Until recent years, not a great deal had been written about the BC&G. Further, one author, William Warden, was responsible for a lot of what's been put on paper, although the Clay County High School did publish two very informative booklets in 1979. I suppose, considering it's small size and relative insignificance to the overall American railroad scene, this shortage of information is not surprising. In addition, the railroad was small and simple so how much could be written! Up until 2010, only one book has been written dedicated entirely to the BC&G. That book, entitled simply "The BUFFALO CREEK & GAULEY", was written by the late WIlliam Warden and was published in 1991. For years it was the "Bible" for BC&G fans. Despite having some factual errors, it was by far the best single source of information and photographs published until the publishing of The Elk River Coal & Lumber Company by Brooks Stover and The BC&G in Color by Bob Withers and Brooks Stover, published by Morning Sun. Warden also wrote an excellent article that appeared 30 years earlier in the August 1962 issue of RAILROAD magazine. These documents are referenced heavily on this website. The rest of the currently available information is found primarily in magazine articles, chapters in a few books, video tapes, specialty publications such as the Clay County High School documents and individual photographs. It is the purpose of this site to bring together the most significant of this information as well as any new information and previously unpublished photographs and organize it all in a way that makes it easy to use. Previously published photos are included when no better image is available and my sincerest hope is that I have correctly credited the photographers.
What is unique about the information presented here is that the focus is on what would be of interest to someone wanting to build a model railroad of the BC&G. That's not to say the material is not of interest to the general railfan or BC&G historian, but the emphasis is on the rolling stock and structures and on how the railroad operated. There is also an emphasis on information collected by those interested in model railroading as they bring a unique perspective. A modeler, for example, will take a photos with a structure as the primary subject providing much more information than a photo where the structure is mostly obscured by a train!
There are other websites that contain information about the BC&G, of course. The most significant of those are identified in the REFERENCES section. Also on that page is an extensive bibliography of all the other significant known sources of information about the line, including the ones referenced on this site. No discussion of the BC&G would be complete without integrating information about the Elk River Coal & Lumber Co. and it's logging railroad. Information on the ERC&L and the logging railroad are included here to the extent that time and space permits. ERC&L sources are included in the REFERENCES section for those interested in pursuing the logging activities further.
The BC&G's is a long and storied history. The line was founded in 1904, closed in 1968, then reopened in 1970. Of necessity, this site is focused on the 1950's and 1960's. There are several reasons. First, this is the period about which there is the most accurate information and most numerous photos. Second, it is the period I have chosen to model on my own layout and so I have focused my information search on this period. Lastly, I'd say it's the period of most interest as it was then that the BC&G was still running steam when few other railroads were and there are folks around today who had a chance to visit it, so new information and photos are still being uncovered.
BC&G Consolidation #13 is easbound as it passes the Cressmont dairy. Photo by Bill Price.
There are several individuals whose names should be mentioned in the context of this site and the information presented here. Each is a railfan and/or model railroader and each has contributed information about the BC&G from their collections and personal experiences.
The first is Frank Criswell. A resident of a Chicago suburb, Frank has been collecting information on the BC&G since the 1980's. He visited BC&G site in 1990, 1993 and 2007. He is currently constructing an "S" gauge layout depicting the line in the 1940's. Frank and I have been pursuing the BC&G together since 1993.
The second is David Marquis, a resident of Florida. Dave visited the BC&G a total of eleven times between March 1957 and June 1990! Dave is the only one who I've come across who actually took measurements of some of the structures on the railroad. The drawings he created appear in the STRUCTURES section of this site. He is a good example of visitors who took photos in the 50's, 60's and even 70's that are just now coming to light. It was the availablity of these photos that motivated me to build this site.
The third is Cody Burdette. Cody is unique among all the contributors in that he actually worked for the ERC&L company! From 1956 though 1959, Cody worked at the sawmill and on the log trains. He has provided a wealth of information and many photographs and I am indebted to him for these contributions. There are very few individuals alive with specific first hand knowledge of the railroad. Cody is also listed in the CONTRIBUTORS column on the home page.
