not feeling well at all, if one were to read the real data accumulating weekly from the production reports . . . But, one person did . .Stories abound, (that means there were a lot of stories) confirming a very important gent who was affectionately known as Benny the Bean Counter. Curiously and coincidentally, Benny's real handle was, Benjamin Looter. Eventually there was no choice; he had to provide a summary of the running status of Big Chucks financial situation to Luther and the many stock holders in the Big Chuck endeavor.
Well, that was the end of it! It was 'plain and super simple,' to quote an article of those times published over in Ledo. Benny couldn't hide the production figures, costs and dwindling revenue intake from Big Chuck's fabled coal seam. The bottom line, actually the coal seam, had diminished, to a mere six inches of black gold and had narrowed to a mere twenty foot wide seam.
Within the last two weeks of mining, the seam narrowed at an alarming rate . . . with each day's production, or lack there of, producing mixed low grade tailings and a poor quality product. The wondrous Big Chuck had given his best.
Yet, the story of the demise of Big Chuck was not quite finished. Now the end had come, and quite suddenly, with clues and signals loud and clear to those in the hole. As one might imagine, and we can imagine quite a lot, there were some nasty events following that final admission by the management, in particular, one Benjamin Looter. We must now document the circumstances that led to a total catastrophe, if we are to provide a complete and very accurate history of Barlow.
To begin with, Benny was a 'no show' at the meeting where financial up-dates were to be provided to the main man, Mr. Luther . . . and to the attending holders of paper (that means stocks and shares) in the once mighty Big Chuck. No doubt about it, our Mr. Benny Looter was in the wind.
Needless to say, there was consternation, accompanied by dismay and frustration, attended by subsequent spirited and unsavory references to Benny's heritage; his beady eyes, questionable smile, and green visor that were his perpetual signature persona. By the time the crowd had duly vented, it was noticed Mr. Barlow, too, had vacated his high perch at the podium and effectively vanished.
With reality over taking Big Chuck and its immediate demise, once the news was out, the larger consequences were all too predictable . . . even for the most humble of the miners, who had spent a major portion of their lives in the dark, not to mention untold aches and pains and sundry other ailments, digging and loading black gold in the darkness many hundreds of feet underground. One might imagine the situation was immediately dire. The disappearance of the traditional five feet thick seam that extended for nearly five miles in either direction of the main tunnel, and extending under Raffe's Ridge for nearly four miles, was a jaw dropping calamity, not to mention a major shock, and a disappointment of Titanic magnitude!.
Yep, and now it was plain and oh, so very simple as reality often is . . . the mighty Big Chuck was finished. The unthinkable, the end, dear readers and attentive students of history in these western regions, had come suddenly, or so it seemed. The end of Big Chuck translated into a shockingly sudden and spectacular demise of Barlow, too, as we will soon document in the following concisely penned paragraphs to follow!
It was definitely odd, in certain respects, but the slowly diminishing output of the once generous Big Chuck, was slowing. To the most astute of the miners, and of course, to some of the management, such as Mr. Looter, there were tell-tale signs. Yet, the wily Mr. Looter was most adept, as certain men of the double entry spread sheet are, at shall we say, casting some level of mist or fog over actual production tonnages, and consequent revenue generated. Simply put, Mr. Looter was a master at bamboozling, not to mention snookering, certain of Big Chuck's creditors, indeed, perhaps maybe, just maybe, even Mr. Luther Barlow, of mountain man fame, to boot!
This circumstance was not smart. As we shall soon see, skillful bamboozling, there seems no better term, seemed to extend Big Chuck's life for nearly two years . . . then at an ever accelerating pace, the whole operation fell in on itself, as though major and key cribbing in a critical tunnel, simply failed under the strain. It was a mess, a total disaster . . . no tonnage, no revenue, and rapidly accumulating bills, finally surpassed even Benny's crafty book cooking skills . . .
On that fateful day, as I have already noted, Luther seemed to inexplicably disappear from the monthly financial status meeting, in spite of a thorough search of the streets of Barlow. Hours later a message was received by Telegraph Operator, Sparks Spenser, over in the telegraph office near the rail yard. A copy of this curious document was discovered, by this attentive documenter of details, in the stash of documents found with financial records mentioned earlier. In simple minimalist language, upon being given the news, Luther had ordered the immediate closing of all mine operations and related activities. He gave specific instructions and orders to Chief Engineer, Eugene Digs, to carry out the business of shutting down Big Chuck immediately upon receipt of said telegram. Clear the mine of all personnel, seal the several entrances . . . lock all company buildings. It was simple. Operations at Big Chuck had ceased and the property sealed and locked. There was no further discussion.
And with that order, Barlow died too. The immediate and specific consequences were spectacular! The nearly one hundred and fifty miners, who were the main stay of production and support, stormed out of the mine as soon as the word was passed. Those who were not in the mine stormed out of wherever they were when they got the word. Some, who had gotten off the late afternoon shift, were tipping some brew at the Deep Digs Hotel. Many were in well developed stages of inebriation when they received the spectacular, if not totally devastating, and shockingly sudden news. They also stormed from someplace, wherever they were, into the streets and proceeded to become uncommonly rowdy by any measure at all . . .
Now, this mass movement of humanity into the somewhat restricted confines of Barlow's main street was not at all a good sign. And we know, whenever large numbers of folk begin storming, one can not predict the consequences of such spirited activity with any certainty. And such was the case in Barlow that very afternoon. When the finality of their circumstances filtered through an already whiskey induced haze, they were universally incensed, and ready for mischief on a grand scale.
In printable diplomatic language, without resort to an unduly colorful colloquial expression that translates in the common tongue to, 'totally urinated-off,' the residents of Barlow were on the move. The whole town, including even a significant share of the women folk, who were upon occasion prone to spates of unlady-like decorum under certain circumstances, were also starting to storm with some gusto. Now, this being one of those particular certain circumstances, the ladies of Barlow had taken immediate and noisy affront to the suddenness of the developing calamity.
Within moments the entire town, miners and tradesmen, merchants, wives, children of all ages, and a motley collection of camp followers, had more or less gathered their collective wisdom, probably more accurately described as, seething unbridled wrath, mixed with boiling rage. This visibly and audibly upset collection of humanity stormed out of the Deep Digs and down Main Street and up side streets. And as they stormed, they began to loot and burn each building as they came to it. The storming and mayhem proceeded unabated for most of the evening and into the night, until Barlow was reduced to a smoky glowing cinder.
On the second day after the calamity that was the end of Big Chuck and the once preposterously prosperous Barlow, only pyres of smoke spiraled up in an otherwise quiet morning. Only a bright sun still low over Raffe's Ridge cast long shadows down the burnt to rubble strewn main street. Yep, there was no doubt whatsoever! Barlow was finished.
This legendary town, this town of such fame, was suddenly reduced to nothing . . just smoldering and smelly rubble . . and too, so were most of the inhabitants. They were no where to seen, augmenting the feeling and definition of the word . . 'desolate' . . .Within a week, most who had any loot at all, had taken the last train that had brought in three passenger cars and a baggage car, having been alerted to the tragedy by urgent streams of telegraph messages heroically, and also valiantly, sent by the stalwart, Mr. Sparks Spencer, the ever dutiful telegraph operator who kept Barlow in touch with the outside more civilized world over in Ledo, nearly one hundred miles to the East .
It was said, Sparks stayed at his key until smoke from the conflagration, and finally flames, drove him from his the tiny telegraph office located just west and north of the town. The valiant, dedicated, and loyal as a puppy, Mr. Sparks, signed with this final message, before staggering out of the tiny smoke filled office, grasping a single artifact in his sooted hand. He was able in the last few seconds before he disconnected his telegraph key, to send . . . . . “Smoke, flames advancing on my station brk . . Barlow in total flames brk . . crowd leaving by any means available brk . . will attempt return to Ledo soonest depending on transport brk . . expect to lose line ou . . . .”
