Posts Tagged ‘West Virginia railroads’

W.Va. Railroads Author Dies at 95

September 21, 2022

The author of two books about West Virginia lumber railroads has died. Dr. Roy B. Clarkson, 95, died on Sept. 12.

The West Virginia native and former botanist and forest biologist at West Virginia University wrote Tumult on the Mountains, Lumbering in West Virginia – 1770-1920, and On Beyond Leatherbark: The Cass Saga.

The first of those books was published in 1964 and detailed the rise and fall of logging and lumbering operations, including the railroads that served those operations.

His second book was published in 1990 and focused the Cass region of West Virginia and its railroads.

D&GV Buys 5 Geeps From Defunct Short Line

August 16, 2022

A West Virginia short line railroad has acquired five Geeps from a fellow Mountain State short line.

The Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad purchased the units from the Elk River Railroad, which is now defunct.

The units include two GP10 rebuilds, two GP9s and a GP8. Two of units are said to need parts and repairs to become operational.

The other three units need more extensive work and may be used as a parts source rather than being restored to operating condition.

The D&GV is part of the West Virginia Central, which operates 132 miles of former Western Maryland Railway.

It moves freight to and from Elkins, and has operated excursion trains from Elkins to Tygart Junction; Elkins to Spruce; and Elkins to the High Falls of Cheat River.

Of those excursions only the High Falls trains are running today. The excursions to Spruce are expected to be revived later.

The GP10 units are of Illinois Central heritage, the two GP9s were built for the Norfolk & Western, and the other two Geeps once worked for the Wabash.

The Elk River was created in 1989 to haul coal from Avoca to an interchange with CSX at Gilmer. That business dried up in 1999.

It shut down shut down operations in March 2022. Since 1999 the Elk River has stored and repaired rolling stock for other railroads.

Eighteen miles of the Elk River right of way is owned by the West Virginia Railroad Authority.

Once part of the Buffalo Creek & Gauley Railroad, that right of way will be converted to a recreation trail.

Freight Revenue Helped Get Some Tourist Railroads Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

June 16, 2021

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic last year are all too familiar to John Smith, president of the West Virginia-based Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad.

Based in Elkins, West Virginia, the railroad and its subsidiaries carried 84,000 passengers in 2019.

Ridership in 2020 was 22,000. Aside from the D&GV, the carrier also operates the West Virginia Central (former Western Maryland), Cass Scenic Railroad, and Durbin Rocket (former Chesapeake & Ohio Greenbrier River Branch) in West Virginia, and the Shenandoah Valley Railroad (former Norfolk Southern) in Virginia.

Of those carriers, the Cass Scenic carried 14,000 and 8,000 rode the Durbin Rocket.

The New Tygart Flyer and Cheat Mountain Salamander, did not operate in 2020, largely because they use sealed-window passenger cars. The Cass Scenic and Durbin Rocket were able to run because they had open window cars.

Some tourist railroads were able to earn some extra revenue by offering freight service.

That boosted the Shenandoah Valley Railroad in particular. Some tourist railroads in 2020 were able to make money by storing freight cars for Class I railroads and private owners.

W&W Carload Traffic Rose 9% in 2020

January 27, 2021

A short line railroad that serves West Virginia reports that its carload traffic grew by 9 percent in 2020.

The Winchester & Western, a 100-mile short line owned by OmniTRAX that also has trackage in Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey, acknowledged that its growth was below expectations.

But railroad officials said they weren’t expecting a pandemic to depress traffic last year and that despite it the W&W was able to do better than the 12 percent carload volume loss year that the Association of American  Railroads reported occurred nationally.

OmniTRAX officials attributed the traffic growth to their efforts to work closely with shippers, making operational changes that improved service, bringing more technology and sophistication to customer service, and joining forces with local economic development officials to identify and promote rail-served sites.

“We have pretty high expectations,” says Peter Touesnard, chief commercial officer for OmniTRAX. “We probably see another 30 percent growth on this railroad over the next three to four years.”

This year the W&W is projected to handle 20,000 cars. Last year it hauled 17,500 cars.

To grow traffic the W&W plans to convert property along its lines to rail-served facilities. Among the planned projects are rebuilding a dormant spur track and repurposing it as a transload center and identifying greenfield sites that can be developed into new customer facilities.

Recently the W&W landed a $150 million Clorox facility in Berkeley County, West Virginia, that is expected to open in 2022.

In the same county, W&W was able to entice Procter & Gamble to divert some shipments from trucks to rail.

It also worked to deliver raw materials after Gulf Coast hurricanes last fall disrupted the P&G plant’s supply chain.

WVa Rail Authority to Acquire Short Line

December 5, 2020

The West Virginia State Rail Authority plans to purchase and operate a short line railroad in Clay County.

