Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Richwood Branch

Railroad / West Virginia

The Baltimore & Ohio Richwood Branch extended from Clarksburg to Richwood, West Virginia, a distance of 121 miles. Much of the route was later abandoned.


History

The B&O Richwood Branch was originally built as the West Virginia & Pittsburgh Railroad (WV&P), which was incorporated on January 30, 1876. It consisted of the Clarksburg, Weston & Midland Railroad (CW&M) and the Buckhannon River Railroad (BR). 11

The CW&M, incorporated on April 10, 1889, 11 comprised of the following:

  • Weston & West Fork Railroad, formed on March 4, 1875, attempted to construct 24.9 miles of track between Clarksburg and Weston.
  • Clarksburg, Weston & Glenville Railroad, incorporated on August 6, 1878, finished the work of the Weston & West Fork. By September 1879, 24.9 miles of narrow-gauge track was open between Clarksburg and Weston.
  • Buckhannon & West Fork Railroad, incorporated on April 10, 1882, built 15.8 miles of narrow-gauge track from Weston to Buckhannon.
  • Buckhannon River Lumber Company, incorporated on October 15, 1885, constructed 13.3 miles of narrow-gauge line from Buckhannon to Indian Camp Run (Calico Run) in 1886.
  • Weston & Elk River Railroad, formed on February 20, 1889, attempted to build a line from Weston south towards Charleston via the Elk River. No line was built.

The Buckhannon River Railroad, formed on August 13, 1889, was never built. 11

The WV&P fell into receivership in 1898 and on June 1, the WV&P was acquired by Johnson N. Camden and Clarence Cary. The railroad’s projected southern terminus was then modified to be the mouth of the Williams River near present-day Cowen, in Webster County, to extract the area’s virgin timber forests.

The WV&P was extended from Weston south to Sutton via Flatwoods in 1890-91, and to Camden-on-Gauley in 1891-92. 4

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad

On August 31, 1899, 5 the WV&P and its 17 locomotives, 18 passenger cars, and 530 freight cars were leased by the B&O. (It was not until December 31, 1990, that the WV&P was fully merged into the B&O’s ultimate successor, CSX. 5)

The renamed B&O Richwood Branch was completed to Richwood in 1901, providing a railroad connection between the B&O and the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad (C&O). 5

At the time, Richwood was known as Cherry Tree Bottoms and had a population of 27. 6 Richwood, named so because of the area’s rich abundance of timber, incorporated in 1901 and rapidly developed. By 1930, the town had blossomed to a population of nearly 7,000. 7 It boasted the Steele-Wallace Clothespin Factory, the largest in the world at the time, the Cherry River Boom & Lumber Company, the Cherry River Paper Company, the J.D. Wescott & Son broom and chair factory, and the Wm. F. Mosser Company, the largest sole leather factory. 8

Further north, Weston developed as the center of several glass manufacturing plants. 14 The companies were initially drawn to the region because of the availability and affordability of natural gas, which made glass production competitive.

The freight depot at Lost Creek became the largest shipping point for cattle on the entire B&O in the state. 12 By 1923, it became the largest cattle shipping point east of the Mississippi River with 275 cars needed to carry between 4,000 to 5,000 cattle. The depot had been built in 1892 by the WV&P and served unbroken blocks of grazing lands for cattle controlled by the Goff, Gore,  Haymond, Lowndes, Lucas, Maxwell, and Reynolds families. By the 1930s, the county had become one of the biggest beef cattle producing regions in the eastern United States.

Coal mining was developed around Richwood after the Great Depression but collapsed after 500 coal mining jobs were lost in 1984 and 1985. 7

Mergers

The C&O took financial control of the B&O in 1963. 2 The B&O at that point already had a controlling interest in the Western Maryland Railway (WM). In 1973, the three railroads were brought together under one identity, the Chessie System. The WM was formally merged into the B&O in 1976.

In 1980, the Chessie and the Seaboard Coast Line, which controlled the Louisville & Nashville, the Clinchfield, and Georgia railroads, merged to form the CSX Corporation. 2 Despite the consolidation, CSX never had its own identity until 1986, when all of the merged entities was renamed CSX Transportation (CSX).