It was Sparks' last message . . . ending in mid word, most likely due to flames destroying the telegraph lines and poles out of Barlow that followed the rail line west of town through Crazy Horse Pass. Records do show Mr. Spencer did make it back to Ledo, with visible abrasions, contusions, scrapes and in bad need of a hot bath. Yep, and he smelled really bad too, according to Doc Tough, after he'd been examined . . . Mr. Sparks debriefed with the local news elements and then, he too, as often happens, disappeared into the shadowed mists of history, never to be heard of again.
Finally, it was true, the town lay a smoldering smelly ruins in the aftermath of the bad day at Big Chuck and a worse day for the famous mining town of Barlow, now thought of as the infamous town of Barlow. But, as is often the case, a few odd souls lingered on, at least for a few days. And, it is because there were a few, for whatever reason, who tarried a spell in the burnt out ruins of the once famous town, that we can know a tiny smidgen of what took place in what was once, Barlow. And once again, the important information focused on our favorite of all Mountain Men, our familiar and oh, so very famous friend. You, dear readers, of course know of whom I speak!
One of the lingering stalwarts who survived the melee (which means confusion and turmoil), was Boom Boom Benson. His friends and associates simply referred to him as, Boom Boom. He had been the boss of the explosives crew, hence his predictable moniker. Now, without belaboring the point, but in the interest of total accuracy in this thorough documentation of Barlow's fate, Mr. Boom Boom was a self proclaimed and practicing expert on a most common concoction known simply as, whiskey . . . It was a most peculiar situation, but Mr. Boom Boom Benson had not destroyed himself by unintended explosions, or had he injured anyone else with the Nitro during his entire, mostly inebriated career. Who would believe it?
It is, of course, only speculation, but Mr. Boom Boom's incentive to linger on in the destroyed town, was to ensure none of the Big Dig Hotel's liqueur supply was not uselessly left to marauding bandits, drifters and other unworthy prowlers not to mention the simply curious. And so, Mr. Boom Boom, and one or two others who felt compelled to assist Boom Boom in disposing of Big Digs' ample supply of food and beverage in a properly efficient and dignified way, proceeded to clean up the bar area in the Big Digs. They concentrated on the spacious dining area and kitchen.
In the process, these several dedicated miners prepared the kitchen, and the best of the rooms that had been used by the top brass during their stays on company business. And one of the curious efforts made by these obviously gracious, benevolent and dedicated gentlemen, was to clean up all of the scattered papers and journals and records, notes and such . . that had been hastily abandoned by the famed, Mr. Benny Looter, and by our esteemed and courageous Mountain Man, of whom you know we speak in this concise documentation of Western Wilds history of Barlow too. . .
So, with this final brief explanation of how your intrepid investigator was able to piece together, in excruciating detail, the fate of Big Chuck and Barlow, this section of the history is concluded. The final sections of this comprehensive compendium concerning the historic mining area, west of Ledo, sets the scene for the final detailed documentation of the newly created and soon to be famous NC&O Railroad.
End . . .
Records, Documents and History' department of the North Carolina & Ohio Railroad in G-gage . . . a division of Beckwith Heavy Industry's, aka, BHI
PART III OF IV
THE LEDO GAZETTE
BARLOW – A BRIEF HISTORY
Concerning Big Chuck, Its Exploration and Return To Glory
By Staff Reporter, 'Snaps' Wordsman
Part III of IV
Date Line - New Barlowton, somewhere in the Western Wilds. Previously, in this exquisitely detailed, elegantly written and precise history of the old mining town of Barlow, attentive readers of this four part expose have learned the origin of Big Chuck coal mine, that renowned source of black gold in the far reaches of the mountains to the west of Ledo. Also, students of history have been introduced to its bigger than life founder, Mr. Luther Barlow, authentic and fabled true mountain man of no small reputation. Vivid details of the catastrophic demise of the once proud, prosperous and productive coal mining town once known as Barlow, have been discussed in excruciatingly delightful, and heart breaking detail.
To add an important detail, we've been introduced to the consequent establishment of a branch line rail link from the old and now defunct, Ledo Northern Railroad, that operated to the north of the mountainous region known as the Crazy Horse Mountain Range. Even at peak production, the branch line to Barlow, did not have an official name, other than the utilitarian and romantically uninspired, Barlow Branch.
Wild screeching flames, with Gi-normous billows of black and white smoke, and ash, too, the the likes of which had never been seen in the region by man, nor beast, or even birds, snakes, and earthworms, consumed the now defunct and incinerated old mining town. Eventually the cataclysmic conflagration was quenched by rains, snow, winds, sun and stuff, leaving only scared outlines of the main streets and a few ash-stained foundations. It was a sorry mess.
Eventually, with time, the entire region fell into obscurity, remembered only in legend and song that paid tribute to the famous Mountain Man and Big Chuck mine. Weather of many years had long worked its magic on the ruins of the once pinnacle of prosperity and progress, located in a desolate and unknown area of the Western Wilds. And the once busy branch rail line,too, had been largely consumed by Mom Nature, leaving little reason, or means, for anyone to venture into the wild country that was once our famed Mountain Man's favorite playground.
As noted, much of Barlow had disappeared, having been overgrown with trees and brambles of an especially nasty biting nature. Brush and lesser animals such as woodchucks, fox and other wily critters of the wild, inevitably reclaimed the region. Even the immediate area around the old mine entrance was not spared it's eventual obscurity.
Officials, meaning those adept at pretending to know what they're doing, and who often insist their wobbly claims, prognostications, projections and not to mention, their uninformed opinions to be true, made rudimentary efforts to construct a tall fence across the entry to Big Chuck's ample mouth. It too, had quickly become heavily overgrown with natural plants and prickly vines.
Within a few years, Big Chuck's entrance was all but lost from view to civilized man, and even to those uncivilized wanderers who dared to venture into the wilds. For all practical considerations, and with few clues to the glory days of Luther and his once renowned, Big Chuck, the whole region was consigned to the annals of obscure pages of history and lore, having returned to the wild, much as Luther Barlow had seen it and called it his playground in earlier more innocent times.
Astute readers, as is the case with those who regularly ply these most skillfully crafted pages of the GAZETTE, would predict, that inevitably the rail line, the very famous Barlow Branch, would deteriorated and fade from popular current memory. For a time, it was not entirely so, for in some places scavengers had pulled up the rails, and in certain other locations, even taken many of the sturdy timbers from low bridges and cribbing that spanned creeks and streams meandering down from the higher reaches of Oscar's Ridge.
Within a very few years, small trees and brush had vigorously taken hold, starting a pleasant and undisturbed life between the remaining ties that had begun to sink and degrade with disuse and ultimate neglect. For all practical purposes, the old branch line ceased to function, with only the grade bearing evidence of what was once a flourishing rail route to prosperity and fabled wealth for many who supported Big Chuck and its attendant needs.
If one were to venture out, as some stalwarts are want to do, such as the likes of hikers, explorers, hunters and campers, one might see and explore a number of other abandoned mines along the once fabled, Barlow Branch. But once Big Chuck failed, and Barlow was burnt to a sorry, pathetic and cold cinder, various mines in Crazy Horse Pass found it difficult to generate enough tonnage, of either outbound ore, or inbound supplies, to sustain rail service provided by the old Ledo Northern branch line. It was simply a matter of profit and loss that even a mule skinner could understand . . no profit, no mining resulted and consequently . . . no work for diggers in the deep, or mule skinners and railroaders.
The line, what little remained near its junction with the old Ledo Northern, did continue to service a few mines, in spite of greatly reduced tonnages. A few of the marginally profitable lingered on, as mentioned in Part II of this most elegantly penned history of the region. Rum's Deep, Alto Verde, Hone's Number One, Tomo Grande, Snell's Grade and Mercury struggled on for a few more years. But, as one could not predict, fate, or just bad karma, would visit a final and most devastating and totally unpredictable event on the marginal old branch line.
