Virginia Coal Heritage Trail Corridor Management Plan Meeting
Grundy, Virginia (Buchanan County)
October 21, 2010

Mary Belcher, Buchanan Co. Chamber of Commerce
Sandy Stiltner, Buchanan County Administrator Office & Tourism
Sherry Bright, Buchanan County Public Library
Lyle Mutter, Buchanan County Planning Commission
Wade McGeorge, Town of Grundy
Cathy St. Clair, Consol & Buchanan Chamber of Commerce
Scotty Wampler, Virginia Mountaineer
Becky Stevenson, Town of Grundy
J. Carroll Branham, Buchanan County Supervisor
Don Layne, Buchanan County Planning Commission
Nathan Brown, Graham Landscape Architecture
Berlin Viars, Buchanan County Supervisor
Linda Tate, Russell County Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail Advisory Committee

Buchanan County has so much to offer in regards to both historic and active mining visible on the road but not necessarily on the actual proposed route. Currently the route meanders through the mountains along Highways 635, 638, 628, 639, 641, 642, 650 and 609. Breathtaking views can be seen along this route and for the scenic beauty, this is truly one of the most scenic routes one experiences along the byway.
The challenge is that we are marketing the Virginia Coal Trail as more of a historic tour and due to the route chosen through Buchanan, much of the historic sections of the route are missed entirely. During the Town Meeting at Grundy, it was recommended that the byway be rerouted to include Keen Mountain Coal Camp off Hwy 460.

New Route Recommendations:

Revised recommended route:

Starting at Jewell Ridge in Tazewell County. Turn right onto VA 616/Bearwallow Road (.9 miles) which changes into Hwy 636/Chicken Ridge Road (4.1)

  • Turn right onto Jewell Valley Road 1 mile to Dominion Coal Corporation Mine #36.
Dominion Coal Corporation Mine #36
  • Come back 1 mile to Hwy 636
  • Turn right onto VA 638/Dismal River Road towards Whitewood

    Instead of continuing west on VA638 to Whitewood then right on VA 628 to Slate then left on VA 639 then left on VA 83 then left on 651 back to VA 638.
  • From VA 638, turn left onto Contrary Creek Road for 4.8 miles
  • Turn right onto US 460/Riverside Drive for 2.2. miles
  • Turn left onto Keen Mountain Camp Road and the proposed "Keen Mountaqin Company Store Interpretive Center and Museum" for the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail Byway
Island Creek Coal COmpany's Keen Mountain is one of our most intact coal camps in the entire route and one of the very few that still has its company store in excellent condition. The Coal Camp includes a company store, two office buildings and numerous coal camp homes.

Due to its strategic location right on Hwy 460, with easy accessible, high visibility and ample parking, it is highly recommended that the Company Store bevome the staging area to inform and educate all who come into the region about the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail, the sites one will see along the route through Buchanan and the history and the stories of the coal camps and mines in this area.

Keen Mountain Co. Store
Company Store
Coal Co. Offices
Homes of the management for the Coal Company
More buildings at Keen Mountain Coal Camp
A few more upper management homes
A few of the smaller company houses for miners and other workers. There are many other homes, all in excellent condition and privately owned.
  • Leaving this site, turn left and ocntinue west on US 460/Riverside Drive.
  • Turn left at Consol Energy Central Appalachian Operating Mine Rescue Facility (photo right) without having to actually get back on US 460.

Recommendation: Provide interpretive information about mine recue today as well as provide information about the Red Jacket Coal Camp and the mining accident that occurred in 1938.

Recommendation: Might also be an excellent location for the concrete marker from the Red Jacket disaster to be placed.
  • From the Consol Energy Cenetral Appalachian Operating Mine Rescue Facility, turn left onto US 460.
  • On the right, one will soon see the Jewell Ridge Smokeless Coke Ovens
  • Turn right onto VA 638 and go 1/4 mile to pull off area.
Recommendation: Might make this an official pull-off where photos can be taken and interpretive wayside exhibits can be displayed discussing the process.
  • Continue 1/4 mile further and the Island Creek Coal Company VA/Pocahontas Mine #1. Recommendation: provide pull-off at bridge and include interpretive wayside exhibitis at this site.
"Island Creek Coal Co. bought the Red Jacket Coal Co. and built their coal camp at Keen Mountain, and it is the only surviving camp in the county. Their first shaft mine was started in the early '60's, just down the road from the camp, named Beatrice, which is now gone, followed by the Virginia Pocahontas mines. Consol, who bought out Pocahontas fuel, bought out Island Creek in 1993, and operated their Virginia Pocahontas mines, and their own, Buchanan No. 1. Island Creek ran a merchandise store at Vansant, VA, up until the early 80s." Information above was provided by Mark Van Dyke from
Please note: Buchanan No. 1 is still operating and is in fact, Virginia's largest underground mine. It is recommended at this point to go back to US 460, turn ight and head back to Vansant and Grundy for food, lodging and some shopping opportunties.

Coal Miner's Memorial
In front of Buchanan County Courthouse

Recommendation: instead of continuing east on VA 83 then left on VA 642 then left on VA 650 which takes one back to US 460, it is recommended that the Byway continue west on US 460 for 6 miles turning left onto Bull Creek Road/VA 609 at Harman Junction (byway sign needed at this turn).

Cross over railroad tracks and continue 4.3 miles on VA 609 past the community of Maxie (on left) and then the Harman community.

Turn right onto Breaks Park Road/VA 80 for .6 miles which brings one to the entrance to Breaks Interstate Park on the right. (rr crossing on VA 609 right)

It would be our recommendation that the byway route be changed in order for it to go past Keen Mountain Coal Camp and be more focused on historic coal related sites. But to do so will require the county requesting this to occur and then getting agreement from the other counties (which should not be an issue) but then we will probably need a legislator to make this request which could slow up the process a bit on national designation. Firmly believe, in the long run, this would be much better for those traveling the route and would allow Buchanan County to have a staging area (Keen Mountain Company Store) in which to better share with the public the rich coal history of the county as well as other tourism offerings to see while they are in the area.
Please Note: If one would like to take the scenic route through Buchanan County, the original route could be retained as a Virginal Coal Heritage Trail State Scenic Byway, taking the visitor on a beautiful scenic drive through the mountains as originally proposed, utilizing the orginal state byway signage and noting it as "scenic".

Some of the site one will see along the way include:

Coles Chapel
Dismal River
Mountain top Golf Course
Reclaimed Coal Land
The old school, now privately owned.
Birthplace of a infamous resident.
Recommendations from the Bunchanan County Town Meeting included:
  • Finalizing on negotiations to purchase the Keen Mountain Coal Camp from People's Inc.
  • Moving the concrete maker at the site of the Red Jack 1938 explosion to a more visible and accessible location and include interpretatoin about the disaster.
  • Interpretation and information on the many coal camps in Buchanan Company including but not limited to Sycamore Coal Co.'s Patterson Coal Camp, Crystal Block Coal Company at Roth, and Jewell Valley Coal Camp in displays at Keen's Mountain COmpany Store. Also include the other coal, rail and historic memorabilia from the region.
  • GPSing each of the site snad including geocaching as part of the experience.
  • Oral history: Peter Crow, Mae Broyels
  • Ruby Ratliff Hale on the history of Keen Mountain. She grew up at the coal camp.
  • Geocaching and GPSing each of the sites: Chuck Ratliff
  • Excellent review of Buchanan's rich coal history was in a special 75th Anniversary editio of Virginia Mountaineer. Sherry Bright is emailing a copy from the library.
  • See article by Mark Van Dyke from the website below for more on Buchanan County's coal history. (

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