In a filing with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, the WVRA said it plans to acquire 18 miles of track now owned and operated by the Elk River Railroad.

In its STB filing, WVRA said it expects to earn no more than $5 million annually from the line.

WVRA currently owns and operates the 52.4-mile South Branch Valley Railroad, and owns and oversees the 132-miles West Virginia Central Railroad.

The Elk River acquisition would include the line, connecting spurs, side tracks and any pertinent property.

OmniTRAX Extends Program to W.Va. Railroad

May 14, 2020

OmniTRAX plans to extend its new Rail-Ready Sites program to the West Virginia branch of the Winchester & Western Railroad.

The program connects rail-served sites with customers in need of property to access rail transportation.

In a news release, OmniTRAX said it has worked with the Berkley County Development Authority in West Virginia to identify the best developable, rail-ready sites along the W&W.

The search identified six sites totaling 795 acres and range from 35- to 500-acre parcels.

An Obscure West Virginia Short Line

August 10, 2018

Here are two Ed Treesh photos and their closer crops. They were taken on a Cherry River Boom and Lumber fan trip at Richwood, West Virginia in June 1958. The top two photos show CRB&L No. 3, a GE 70 ton switcher.

The next two photographs feature bay window caboose No. 9.

Photographs Courtesy of Robert Farkas

Cass to Hold Heritage Weekend in May

January 11, 2018

A three-day railfan event will be hosted May 18-20 at the Cass Scenic Railroad.

Billed as a heritage weekend, it is oriented toward railfan enthusiasts, historians, and photographers with an appreciation for geared steam locomotives and rail preservation. Tickets are $275 per person.

The opening events on May 18 include a special dinner and night photo session at Whittaker Station, the first in more than 10 years.

On Saturday, there will be a daytime photo session to Spruce, featuring steam-powered freight and passenger consists.

That evening another photo shoot will be held at Cass and feature views inside the Cass Shops and an opportunity to take photos of multiple locomotives under steam.

Railroad officials will hold a question-and-answer session and provide an update about the railroad’s restoration efforts.

On Sunday morning, an excursion will depart from Cass and travel north on the Greenbrier Line toward Durbin, West Virginia.

This route is currently under construction and is expected to connect with the southernmost end of the Durbin line in late 2018.

Passengers on the excursion will be able to inspect some of the new track.

“The revenues generated from these events directly benefit projects such as our Greenbrier Line rehabilitation and steam locomotive restorations. Our railfan community gets to enjoy and capture parts of the railroad otherwise inaccessible, and we get to earmark the funds for ongoing projects,” said Durbin & Greenbrier Business Development Manager Chase Gunnoe. “This will be unlike previous events. We’re sitting down now with our operations team and determining how we can make this most impactful for our followers who want to see something different.”

CSX Moving More W.Va. Coal Trains

July 28, 2016

Trains magazine is reporting that coal traffic has been on the upswing in West Virginia on CSX during the past two weeks.

CSX logo 1It reported that Contura Energy’s McClure Complex has increased the number of loaded unit trains of metallurgical coal trains it moved in the third week of July from two to six.

Five additional new trains this week were also slated to be moved. The magazine said there has been a decrease in the number of stored coal hopper cars being stored on the idled former Clinchfield Railroad.

The uptick in business follows Contura’s reorganization in bankruptcy court as a new company that is comprised of the top lien holders of Alpha Natural Resources, which had mining operations in West Virginia.

Contura acquired the complexes of Alpha’s Nicholas, McClure, and Toms Creek complexes in West Virginia and Virginia.

It also owns mining complexes in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and in Pennsylvania.

CSX Moving Again in West Virginia

June 29, 2016

CSX has slowly begun restoring traffic to its lines in West Virginia that were closed after flooding washed out tracks and dumped debris on the right of way.

On Monday trains began using the Alleghany and New River subdivisions between Clifton Forge, Virginia, and Handley, West Virginia.

CSX logo 3Some traffic had been held in Clifton Forge since last week when a storm dumped up to 7 inches of rain on parts of the Mountain State.

The mix of traffic included intermodal, manifest freight, grain and unit coal trains.

The Sewell Valley Subdivision near Rainelle, West Virginia, was still closed.

Although Amtrak’s Cardinal is expected to return to service on Wednesday, it will operate only between Chicago and Huntington, West Virginia.

The equipment will turn back on Wednesday night and return to Chicago. No arrangements have been made for passengers traveling to points between Huntington and Washington.

Work trains have been busy the past few days trying to repair the damage and get the tracks back into operation.

The aftermath of the flooding came as the Florence Division took over responsibility for the routes most damaged by the flooding.

CSX last week closed its Huntington Division and transferred control of its rail lines to other divisions.