Yes, valued, inquisitive and esteemed readers, in the winter of '15, the several mines, not too far from the Ledo cut-off, were still producing small quantities of gold, silver, and some lead. For a time, they contributed to the war effort, critical materials for American industries, supporting the Dough Boys in the European campaign. Once the 'war to end all wars' ended in nineteen fifteen, some limited mining lingered on. But bad karma, for want of a reasonably off the shelf excuse, signaled an unpredictable event.
In the spring of '16, an avalanche of a most humungus and even larger proportions, slithered and slid, slipped and rumbled down the east side of the south end of Dead Pine Mountain's. Briefly stated, as is the habit of this most elegant recorder of history of the Western Wilds, it was a nasty slide, a true Jim Dandy for sure, in every sense of the word. Now, Dead Pine Mountain, was to the south of a few of the remaining mines and directly west of Crazy Horse Mountain. In as few words as possible, it was a hugely stupendous mess of prodigious and even larger proportions . . . to put is simply!
Spring snow melt and heavier than usual rains had combined to bring down a soupy, soggy and gooey sliding mass of dirt, sand, trees, rocks, and other stuff upon the already stressed Barlow Branch. The huge batch of icky stuff totally covered the grade for five hundred feet or more, and by the time the soup came to a halt, it had partially rolled up the west side of Crazy Horse Mountain itself, and as one might predict, if one was into predicting, the soup reversed itself, and slid back down Crazy Horse Mountain, coming to a stop in the valley. Well folks, let me tell you, it was a quirk that doubled the dept of the muck to nearly three hundred feet, completely blocking the valley between Crazy Horse and Dead Pine. Consequently, the rail grade that was once the famed Barlow Branch disappeared in the soup.
It was a bodaciously terrible mess! The goopy concoction not only covered the Barlow Branch grade, it blocked the canyon between Crazy Horse Mountain and Dead Pine Ridge. The big soupy slide spelled the sudden and immediate, 'end of the line' so to speak, for the fabled Barlow Branch connecting Big Chuck, Barlow, and the several mining operations along the slopes of Dead Pine Mountain, to Ledo and the distant, more or less civilized outside world.
Now, after describing these multiple calamities (that means lots of really bad stuff happening) that closed access to the Wilds east and south of Oscar's Ridge, history and any semblance of written records of the region, seemed to stop. That part of the wild, including Crazy Horse Mountain, lay isolated, desolate and abandoned, for many a year. Such isolation and abandonment led inevitably to much superstition, stories, tales and strange rumors, with only hearsay evidence from anyone claiming to have actually ventured into the Wilds, in any recent times.
Such lore was not prompted by any known provocation, yet alleged incidents surfaced following events oft spoken of only in guarded whispers, down along darker streets and cafes in Ledo. Once the Barlow branch was totally abandoned, few even dared consider venturing into that seemingly unlucky land of flames, smoke, wild beasts and disastrous mud slides . . it was truly perceived as, the Wild Country.
None of the faint of heart, and even those who swaggered about in the late hours, became quietly timid when conversations turned to explorations much past the old Barlow cut-off leading into Crazy Horse Canyon. Dark rumors, the origins of which were never certain, spoke of heart rending moaning spirits of those lost in the Alto Verde mine explosion of '05. There were dark stories of spirits and ghosts of some who were lost in the flames that consumed Barlow; and tales of those lost in the collapse of Mercury that buried thirty-three men, whose bodies were never recovered, not to mention the deep fire in Rum's Deep that burns to this day, nearly twenty-five hundred feet below the surface. Rumors by those who claim to have explored in those regions insist if one dares approach the main elevator shaft of Rum's Deep, echoing screams can still be heard of those souls trapped deep in the smoldering darkness below. Such is the tone and flavor of stories concerning the Western Wilds and the played out old mines of the region . .
These haunting tales of mining disasters, dark rumors and mysterious lore, were discussed in such famed culinary establishments of the time as Gene's Cafe, over on the Sylvania Central & Ohio RR. This ever popular culinary establishment, situated close to the main line of the Sylvania tracks in the commercial district, was reputed (that means alleged or, if that word is too much for you, how about rumored . . for those without a Thesaurus) to be one of the finer eateries in the northern region.
The popular Cafe was also renowned for its originating much scuttlebutt, chatter, not to mention stories regarding most anything, including the famed and tragic Crazy Horse Mountains . . . this, in spite of it's lack of close proximity to the Western Wilds, being over one hundred and ninety three and three eights miles measured along the NC&O's bridge mainline to the South.
And concerning Gene's Cafe, this documentary would be sadly, and depressingly neglectful, and unprofessional too, if as an aside, the quality of the culinary delights at the Cafe were to be inadvertently and unprofessionally overlooked . . . Of special note, credit plus due fanfare for the exquisitely baked and tasty Elderberry Pie and the best mug of Jo on the NC&O's northern division should be mentioned in this complete history of the region.
Good golly, dear readers . . a true adventurer is not qualified to indulge in the dissemination of local lore, until thoroughly stuffed with Elderberry Pie, two scoops of ice cream, flavor of your choice, (with vanilla being most popular) and have quaffed a sturdy mug, or two, of the best Jo on the northern division. Of course, this culinary delight is to follow a most delicious Bear Burger accompanied by a heaping pile of Brussels Sprouts and Bacon, skillfully sauteed with onion and garlic, as a most fabulously healthy side for the seriously health conscious railroader . . !
In addition to Gene's Cafe, there were other locations too, spawning news, stories and inevitably rumors of old. So, not to be outdone with respects to local history, was the bodaciously popular lunch counter in Bony Bob's Finer Fish Fillets near the flood control damn east of Ledo. And there was also Blinky Morgan's Masterful Marinades near the old Barlow Branch cut-off. Blinky offered all manor of tasty morsels, said to have been harvested, so to speak, in the valley regions between Crazy Horse Mountain and Dead Pine Ridge.
No one knew for sure, just how Blinky was able to acquire these delectable morsels of culinary composition. Actually, none were eager to know just what those yummy 'steaks' were harvested from . . but they were legendary in the annals of culinary delights, with rumors that some of the recipes graced the menus on the private business car operated exclusively by the NC&O. Who could say, except it was totally known, an invite to travel with the CEO, known far and very wide throughout the system as, The Man, on that special car. Such an invite was a coveted experience and highly sought after!
So, there were all manner of stories and tales of the older times, complete with the likes of Big Luther Barlow, his mine, his mule and such . . not to mention the fabled lady in his life, the most luscious and adorable and comely and handsome and err, … well dear reader you get the idea . . of course it was Samantha, who could drive a rail spike into a telegraph pole at a hundred yards with her Winchester 44-40. Now that's some shootin' folks . . and Samantha was a most feminine and alluring lady to boot, especially when Big Luther returned from forays into the Wilds in search of stuff . . .
All who remembered and reminisced, were fearful and cowered when such stories were whispered over whiskey in the local pool halls, smoky emporiums and most gatherings of more civilized citizens of the region. Yet, many secretly yearned to have been a part of the rough and tumble events that surrounded Big Chuck, Luther and Samantha Barlow and of course, Crazy Horse Mountain.
As one might expect, it was mostly young men, both the big talkers and a very few, who were real men, who spoke of these rough and ready times. There were also some who were thumb sucking mama's boys . . and even a few more hardy ladies, err . . those who were of a spirited nature, we might say, who listened to these men and repeated the stories of long ago with notes of wistfulness in their eyes and voices when the legendary beautiful Samantha's name crept into the whispers . . .
And then there were the wild horses of Crazy Horse Mountain. These legendary steeds were alleged to be guardians of many of the long abandoned mines in the region between the Dead Pine Mountains and Crazy Horse Mountain. Lore suggested they could be ridden only by the spirits of those forgotten souls lost in mining accidents of the time . . and those who managed to escape the inferno that was Barlow, but who were forever lost in the wilds along Oscar's Ridge in their attempts to walk away from the conflagration, with their hopes of finding their way back to Ledo.