In April 1987, the B&O was formally absorbed into the C&O, which merged into CSX in August. 2

Abandonment

The first abandonment of the B&O Richwood Branch came in the 1940s when the line between Weston and Orlando was abandoned. 15 The B&O opted to route through trains from Orlando northeast to Buckhannon via the Coal & Coke Railway, and then west to Weston via the B&O Pickens Branch (originally the Weston & Buckhannon). The Coal & Coke had been acquired by the B&O in 1916, becoming their Charleston Branch. 16

During the 1970s and 1980s, increased foreign competition caused one glass company after another to close in Weston. With little originating traffic in the city, CSX discontinued use of the Richwood Branch between Weston and McWhorter on August 25, 1989. 13

After the coal mines around Richwood never reopened, CSX abandoned the Richwood Branch between Cowen and Richwood in 1990. 9 The Cranberry Tri-Rivers Rail-Trail committee purchased the right-of-way for $189,000 after securing a $69,000 grant from the Georgia-Pacific Company, which operated a large mill in Richwood. The company retained the rights to operate the trail as a logging haul road during the off-season to move cut timbers into Richwood.

In September 1998, the state dedicated the new six-mile Cranberry Tri-Rivers Rail-Trail, which followed the Cherry and Gauley Rivers between Richwood and Enoch Branch near Allingdale. 9 The multi-use path included a long trestle over the Cranberry River and the 640-foot Sarah’s Tunnel. The trail is planned to extend from Enoch Branch to Cowen along the abandoned branch’s mainline and from Bolair to Cowen on a former spur to a coal mine.

In 1999, CSX abandoned the section of the Richwood Branch between McWhorter and the former B&O St. Louis mainline in Clarksburg. 10

The remaining active portions of the B&O Richwood Branch became the CSX Cowen Subdivision, which extended south from Grafton to Philippi, Buckhannon, Burnsville, and Cohen.

2003 CSX System Map

A 2003 system map from CSX of its routes in northern West Virginia.

Transfer

On March 25, 2005, the Appalachian & Ohio Railroad (A&O), a part of Watco Companies, took over operations of the former Cowen Subdivision. 1 (The sale also included the former Pickens Subdivision, from Hampton Junction to Alexander.) The A&O had connections to the WVC at Tygart Junction, the BEEM at Alexander, and the Elk River Railroad at Burnsville.

A&O System Map

The A&O was expected to move 90,000 carloads in the first year, 1 with coal comprising 95% of the route’s traffic. Coal was expected to be shipped from the mines to power plants in the North and Mid-Atlantic states. The A&O held onto the line for just a short time before turning it over to Four Rivers Transportation, now P&L Transportation, on May 15, 2006. P&L Transportation is jointly owned by the P&L Railway and CSX.


Gallery

Historical


Sources

  1. “A&O.” Watco, 2005. Article.
  2. Volin, Rudy. “Perryville and Havre De Grace, Md.” Trains, 6 July 2006.
  3. “A&O Railroad.” Appalachian and Ohio Railroad, 2006. Article.
  4. “Richwood Branch – B&O RR.” West Virginia Railroads, Past and Present, 13 Jun. 2012. Article.
  5. “West Virginia & Pittsburgh Railroad.” West Virginia Railroads, Past and Present, 28 May 2015. Article.
  6. “Richwood, West Virginia.” West Virginia, Cyclopedia, 17 Jun. 2012. Article.
  7. City of Richwood Comprehensive Plan. 2016, West Virginia University Land Use & Sustainable Development Law Clinic. Article.
  8. Gioulis, Michael. Downtown Richwood Historic District. National Park Service, 2001. Article.
  9. Kirkman, Kenney. “Here and There.” Turntable Times, Apr. 1998, pp. 1–2.
  10. Robie, Dan. “Parkersburg to Clarksburg–Waist of the B&O Main part II.” WVNC Rails. Article.
  11. “Baltimore and Ohio Rail Road.” La Belle WoodworkingArticle.
  12. Nesbitt, Becky and Jeff Wyne. Lost Creek Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Depot. National Park Service, 2004. Article.
  13. Chris. “Weston, W Virginia.” Trainorders.com, 1 Dec. 2002. Forum.
  14. City of Weston Comprehensive Plan. 2014, West Virginia University Land Use & Sustainable Development Law Clinic. Article.
  15. Poggie, John J., et al., editors. “The Lost Setting: Roanoke, West Virginia.” Anthropological Research: Process and Application, State University of New York Press, 1992, p. 234.
  16. Rice, Donald L. “Coal & Coke Railway.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia, 30 Jan. 2012. Article.