Special mention must be made of Phil Bonzon. Phil's excellent HO layout of the BC&G is featured under BONZON LAYOUT, but he has contributed far more than just photos of his layout. Phil has done excellent research on the structures he has built, including many fine drawings which are posted throughout the site. He has tirelessly researched the structures and terrain of the area using USGS maps and drawn wonderful maps for the site. Phil has been a real partner in the building of this site!
Jeff Madden lives in Wisconsin and has capably served for years as the editor of the DISPATCH, the magazine of the National Association of S Gaugers (NASG). Jeff has visited the site of the BC&G and provided some photos for this site. He is building a model railroad influenced by the BC&G.
John Brown, a Canadian model railroader and railfan, who at age 21 made a trip from Ontario to North Carolina and West Virginia to see the last of US steam. The time was September of 1963, just months before the mine closed. John has provided a few nice photos for the site.
Bob Slavey made many trips to the BC&G and photographed it during it's most obscure years, the 1970s and early 1980s. He made his first trips in 1974 as a 25 year old railfan and his last in 1984. His photos make up the bulk of those posted on this site covering those years. Bob now lives in New York state.
Doug Andre has also contributed a number of photos. Doug is an "O'" gauger who models the C&O in the 1940s, but in the 1970s he spent "many days exploring Bradley's property", as he says. During that time he befriended Bobby Caruthers and obtained a number of photos from Bobby which he made available for this site.
John Phillips made three visits to the BC&G in 1956, 1958 and 1963 with his father and a friend. On one trip they got to ride the log train out Lilly Fork. He has donated copies of over 80 slides from those visits of which about 20 will eventually be posted on the site.
Bob Amon visited the BC&G in 1963 when he was active in the NMRA. He has shared about 15 color slides he took during his visit.
Harvey W. George never visted the BC&G but as an avid railfan and artist, has done ink drawings of railroad subjects all over the world.
Edwin Kirstatter is a model railroader who works in both HO and S scales. His primary interest is the B&O, but he visited the BC&G in 1960, 1963 and 1964. He has provided both historical information and photos to the site.
Richard Bradley visited the BC&G on a couple of occassions, including at least once with David Marquis. Richard has provided several photos posted on the site.
Frank Fieler visited the BC&G and ERC&L logging operations for the first time in May 1960 (railfan trip) and then made a number of additional visits in the later years with his final visit being in Februrary 2010. During his trips he twice rode the log train and had chances to drive #4 and #19. He has a collection of memoriablila including BC&G and ERC&L locomotive builder's plates and classification lights from the gob Mikes. Frank has built an HO model railroad that includes a representation of the Lilly Fork, complete with rails running through a stream. Frank's layout is featured in the July 2014 issue of MODEL RAILROADER magazine.
My thanks to these and the many other BC&G fans and friends too numerous to mention.
Another person whom I would like to mention is my brother, F. Nelson Stover. He is the one who first introduced me to the BC&G. He and his wife lived in Widen during the late 1970's, long after the mine had closed, of course. It was at this time that I was looking for a prototype to model and he began sending me information about the railroad that had at one time served the mine. The information he provided started my life-long interest in the railroad. Several of his photos are included on the site.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the support of my wonderful wife, Carol, and my daughters Carrie and Jennie, for my pursuit of the story of the BC&G over all these years and for their patience as I put time and financial resources into the both the hunt for infomation and the construction of the layout. Without their support, I would not have been able to tell my version of the BC&G story.
Intial draft: September 24, 2011
Updated: May 2014
ERC&L #19 and log loader on Lilly Fork
A very special "thank you" goes to the following individuals who have contributed historical information to this site. These folks lived the BC&G and ERC&L Co. story!
Roger Nutter - Roger wqs the founding President of the BC&G Co-Op and is a native of the Swandale area. He hosted the trip I took, along with several others, on the BC&G in June 2007 and many of the photos, facts and stories recorded on this site are direct result of Roger's sharing his intimate knowledge of the ERC&L with us. Sadly, Roger passed away in the summer of 2011.
Cody Burdette - Cody moved to Swandale in 1950 and worked on the ERC&L logging railroad until 1959. As a former employee, he has made innumerable contributions of information and photos about the logging activities as well as the BC&G coal-hauling operations. In addition, Cody's father, Theordore, was an engineer on Shay #19 for many years.