Some blamed these powerful equestrian spirits of the mountains for refusing to be ridden out of The Wilds, but none could be sure . . Often, it was said it was Luther's wife, Samantha, whose spirits guarded these western regions from those who would disrupt these pristine wild regions . . no one could say for sure. But, those who whispered, talked of the sounds of wild horses on warm summer's nights, and in cold clear winter's days, calling in concert with the white wolves of the high ridges and steep mountain slopes, to those lost souls in the depths of the abandoned mines.
Some told other stories of these wild horses, saying they could not be caught nor tamed. These legendary animals were said to dwell in the higher reaches of Crazy Horse Mountain near the once lucrative Gray Lantern mine . . . but oddly none of the story tellers had actually ever seen or met anyone who could verify the existence of the the Gray Lantern.
Now, the Gray Lantern, in particular, was thought to be one of Luther Barlow's private mines, founded after he'd established Big Chuck and was on the prowl for other adventures and riches in the secluded Western Wilds. Yet, fewer than few would dare explore there for fear of encountering Luther himself, his legendary pair of 44's, his personal steed, Quick Shot, and his mighty dog, Ripper.
Rumors and perhaps embellished stories, fueled by the bottle, said his personal animals, or 'familiars,' referred to as such in some quarters by those conversant with the mysteries of the occult and eastern mysticism, were said to defend Luther to the death! No one wanted to test these rumors, or explore the further story that Big Luther Barlow, might have a wife who lived on Crazy Horse Mountain. It was said, by those who were serious students of the Western Wilds, that Samantha handled a Winchester like a man and was not to be trifled with at the expense of being duly ventilated and left for the White Wolves. She tended Big Luther's farm lands, and cared for those wondrous wild horses only Luther and Samantha were able to tame and commune with.
And there were other legends concerning a giant grizzly bear, said to be a friend and familiar of only Luther himself. Of course, no one knew for sure, but speculation had it, the bear's name was Ted . . . yep, unlikely as it seems, those who told such stories were adamant, (that means totally convinced, for any who may not be wordsmiths) that Teddy stood a protective watch with the White Wolves over Luther and the lovely Samantha and their wild domain.
Others told strange tales of marauding wolf packs. As we've mentioned earlier in this compendium of knowledge, these wolves were legendary, and known as the White Wolves of Crazy Horse Mountain. Two in particular, they were always in pairs, were said to guard Luther's cabin located in a hidden valley somewhere up on Crazy Horse Mountain.
Legends reported they could be heard howling and baying in the night, especially when the moon was near full, or when they sensed some prowling stranger who might be so mindlessly bold, and a total dumb head, as to intrude into the mountain realm that was Luther's and Samantha's, without their specific invitation.
In some way, no one could honestly say for sure, those two guardian wolves in particular were also especially attached to Luther and darling, and especially beautiful, Samantha. Rumors suggested the two guardians were named Howler and Growler. Or, it might have been, Bill and Bess, or Hazel and Frank; no one knew for sure, and in spite of this reporter's supreme efforts to document this critical detail, alas, there seems to be no written record of eye witness accounts. Actually, no one dared to venture into the realm of Luther and Samantha, high up in the mysterious land of Crazy Horse Mountain . . it was that kind of thing . . .
So, there was no one to dispute the many claims, even in a whiskey frame of mind, in fact no one ever dared sully forth into those mysterious wilds; and the few that did . . well, err . . they'd not been heard from once they'd left the old cut-off and headed into the canyon. Most tried to follow the old grade, or what was left of it . . but the old Ledo Branch grade did not suffer intrusion lightly.
And now most valuable students of history, and ardent fans of the world of Railroading in the Western Wilds, we must take the lead to the coaling tower and water tank. Conductors will advise passengers they may depart their coaches and stretch on the platform . . and yes, there will be time for a few pictures, a sandwich in the 'Wayfarer's Tasty Tarts” eatery just at the north end of the platform.
Be sure to listen for the signal to return to your appointed luxurious car. The signal from the head-end will be sounded twice as four short blasts on the whistle . . do not tarry, or you may be waiting forlornly for tomorrow's train . . and worst of all you will miss the next totally engrossing and exciting, final bits of this captivating history of Big Chuck and it's ultimate fate to be documented in the final installment, Part IV, of this compendium of history concerning the the NC&O Railroad.
Published by the 'Records, Documents and History' department of the North Carolina & Ohio Railroad in G-gage . . . a division of Beckwith Heavy Industry's, aka, BHI
G. Gordon Beckwith
END.......PART III OF IV
AND NOW, PART IV OF IV.
THE END OF BARLOW
THE LEDO GAZETTE
BARLOW – A BRIEF HISTORY
Concerning Big Chuck, Its Exploration and Return To Glory
By Staff Reporter, 'Snaps' Wordsman
Part IV of IV
Date Line - Ledo Gazette branch office, New Barlowton. Well, dear readers and fellow students of the Western Wilds, we're ready to retake the main and have received the green to proceed. Our journey back into history is nearing its end. We ended the last episode of this narrative with bits and pieces of the situation in the Wilds following the demise of Big Chuck and what followed in the long years after the eventual abandonment of the old Ledo branch.
Skillfully penned glimpses into the final days and events surrounding Big Chuck, Barlow and the end of access to the wilds were documented in painfully vivid detail, concluding with rumors, folk lore, and tales of those who, in effect, protected the Crazy Horse and Dead Pine mountain's secrets. These tales circulated, mostly when the sour-mash whiskey was flowing in bars, pool halls and other points of gatherings down along the banks of No Name Creek and other such establishments of unsavory reputation in the darker parts of Ledo. Such was the flavor of the times in those dark days following the War to End All Wars . . .
Yet, in later years, one might still hear a tale or two of the wilds, while eating pie and drinking coffee and dunking tasty donuts over in the lunch rooms and diners along the MM&G right of way, three hundred miles to the north west of Ledo . . Ultimately stories would persist, even as years past and the world of mining and railroading advanced into more recent times. So, let us move ahead . . . explore what has become of the Crazy Horse Mountain region and subsequent sale of the old Ledo Northern RR to the modern day NC&O RR.
So, time has moved ahead dear serious students of history and the Wilds . . as it predictably has a habit of doing, with, or without our agreement. The details of the famed sale are not pertinent (that means not important) to our immediate tale. The fireman has called white over green . . and the engineer echoed “White over green”. Such a signal gives us permission to move at authorized track speed and move into the block, and the following block too . .
Once new management was in control, modernization and up grading of the old Ledo Northern began in earnest. A new name was selected to reflect the whims of the intrepid engineering group now in charge. Actually, the President/CEO/Chief Engineer/and all other duties combined, chose the name . . and because the President/CEO/Chief Engineer is the Man . . .well, you know who I mean . . there was essentially no discussion . . no dissension . .no mulling, no cogitation, and absolutely no wavering or wobbling or waffling . . nor was there any whining, or other forms of indecisive prattling!
The aggressive new management team of the North Carolina and Ohio Railroad, or NC&O Railroad company, also designated NCOX, was dedicated to doing really big business and rapid expansion. The purchase, in the late 1980's, swallowed the entire old LNRR, lock stock and barrel . . . to use a phrase for which if taken literally, seems to make some sense, but probably not in any modern context.
The purchase included rights and remains of the fabled Barlow Branch lead to the old ghost town we affectionately knew as Barlow. It also included the nearly fifty square miles in the center of which was located the old town.
The chief incentive for the purchase of the worn out old LNRR, was to modernize with the prime function being a bridge coal road with connections to the MM&G RR three hundred miles due west, and other lines to the north.
Now the MM&G supported a number of major industries, many of which depended on shipments of very raw materials from the east coast and mining operations to the east of Ledo. It was this fail-proof business model that spurred the NC&O's intrepid management to proceed in earnest to develop the NC&O as a vital bridge from the east to points in the west.
Examination of records reveled the old Ledo Northern Railroad could not generate sufficient revenue to modernize and meet demands of ever increasing traffic. Plus there was the contingency of work on a new bridge to span the output of the newly initiated Ledo Flood control project recently under construction by the Army Corp of Engineers.
