In the 1970s John Prine released a song that continued to irritate the giant Peabody Coal Company ever after. It's chorus lamented the disappearance of a town due to mining, laying that at the feet of Peabody in the chorus:
And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away.
Well, now it's Peabody that seems to be disappearing, at least in terms of being the giant it once was. Yesterday it took Chapter 11 (reorganization) bankruptcy.
Peabody is the largest coal producer in the world. And yet its fortunes have fallen so far and so quickly that over just a few years its value has been estimated to have declined from billions to millions, and now its in bankruptcy. It's coal trains, or rather those of railroads serving Wyoming, heavily laden with Campbell County coal were a common site in parts of Wyoming, but now I'm told that you can find idled locomotives reflecting the decline and a once proposed rail line has now been dropped. Signs that are hard to ignore.