This short branch line was built in 1977 to serve the Island Creek Coal Company's very large Virginia Pocahontas No.5 mine and preparation plant. The right-of-way branched from the Buchanan Branch of the Norfolk Southern (ex-Norfolk & Western) at Vansant Junction, located on the Levisa Fork River in the town of Vansant (formerly "Van Sant"). It closely followed the Big Prater Creek for its entire length, heading southwest then south to Deskins, VA and the VP #5 coal mine/plant.
The coal plant was the branch line's sole customer along its route. Thus, when VP #5 shut down in April of 2006, so did railroad operations along the branch line, and NS abandoned it soon after.
The rails remain today, however, and automatic block signals are still in place (albeit "dark"), along with an old N&W-style color position signal at Vansant Junction.
Thanks to Chase Freeman for contributing information about this route.