The Brass Hats, were ravenously hungry for new revenue to support and expand their new venture. The new bridge allowed for heavier trains and consequently more revenue efficiency than was possible on the old LNR . . new grade alignment to reduce limiting grade in the western mountains near the Barlow cut off also increased efficiency of the new railroad. There were also prospects of connection to other regional railroads, increasing the importance of the bridge function of the new NC&O venture into future.
The NC&O's new management had total faith in technology and with it, they had no qualms about their most excellent plans for total success. So, in the board rooms, those who were not intimidated by stories of spooky spirits, mountain men, white wolves, bears and the totally strange stories about the likes of, Blinky Morgan, decided to venture into the old mining region we all know per our past skillfully penned and highly detailed discussions and descriptions of the Western Wilds.
Hence, with new mining techniques and a growing demand for hither to unknown exotic materials for specialty industries to the west, a decision was made to go into those old mining areas once serviced by the old Ledo Northern along the abandoned Barlow Branch grade.
Ultimately the quest for special stuff, would include the abandoned and played out, Big Chuck mine itself. Legends and folklore were dismissed, with the old stories and legends forgotten and no longer told in the modern day sports bars, biker bars, and other institutions of social gatherings . .
As we know, Big Chuck, the town of Barlow, and various other mining operations of earlier times had been abandoned. It was said, most of the primitive mines of the late eighteen hundreds along the Barlow Branch, including the infamous, Big Chuck were played out. The demise of these old mines was not much heralded, with owners simply walking way from their digs, leaving only what they couldn't carry in their kit bags and pickup trucks. Little effort was made to secure the old digs, with nature slowly working its inevitable magic powers to reclaim and repair the environmental wounds inflicted by ambitiously greedy miners and their quest for riches, in spite of the critical nature of the important raw materials they supplied to the growing nation . .
So, the less than superstitious nature of the very hard core new management and owners of the NC&O, and its even more dedicated hard hated engineers, were not dissuaded (which means, for those somewhat challenged by the king's English, they were not worried, put off, concerned, or scared) by such poppycock. Hence, a crack exploratory team was formed up to deploy into the abandoned regions surrounding Crazy Horse Mountain and the pass where the old Barlow Branch had once connected the infamous town of Barlow to the outside world.
The expeditionary team consisted of an extraordinary collection of a most talented collection of geologists, hydrologists, petrologists, sociologists, toxicologists, sexologists, seismologists, gemologists, electrologists, monologists, biologists, a mixologist, proctologists, zoologists, UFO-ologists, and several other 'ologists of various types, disciplines, dispositions and temperament. This elite team even included a surveyor and communication team, as well as a photographer, demographer, radiographer, oceanographer and cryptographer, as well as a writer and scribe, to name only a few of the disciplines composing this highly motivated, engineering endeavor.
Known officially dubbed the “Ground Hog Expedition,” or GHE for short. It was an attempt by the magnanimous (that word is a doozy! It means generous and other good stuff) NC&O management to honor the once famous, Big Chuck digs. Please dear readers, recall Big Chuck was named in deference to a little hairy creature that, up close and personal, looks like a large rat on steroids. It was this natural digger of dirt and superb tunneler, that provided a tasty meal for our famed and most totally legendary, Luther Barlow; and you know who that is, or was!
So, the GHE team gathered, bubbling with enthusiasm on a sunny morning in early spring, in a caravan of vehicles one might reasonably argue rivaled a full army brigade on maneuvers. The ultimate goal was to reach the distant remains of the legendary, Barlow, following the abandoned grade of the once famed Barlow Branch rail line. They planned to explore and research the infamous and long abandoned, Big Chuck or what was left of it. Of course this highly talented team would examine other long abandoned mines and forgotten excavations along the higher elevations of the pass now mostly over grown and obscured by Mom Nature . .
And so, the NC&O's Ground Hog Expedition moved out along the old grade, tracing their way along the often washed out right of way, sometimes moving large boulders that had careened down the slopes of Crazy Horse mountain, and generally clearing the way for this elite engineering team. Storms, undergrowth, overgrowth and erosion . . the hand of mother nature's inevitable work had destroyed much of the once sturdy railroad grade that once supported the enormous wealth of black gold and other minerals from Big Chuck and surrounding mining operations of a by gone era.
There were remnants of old tipples, piles of tailings, long defunct miner's cabins and abandoned mining equipment still visible in higher elevations. In one such case, one of the exploratory team members returned a report of a stone foundation long abandoned, thought to be that of Luther Barlow's cabin. Of course rumors suggested Luther had retreated into the
Western Wilds after Big Chuck's unexpected and sudden failure. But, no one could say for sure. So the find added to the wealth of unconfirmed and haunting tales of the bigger than life mountain man and his beautiful wife.
But faithful and persevering readers of this highly accurate documentary, we must high ball on to the end, to the grand conclusion and final analysis. We must faithfully describe the situation as it stands today . . so, let us notch out to full throttle and keep a sharp eye on the rails ahead . . .
Now this intrepid, not to mention un-daunted exploration team was lead by an especially colorful engineer, named Mr. Billy B. Bit. Oddly, his engineering expertise was boring What you say? Yes, literally boring . . boring, as in making very deep holes in the ground, specifically for deep drilling of core samples in uncharted territory. In this very specific case of researching old abandoned mines, where early technology may have failed to extract all of the available product from once prosperous operations, Mr. Bit's talents were sorely needed.
To be totally blunt, Mr. Bit was an unlikely charter who might not be thought of as an adventurous leader of men, machine and associated camp followers. At first meeting, Boring Bit, as he was affectionately known, was not an imposing looking example of manly engineering and adventurism.
Oh, and by the way, dear readers, I've failed to advise Mr. Bit's complete name, that is, what does the B stand for anyway? Well curiously attentive readers, you might just guess, but probably not . . . the 'B' in Billy B. Bit stands for, Boring . . yep, his official birth certificate, on file over at the county seat in Ledo, documented this unlikely moniker . . but let us not dwell on Mr. Bit's peculiar flimsy! We have a 'high ball' and we're notched out!
Indeed, Mr. Bit looked more or less like a weasel. Yep, very similar in visual impact to the little brown beady eyed critters sometimes thought of as being 'sneaky.' Of course, every one knows those little critters are great diggers of dirt and intrepid explores of holes in the ground, such as those excavations done by the likes of Wood Chucks. So, if one can make the stretch, there maybe some level of appropriateness in Mr. B. Boring Bit's appearance.
It was not Mr. Bit's fault, I mean, being weaselly in countenance. He was simply a product of his genetics, albeit a spectacularly creepy manifestation of such chemical frivolity at that. If one does not concern themselves with deprecating (now there's a word for ya!) the tiny and superb explorer of the underground world, to which Mr. Bit was oft compared, his appearance was startling. A product of chemistry, a biological engineering matter entirely out of his personal control, it was simply luck of the draw, or lack there of any luck a all . . .
Yet, in spite of his weasily ways, he was a superb measure of men and machines, especially those romantically attractive to him, in particular, boring machines . . . and it was this attribute, recognized by very top brass of the NC&O's superbly talented management team, that put Mr. Bits in charge of the expeditionary effort to discover great things in the deep in and around the old mining regions of Crazy Horse mountain and regions along Oscar's ridge, east along the great South Slope . .
And so, rolling along at a steady notch eight . . we speed into some details of the work of Mr. Bits and his boring team. Once on the spot, a few miles east of long gone Barlow . . Mr. Bits began boring in earnest (that means very seriously) . . . day and night for thirty days and, of course, twenty nine nights . . and on that thirtieth day it, happened!
What happened, you say? . .Did he twist off a bit? Maybe drop the rig in a deep sink hole, you ask? Well it was spectacular and unexpected, which often is the case when something unusual appears from no where without any warning at all. It was such an event to be reckoned with, even the especially talented Top Brass was taken aback . . which means they were in shocked joy, bordering on hysteria, with documented cases of several of the Brass passing out at the huge polished to a mirror finish, mahogany board room conference room table back at HQ in Ledo . . and that dear readers is a lot joy, indeed! When result of multiple core samples, so skillfully extracted from the depth of the earth in close proximity to the original entrance of Big Chuck were reported, it was a shocker!
