MATOAKA– As the coal industry has fallen on lean times, fewer freight trains are rumbling through West Virginia.
Some Appalachian towns, like Matoaka, no longer see the long chains of coal cars that used to come through every few hours.
The major railroads here, Norfolk Southern and CSX, have shed personnel and idled equipment, cutting overhead while continuing to post profits.
But following a steep drop in the state’s coal production last year, 2017 is seeing a mining uptick.
And the big railroads are expressing measured optimism, with more diversity in the freight they haul, the ongoing demand for coal to make electricity, and no plans to blow the last lonely whistle in these mountains.