Patsy Spencer Baughman - Patsy lived in Swandale until age 8 when she moved to Dundon. She and her husband graduated from Clay County High School. Patsy worked in the company store at Dundon. She has provided information and photos about the Dundon and Swandale company stores as well as Starcher on the Lilly Fork.
Herald Baughman - Herald graduated from Clay County High School and in the spring of 1953 began working in the Dundon Office of the ERC&L Company as a general clerk, typing car reports, among other duties. His father, Newman Baughman was manager of the Dundon store. Herald later joined the accounting firm that audited the ERC&L Company books. As a result of the new job he and his wife, Patsy, moved to Charleston.
Hollie Workman - Hollie was born in 1924 between Robinson and Taylor Creeks. He worked in the Clay Farm Bureau Store for nearly 40 years and had many family members who worked on the railroads. Hollie has provided some interesting information about logging operations in the Robinson and Taylor Creek areas of the ERC&L property.
Kathy Gaskins - Kathy's grandparents lived in Swandale and she visited there many times. In 1998, Kathy wrote a brief history of Swandale and recorded her recollections of the town in "Reflections on Swandale".
Elvin Delnar Frame - Elvin's father started working in Swandale in 1925 and Elvin was "born and reared" there. He lived in Swandale until joining the Marine Corps. Elvin has prepared a written a history of Swandale from which some information has been taken and he has provided a number of photos which have been added to this site.
Judy Gregorich Hart - Judy was born in Swandale in 1942, the youngest of nine children. She lived next door to the community building until 1959 when she moved to Charleston where she currently lives. Judy's father imigrated from Yugoslavia when he was nine years old and spent his adult life in Swandale. He retired from the ERC&L company in 1961. Judy's four brothers all worked at the sawmill and one of her sisters worked at the Swandale store.
Jerrold Murphy - Jerrold was born in a company house in Swandale near the schoolhouse in 1938. His father was Colonel Murphy and Colonel was his real name. Colonel worked in the sawmill. The family left Swandale when Jerrold was 10 years old although he graduated from Clay County High School in 1955.
Peter and Liesel Silitch - Liesel is the granddaughter of JG Bradley. She and Peter now live in Braxton County WV.
Nelson Spencer - Nelson was born in Swandale and lived there until 1943. He has provided some details about how the log pond was formed and operated. Nelson, by the way, is the brother of Patsy Baughman.
Loretta Johnson Samples - Loretta (through her cousin Roger Johnson who initially contacted me) has provided a large collection of photos collected by her husband Jerry, and his relatives. Loretta's father, James Dencie "Dink" Johnson started working in the Widen mines around 1930, was injured in a mine accident about 10 years later, but continued working around the mine until it closed.
Naomi Ashley - Naomi grew up in Taylor that was outside of Widen near Robinson. Carsel Hamrick was Naomi's uncle, and her grandfather was Benjamin Randolph Hamrick, a foreman on the railroad maintenance crew. Along with her cousin Ben Connor, Naomi has provided some material about the community of Taylor.
Theodore Griffith - Theodore was born in Dille, and except for the years he left to attend college, has lived there his entire life. His grandfather was one of the first two men J.G. Bradley transferred from the Dundon operation to Widen where he oversaw the completion of the Rich Run Mine. During his career, Theodore served as the principal of Dille Elementary school.
John Beam - John was born in Swandale in 1925 and lived there until late 1943. John's dad, T.I. Beam was a saw filer and relief sawyer at the mill.
Roland Coluzzi, Jr. - John's mother was born and raised in Widen and while he didn't live there, John Jr spent many summers in Widen with his cousin Michael Hammrick. His father who was from Washington, DC took a number of photos which Roland has shared.
Lois Kincaid and Ovalee Gill - Lois and her father, Ovalee Gill, were both born at Strickland. Ovalee worked for the ERC&L Company primarily as a crewman on the gob trains. He also drove a lumber truck at Swandale for the Georgia Pacific until they closed down. Lois lived in Strickland until age 10 when the family moved a few miles to Rock Camp. Lois graduated from Clay county high school.
Janey Keaton - Janey and her parents lived at Starcher's Logging camp through the 1950's. Her grandfather, father and brothers were all loggers. She has recorded her memories of life on Lilly Fork in short accounts to share with her children and has prepared a map of Starcher, both unique contributions to this website.