The impact of the spectacular news, sent the NC&O's Top Brass into a frenzied tizzy of grand proportions, resulting in a monumental crescendo of shouts of amazement and general jubilation, not to mention exuberant celebration, with extra plates of jelly donuts in every department, at the news. The usually stayed and near militarily stiff demeanor of the NC&O's corporate headquarters was beyond out of character for the highly disciplined new railroad company. The excitement is as yet unrivaled in the very short history of the new company.
But, let's notch back a little . . dump some train air and slow for a bit more detail regarding the find over near Big Chuck. I've not expounded on what exactly it was that Mr. Billy B. Bit had found with his fabled boring machines in the deeper realms of the earth in the immediate region surrounding Big Chuck. So, let's just blurt it out for all to know! I mean why keep a secret? The find was stupendous . . and soon all would know, in spite of any attempt at hiding Billy's find . .
Specifically, and in particular, Mr. Bits discovered a plethora (that means a lot) of good stuff. So, in spite of this intrepid reporter's total lack of scientific knowledge, having flunked even third grade science class, not to mention all the rest of those totally useless tidbits of bogus information about, atoms, bacteria, and something about a science dude, who got hit on the head with an apple while presumably sitting under a tree, remains technically clueless.
Yet in spite of any technical, scientific and general knowledge about most anything, your commentator is bound by a highly professional journalistic approach, and total dedication in the execution of my chosen field of historian, to report the following . . .
Mr. Bit found a lot of gas, that is natural gas, the kind that comes out of the ground in large quantities and can go boom, if one is not cautious when lighting up a stogy or cigarette and so on . . Also, a very thick vein of black gold (often known as coal) in a vein well below that which Mr. Barlow had discovered so many years ago . . and then there was this other stuff that was unexpected . . it was said that to be a most valuable substance, and that there was much need for it over in Granite Junction at the Beckwith Manufacturing works.
Now Beckwith Manufacturing is a fabulously excellent company, and is an obscure division of BHI, with rail service to the oddly secret facility provided by the MM&G RR, one of the premiere rail lines of the northern region.
So dear readers and fellow historians, you may ask then, who and what is BHI? Or, you may not, and that is totally your concern . . but, I sense you are nervously waiting to know more about this BHI Company, and what of this MM&G RR I speak of? Well, those two burning question will be most expeditiously answered in due course. But, first we must elaborate, meaning tell you more, about the wondrous stuff Mr. Billy B. Bits discovered with the help of his boring crew and totally amazing boring machines not too far from Big Chuck . . . It was a most exhilarating circumstance to say the least!
Once core samples were analyzed, results indicated substantial amounts of “Du-clonium” . . yep, can you believe it? It's true! Who would have guessed? Certainly not the famed Luther Barlow, of Mountain Man fame, of yesteryear's . . no sir-re-by-gosh and hope to tell ya! Oh, and just what is Du-clonium? Well that is total mystery and is a closely held secret!
And there is more! Who would believe it, dear readers? Also in the core samples were strong indications of; hold on to your hard hats, folks . . .Tomonium Tetramonium Tirade! It is rare and little known, but a highly sought substance, also known a TTT, or Triple T, in popular talk down at Bret's barber shop and at Sunday Ice cream socials around Ledo and
Granite Basin eateries . . and the obvious question . . what is it and what's it good for, you might ask? Well folks, that is a total secret and not discussed in anything but the most obscure and quiet conversations in the darker establishment of the area . . .
And, to top it all . . would you know? There were significant indications major quantities of Nitron in the deepest of core samples . . It was truly mind blowing . . what ever condition that might infer . . I'm not quite sure, but to have a blown mind . . er, well anyway the discovery of substantial quantities of Nitron was the icing on the cake . . it was astounding!
My gosh all Friday, a most fabulously bodacious find! What a total surprise to all, even to Mr. Bit, of deep hole drilling fame. Billy had no idea he'd be promoted to chief engineer of the NC&O's, Boring Department. He was even given a reward at a company celebration for his auspicious and timely boring. It was the most spectacular effort of his, otherwise unspectacular and little recognized, boring career!
So, now the rest of this fast moving history of the those heady days of discovery out on Raffe's Ridge, by big Luther Barlow, must move into the final stretch. We've documented the establishment of the raw rough-neck town he created and the resulting eventual building of the Barlow Branch The prosperity, wealth and ultimate demise of Barlow, it's rowdy, if not rugged mining inhabitants and camp followers is now on record and nearly complete. Only minor details remain my faithful students of history and adventure in the Western Wilds and the area around the Crazy Horse Mountains. It is time to expound on the current situation with respect to the new NC&O RR and it's support of the new digs over near Big Chuck. So here friends, is the final run into the yard in livid detail . . OK, perhaps in just normal detail.
We have the green, an 'all clear' signal to move ahead . . the dispatcher from Ledo tower radioed we have the railroad, with permission to highball to the end of the line for this compelling and fascinating, concise history of the roots and circumstances leading to the creation of the famed NC&O Railroad . . so, lets explain just who is, BHI, . . a most pressing and important question for all who wonder about such stuff . . .
Well, dear students of history, BHI stands for the most famous and sometimes totally obscure corporate structure of Beckwith Heavy Industries . . a completely fanciful corporate holding association, the many assets of which are mostly secret. Yet, it incorporates a vast and expansive array of mostly obscure businesses, far too numerous and strictly hush, hush, to enumerate in this thoroughly researched brief and concise documentary.
BHI's obscurity is by design, allowing it to fill multiple pages of odd stuff and circumstances germane to story telling . . Who would have guessed? So, it is super secret to the extent, no one really knows who the actual CEO is, or any of its officers, although it is rumored it is a family handed down from blood lines said to be traceable to Luther Barlow himself and his most lushous, and delightful, wife, the exceptionally beautiful, Samantha Jones Barlow. She is the daughter of the superb and skillful tycoon, Mr. Peter Jones. Although not at all well known to the general public, or anyone else, his closest friends call him “Plaster Jones,” or just, Mr. Plaster . . . based on his industrial empire based on mining of limestone and production of quality construction plaster board. But, most valuable readers, that is another narrative for another time. But, let us not take the siding here and move directly down the mainline as we approach ever closer to the yard with our captivating story . .
So, to continue with the main thrust of our history, the 'stuff' discovered by the NC&O's boring team in the Big Chuck region, BHI has and maintains, and operates a large factory complex of some sort, located in Granite Junction, a region sporting a large rail yard on the MM&G RR far to the west of the NC&O and its headquarters the metropolis we know in the burgeoning industrial center of Ledo . . .
The MM&G lies three hundred and twenty seven point seven miles due west of a dedicated holding track on the NC&O for traffic routed to BHI's mysterious facility at Granite Junction. The shady BHI facility is known in Granite Junction as an odd place, because much raw material is seen being delivered by rail cars of all types. The oddity is that little if anything is ever seen to be a product of the large brick building located on its own lead near the Granite Junction yard . . it is a very large mystery as to just what is being done at the spooky plant, because much stuff goes in, but apparently, not much comes!
There are rumors about in the streets over in Granite Junction, some suggesting the BHI facility a key processing plant for Tomonium Tetramonium Titrate . . But, as you already know, stories abound, and rumors are cheap in Granite Junction. But there is more . . some who hang out over at the Granite Cafe, are saying they've spotted rail tankers, apparently coming from sources on the NC&O RR, being unloaded at the BHI plant, mostly after the midnight hour, which begs the question of what else is going on there . . and where and what, dear readers is, or are the final products?
Some really sneaky observers have watched the BHI operations from a distance only to see 'stuff' that looks like what was delivered as input, being processed out and on to rail cars, tankers, box cars and gons . . The oddity is the stuff coming out of the innocuous facility looks just like the stuff coming in! And it is the same for tank car deliveries, all sporting very hazardous materials placards.
