The Clinchfield Railroad (reporting mark CRR) was an operating and holding company for the Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio Railway (reporting mark CCO). The line ran from the coalfields of Virginia and Elkhorn City, Kentucky, to the textile mills of South Carolina. The 35-mile segment from Dante, Virginia, to Elkhorn City, opening up the coal lands north of Sandy Ridge Mountains and forming a connection with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway at Elkhorn City, was completed in 1915.
The Clinchfield was the last Class I railroad built in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains. The 266-mile railroad provided access to numerous scenic wonders of the Appalachian region and is probably best known for the state-of-the-art railroad engineering techniques applied in its construction, as exemplified by the Clinchfield Loops climbing the Blue Ridge Mountains north of Marion, North Carolina.
The Clinchfield Railroad began operating the line December 1, 1924, and for many years it was leased jointly by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and Louisville and Nashville Railroad. When the L&N merged with the ACL's successor, the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad, effective January 1, 1983, forming the Seaboard System Railroad, the separate operating company was unnecessary and was merged into the Seaboard. The line is now owned and operated by CSX Transportation as their Blue Ridge Subdivision (Spartanburg to Erwin, Tennessee) and Kingsport Subdivision (Erwin to Elkhorn City).
On October 15, 2015 CSX Transportation announced it was closing the Erwin yard facility, with a loss of 300 jobs. All through traffic trains would cease using the Clinchfield Route. Industries around Kingsport and Johnson City, TN would still be serviced by trains coming North from Spartanburg, SC and Bostic, NC, as would the Alpha Natural Resources coal preparation facility in McClure, VA by trains coming south from Shelbiana, Ky. Norfolk Southern would still use the line from St. Paul to Frisco, VA via a trackage rights arrangement with the CSX. The line between St. Paul and McClure (19.4 miles) would be idled immediately, effectively ending the use of the Clinchfield Route as a functioning bridge route between Spartanburg and Elkhorn City. It has been reported, however, that there have been instances of equipment running between Shelbiana, Ky and Dante, Va. The last time a train crossed the entire "North End" of the Clinchfield Route (from Elkhorn to Kingsport) was for the 2015 running of the Santa Claus Special, which happened in November 2015. It remains unclear as to the future of this rail line.
At the end of 1925 the railroad operated 309 miles of road and 467 miles of track; mileages in 1970 were 312 and 501. Logo is printed on gravel grey.