This abandoned line was a Chessie route before becoming a part of the CSX family. CSX still maintains active lines into Martin as well as a small yard and dispatcher's office there. A Chessie caboose sits on a siding in the CSX yard, and another Chessie caboose sits on private property on a street in downtown Martin.
Most of the line's road crossings are paved over and while the right-of-way is pretty clear in some areas, in other areas it is highly grown over. Thick foliage covers entirely the rails and grows all the way up abandoned telephone poles in some spots. Rails remained on the ground from Martin to somewhere past Orkney in spring 2004.
At least two out-of-service coal tipples remain. One of the coal mines appears to be closed while the other now ships loads out by truck. In one place, a junk car sits on a girder bridge, just outside of someone's yard. The rails can be seen for much of the route following Highway 122 south from Martin and an abandoned cement factory still has crossing signal flashers.
The tunnels are open and in good condition at both Cushman and Orkney. Another tunnel is sealed, and a fourth tunnel was removed to allow the construction of a high school football field.
Howard adds: A gentlemen that I talked to who lived near the Orkney tunnel said that new rails had been installed only a year before the trains stopped running. Other people that I talked to along the way said that the rails to Weeksbury and Wheelwright had been gone for a long time. Weeksbury was a typical "company town" and a few company and railroad buildings are now used for other purposes. I thoroughly enjoyed this trip, and if you like abandoned lines with tunnels and iron on the ground, I think you will too.
All photos were taken in Martin, KY.
Thanks to Howard E. Espravnik for contributing information about this route.