Most curiously, the stuff seems to come in to the facility, and the same volume of 'stuff' seems to come out with no visible by product. Oh yes, there are a few big trucks making stops, but the word is they are carrying electronic equipment and machinery parts, all accompanied by and guarded by armed military police! Now that is scary spooky, and also bodaciously odd, even for Granite Junction!
Interviews were attempted by your skilled documenter of history, but not a single BHI employee condescended to discuss their work at the big plant . . and when asked, “What do you over at the Works, my good man?” They immediately report, “Not much!” or, “Very little.” One, more cooperative interviewee responded, “I pull the lever . . .” If they are asked if they can possibly be a bit more specific as to which lever they pull, they simply say, and I quote, “Nope!” . . and change the subject to comments on the tasty pork fat sandwiches at the company cafeteria, or the free apple pie with ice cream, and an endless cup of hot Jo, served twenty four seven.
A recent derailment over in Mulch Basin, said to have been caused by the dispatcher doing a DOD (dozing on duty) that put two locomotives on the ground in the yard near the engine service facility, was a typical and favorite conversational ploy to avoid saying what goes on inside the red brick walls of the big BHI facility. In spite of repeated questioning, bordering on harassment, conversations often resort to the legendary accomplishments of Mr. Notch Nine, who's real name is known only to the secret files of the NC&O's acclaimed roster of train drivers, very closely held in the HR department.
In fact, rail fans, it it not known how Mr. Nine's moniker became attached to this colorfully renowned and highly revered bigger than life, train driver . . yet, it is rumored, and sometimes whispered . . Mr. Nine, oft referred to most affectionately as Notch Nine, is reputed (that means reported or alleged, or rumored) to run at max train speed and perhaps just a little above authorized limits. It is alleged (there is that word again), of course, that Engineer Mr. Nine, has exceeded nearly every slow order ever issued on the NC&O for any reason.
His reputation of always arriving ahead of schedule, even in territory totally unfamiliar to him, or weather conditions, track conditions, dark of night, or otherwise, is unmatched in the history of the NC&O RR, and many other classy roads of the western regions. With his leather gloved hands, sporting traditional high gauntlets, seemingly frozen on the throttle, a red bandanna around his neck and a cold steely look of wild abandoned in his eyes. Mr. “Notch” Nine, always extracts ever more engine rpm's and huge, near melt down amperage from any loco he's ever driven.
Such are the conversations one extracts when interrogating any and all employees of the BHI facility in Granite Junction and its surrounding areas. In spite of this investigative reporter's unheralded talented and persistent efforts, no clue, nada, zero, zen zen (that last one folks, is pure Japanese meaning 'never' or nothing) as to what's happenin' inside the big brick facility that sports a large sign identifying the place as, Beckwith Manufacturing. Yet, in spite of the secrecy, no one denies the value of the mysterious facility and it's benefit to the area's employment and railroad support.
The BHI facility itself and railroading assets delivering raw materials from the Western Wilds and the area surrounding Crazy Horse Mountain's newly developed and still growing mining, are much appreciated by Granite Junction's hard working population. Recently the rapid growth of the renovated, rejuvenated and prosperous town, once known as Barlow, has been renamed by the city managers and council, to be known as New Barlowton, a name duly registered with the state. It has been surveyed and checked out by officials from NC&O's management who, by the way, own the town, lock stock and barrel . . to quote an odd phrase again, that sorta makes sense in some way, but not yet fully understood by modern folk . . .
As we now reach the conclusion of this all inclusive compendium of information and detailed history of the origin and evolution of events leading to the new NC&O RR, we can fathom with great clarity and insight, not to mention, enhanced understanding, how the NC&O RR came into existence. One has only to pick up a current edition of the LEDO GAZETTE to know the new management of this superb rail line is excited, and ecstatic too, with plans in the works to search for new sources of traffic and car loading's to support expansion of the newly re-energized heavy hauler.
Your intrepid reporter can now end this brief narrative by reassuring readers, New Barlowton has been rebuilt on the same land as the original historic mining town we've come to know and love. In fact rumors abound, carefully leaked from the HQ over at NC&O corporate in Ledo, that plans are 'in the works' for a satellite office facility in New Barlowton . . with rampant speculation, the new facility might be housed in a renovated and rebuilt version of Luther's original hotel! I mean, just how good can it get, high rail junk's?
Some are said to have been socializing with one of the chief architects of the New Barlowton rebuild, who suggested the name of the new facility might be named after Luther's most highly cherished mule, Raffe . . the anonymous source suggested, 'Raffe's Rails' was favored, but dissension caused some further options to be tossed on the table for consideration. Some of these were, The End Of The Line, The High-Railer, The Interlock, The Gandy Dancer, The Hot Box and a few others, with a final decision left to the CEO himself . . who by the way is said to be a terrific and bodaciously fine gent, and a real railroader of some repute! Oh, and he's very handsome too, if you can imagine that!
Perhaps dear readers, one might soon be able to visit New Barlowton, by charter rail car car, explore the regions now made famous by Luther, our famed and most highly revered Mountain Man. Tours are said to be in the planning stages . . and if you decide to visit New Barlowton, please be very sure, and positive too, to make your reservations well before your planned adventure. Please contact the acting president of the New Barlowton Chamber of Commerce, for details, who by the way is also the CEO of the NC&O RR in addition to his several other responsibilities and is generally unavailable.
By doing advanced planning, you might secure a room at Luther's original hotel. It has yet to be named, but the facility
maybe known as, Raffe's Ridge Hostel (that means basically, 'Hotel,' for those linguistically challenged!) . . See you there, and we'll dine together over steaming bowls of Red Arrow Chile, or Pete's Perpetual Hot Box Stew, with Anthracite Potato Chips and a tipper of Boiler Rinse whiskey made right there in New Barlowton, in the halls of the Dining Car Culinary Arts Department of the Culinary Arts Division which is exclusively responsible for all menus, food preparation and distribution to all of the many corporate entities including the NC&O RR under the umbrella corporation, BHI.
And when we meet, we will salute and duly honor the single most famous of all those who have made the NC&O RR such a resounding success and totally important factor in the development of the Western Wilds region. I speak of none other than Big Chuck himself, the little and most bodaciously hairy critter, who started it all . .
End . . .
Published by the 'Records, Documents and History' department of the North Carolina & Ohio Railroad in G-gage . . . a division of Beckwith Heavy Industry's, aka, BHI
G. Gordon Beckwith
WE HOPE YOU HAVE ENJOYED THE WORKS FROM OUR MEMBER GENE WHO ENJOYS WRITING AND MAKING UP A STORY TO TELL. UNTIL NEXT TIME.........
THIS JUST IN..........PRESS RELEASE FROM THE MM&G RAILWAY CFO.
Release date: Aug. 27, 2017
MM&G Railway Chief Financial Officer, Mark Gilger to Address BB&T Capital Markets Transportation Conference Doylestown, OH., May 8th – Mark Gilger, executive vice president finance and chief financial officer for MM&G Rail Corporation (NYSE:MMG), will address the BB&T Capital Markets 30th Annual Transportation Conference at 9:45 a.m. EST on Thursday, October 24th.
The presentation will provide highlights of MM&G recent financial results and current business outlook. Detailed information on recent customer additions, including the news from Granite Steel concerning a recent agreement for them to purchase the Beckwith Industries in Granite Junction, Ohio. Beckwith Industries is part of a large conglomerate of the Beckwith Heavy Industries, more commonly know as BHI.
The Beckwith plant was shuttered early in 2016 due to rising cost of raw material and availability of same. When the plant was built, the raw material were scheduled to be provided by industries on the NC&O (Part of BHI). Materials were never able to be provided due to NC&O operating issues, so higher cost material had to be shipped in through the Sylvania Railroad, (SLV: Solon, Ohio) and the Penn Central (PENN: Cuyahoga Falls, OH). With the operating status of the NC&O unknown at this time, BHI agreed in principle to sell the plant, effective October 1, 2014 to Granite Steel.
One of the other expected bottlenecks was the lack of an interchange to the SLV and PENN railroads. This was resolved earlier this year when a major expansion project was completed to these two railroads. Both had the excess capacity to handle the needed traffic being generated from the MM&G. We are happy an agreement was worked out to the benefit of all the parties.
Granite Steel’s new plant are located in the same industrial park within several hundred feet of each other. A new overhead forklift tunnel will be built to provide easy movement of raw and finished material between the two facilities.
We were notified that the new larger facilities will probably need twice the number of empties for shipping finished goods through the interchanges to the SLV and PENN railroads. Also, 2-3 times the current number of fully loaded outbound traffic is being planned. No immediate plans are being made to ship through the NC&O at this time due to their ongoing operational issues. It’s our intention that at some future date when the NC&O becomes approved for rail traffic from the NTB, we could use their interchange to route some traffic via their trackage. Because the NC&O has no customer base we do not foresee traffic being generated on the NC&O at this time.
Maxwell Stone & Coal mine operations located several miles south of the Pine Ridge. We were told that they have been looking for sometime to find a customer that can supply lime stone and coal for their customers. Originally they were hoping product could be provided from the NC&O railroad, but theirs been little progress in the NC&O getting their operations going. So after several years the MM&G was happy to see Maxwell Mines starting operations. Their products will be shipped to interchanges to the SLV and PENN railroads.
It is anticipated the mine will be capable of providing 10-20 cars a week in production. The MM&G has refurbished some retired covered hoppers for hauling the Lime stone. In addition regular coal hoppers will be provided to transport the low sulfur coal.
MM&G Corporation (NYSE:MMG) is one of the nation's premier transportation companies. Its MM&G Railway subsidiary operates approximately 2,000 feet in 1 state, serving every major Industry in the Doylestown, Ohio area and providing superior connections to eastern rail carriers.
Source: MM&G Corporation
Web site: http://mmg-garden-rr.webs.com/
BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE.... SNAPS WORDSMAN HAS REPLIED BACK WITH MORE NEWS
The Ledo Gazette
NC&O RR CEO Fires Board of Directors
Staff Reporter - “Snaps Wordsman”
Date Line, Ledo 17Aug. . An astounding development concerning the struggling NC&O RR, as reported in recent news releases by the MM&G RR's news service, have generated rumors, speculations and guessing, all un-confirmed by NC&O management. But, as your ever precise, persistent, thorough and detailed, not to mention relentless reporter, I'm sure (and positive) the skillful and talented management team over at NC&O HQ in Ledo City, is digesting the current and still developing situation. It's a real humdinger!
Top management is alleged, (that means perhaps but unconfirmed), to be dedicated and serious about achieving full operational status for the new railroad. But, there has been a major house cleaning in the boardroom within the past few hours. Details are still being investigated, but what is known thus far is as follows . . .
Rumors abound and are circulating everywhere, that the NC&O's elite management team is assessing the current situation regarding attempts at getting their recent purchase and ultimate reorganization of the defunct Ledo Northern Railroad up to full throttle plus a little bit more (notch nine). With the rumored infusion of cash from the probable sale of the old and mostly secret processing facility at Granite Junction, currently serviced by MM&G trackage, the Chief Operating Officer, also affectionately known as Mr. Notch Nine, is said to be 'optimistic' concerning pushing and pulling the recently acquired defunct LNR (Ledo Northern Railroad) up to world class standards.
Note, for a full discussion of the history and sale of the old LNR, please consult the posting of ''Barlow'' on the BSGR web page where the emergence of the new NC&O RR is documented in historic and living detail.
CEO Mr. Nine has been quoted in very private conversations, that he expects the NC&O to be a model and standard of modern rail transportation, as well as a showcase of operational efficiency with respect to raw materials and finished product for the many industrial needs of facilities serviced by the PENN and SLV railroads, hundreds of miles to the north and east of the NC&O RR.
The new NC&O railroad has invested heavily in a superb fleet of coal hopper cars and is in process of fabricating a modern fleet of chemical tank cars for it's expected customer base, now being solicited. These modern and superbly crafted tank cars are being designed and are expected to be built in BHI's ultra-modern engineering facilities in Ledo. Details of the design and start of construction has not yet been released by BHI engineering management over at NC&O headquarters. This may be due to the following leaked information just discovered by your intrepid on the job reporter, not to mention, but I will, the valuable aide of Sheriff Gravel, who knows a lot of stuff . . .
Scuttlebutt at the counter in Gene's Cafe on the SLVRR and at Snip's Barber Shop over on No Name Creek near Ledo Lake, indicated the NC&O's management team has recently, and abruptly, been fired. Yep, several got the boot, thought to be of size 13 according to inside sources.
These folk were escorted out of the corporate headquarters by security officers. It was a total and sudden house cleaning, a rout, a sweeping out, to use a few terms to characterize the situation at NC&O's HQ in Ledo . . it was a blood bath . . !
This un-confirmed rumor is consistent with Mr. N. Nine's impatience and irritation with major delays by his corporate team and reported excessive expense report filings emanating (that means 'coming from') from meetings with potential customers who failed to sign on the dotted line with the struggling new transportation company.
Contributing to Mr. Nine's frustration is the as yet unconfirmed rumor his financial officer has been unable to acquire a New York Stock Exchange Listing as a direct result of the slackers over in the financial department. A major leak heard at the pool tables at Ben's Better Bistro, well known along the shores of Lake Ledo, for its tasty 'Tuna and Moose Meat Berger, suggested this failure has proved to be an unspoken but serious agitation to the clever, and very handsome, Mr. Nine. It is speculated this irritation was the clinker in the works, resulting in the dismissal of several camp followers who were not pulling their weight in the HQ organization. .
One of the principle board members to be 'booted' is rumored to be Mr. William Bilkum, who upon investigation, by me, your extremely thorough investigator, found Mr. Bilkum has a nefarious but secretive past. He in some parts, was known as Willy Bilkum in some circles and has been linked to questionable dealings as a slick car salesman over in Barberton. Willy was said to also have been active in the greater area of Mulch Basin in the northern territories and stories now uncovered suggest he was in cahoots with a salesman operating a bankrupt track greasing machines franchise some place near the PENN RR corporate offices.
Since being sacked, Willy has not been seen around Ledo and appears to be in the wind. Astute observers, also known as train watchers, have reported seeing glimpses of someone who looks like Willy crouched in the open door of a freight car headed northeast on a main line into the PENN RR region, perhaps to rondevieu with his chum, known only as Slick Stan the Motorman, also alleged to be of slippery and doubtful character.
Such are a few of the many rumors circulating around New Barlowton and Ledo concerning current operations at the NC&O with their concerns with customers serviced by the MM&G, PENN and SLV RR . . and we know these rumors may, or may not, be credible, even though they are said to be confirmed by the acting and well known Sheriff Gravel, who is 'in the know' about all such matters, or so we are led to believe . .
As your intrepid and always informed and thorough reporter and sometimes photographer, I'm sure there will be news releases forth coming directly from NC&O's communications and public relations department, although it is also suspected the chief editor of their internal corporate news bureau has not been seen in several weeks. Again it is rumored, he disappeared shortly after CEO, Mr. Nine, read him the riot act for his lack luster performance regarding general corporate communications. .
I'm planning to interview Mr. Nine directly if at all possible. And trust I will spend time loitering down at Gene's Cafe and at the counter at Bill's Better Berger's near NC&O's HQ. You, as valued and faithful readers of the Gazette know, no fact or rumor will get past your intrepid and always alert and eager reporter. Even the slightest wisp of rumor or real news from the newly developing NC&O will not go un-reported. .
End . . .
The Ledo Gazette . . published by the “History, Documentation, Records and Rumors Div” of Beckwith Heavy Industries, aka, BHI a fantasy experiment in writing and story telling with a railroad flavor . . .