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The Coal and Coke Railway (C&C) was a railroad that stretched from Charleston, West Virginia to Elkins, and included branches that connected to many coal fields and coke ovens.

Charleston, Clendennin and Sutton Railroad

Planning for a railroad along the Elk River dated to 1878 when the Potomac and Ohio Railroad (P&O) was chartered.10 The idea of a double tracked rail line from the Potomac to the Kanawha River’s junction with the Ohio River was estimated to cost $27 million and include 15,000 feet of tunnels and a crossing over the Ohio River. The company estimated that the rail line would carry 7 million tons of freight annually for a profit of $357,000.

Ground breaking for the P&O occurred in late 1878.10 Counties along the route were eager to subscribe, and $375,000 was subscribed towards the adventurous effort. A survey of the route was completed by Major Albert H. Campbell and some grading was completed along the Elk before financial issues caused the P&O project to fold.

Two surveys were completed along the Elk in 1881, one for the Baltimore, Cincinnati and Western Railroad, which would follow the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers to Charleston, north along the Elk and eastward towards Moorefield, and then northeast to Winchester, Leesburg and Baltimore.10 The 601 mile line had an estimated cost of $15 million with another $10 million required for equipment and structures. The other survey was for the Doane Railroad, which would have been on the opposite bank of the Elk River. Both proposals never matured.

In February 1884, the Elk Railroad Company was chartered, who had planned a narrow gauge line from Charleston north to Sutton.10 The company proposed that Kanawha, Clay and Braxton subscribe $150,000, $18,000 and $75,000 respectively. The Elk Railroad was warmly received by Johnson Camden, who owned a narrow gauge from Clarksburg south to Weston. Camden proposed to extend his line southward to Sutton if the Elk River were to be completed. Camden later purchased other narrow gauges and formed the West Virginia and Pittsburgh Railroad. But a lack of support in Charleston only resulted in some surveying being completed.

Another proposal followed in May for the Chicago, Parkersburg and Norfolk Railway, which would follow the Elk only in the vicinity of Sutton, with a branch south to Charleston.10 The company requested a subscription of $50,000 from Braxton County, and a $12 million bond was issued with a contract for construction granted. But no work was ever completed.

Finally, the Grafton, Buckhannon and Charleston Railroad was proposed later in the year, chartered by a group of investors who had involvement in the Grafton and Greenbriar Railroad. But no work was completed on this proposal, either.10

Worried about the failures of the rail lines in the region, a meeting was held by the citizens of Charleston on May 11, 1891 and a charter for a new rail line, the Charleston, Clendennin and Sutton Railroad (CC&S), was issued only three days later.10 Henry Gassaway Davis, president of the West Virginia Central and Pittsburg Railway (WVC&P), was informed about the new proposal. The WVC&P extended from Cumberland, Maryland south to Elkins, with branches under construction to Beverly and Belington. It was reported that $100,000 could be raised which would be enough to construct a line from Charleston to Clendennin.10 Davis was approached for assistance in constructing a link from the WVC&P to Sutton, although he declined on the basis of finances and that the Elk River valley was Camden’s territory. Davis and Camden had separated their railroad interests only a year prior.

An inaugural meeting was held on June 18 to elect the directors and adopt by-laws.10 Elections were held on August 1, and $100,000 of bonds were approved for the CC&S. This, added to the $80,000 from area businessman and a $50,000 subscription in Clay County was enough to start work on the line. By late September, survey work was being completed to determine what side of the Elk to construct on. One month later, the first six miles of the CC&S had been surveyed, and by December, the route to Clay County had been surveyed.

A contract to construct the first 20 miles was awarded in late February 1892, and work began in early March at Mill Creek. By July, nine miles had been graded, with 2.5 miles of track laid. The CC&S did not reach Clendenin until June 1893.10 14

In July, another bond in the amount of $100,000 was issued to complete the CC&S.10 In July 1894, a survey crew was working northward towards Sutton, being completed by October. On October 12, work began on the expansion, with 30 miles projected to be completed by the end of 1895. By mid-December, construction had reached Queen Shoals.

In January 1895, a $3 million bond was awarded that would allow for the construction of an additional 80 miles of railroad.10 By this point, engineering crews had reached Groves Creek, approximately 50 miles north of Clendenin, reaching Sutton on February 22. Construction was slowed by poor weather, and a contract for construction from Birch Run to Buffalo Creek near Clay Court House was issued in April. In July of 1895, when a new depot was constructed and the yards enlarged at Charleston. By November, track had been completed to Clay Court House. Another contract was let on December 14 for construction to complete the line to Sutton, but all work stopped for five years beginning in July 1896 due to opposition from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) and various landowners.

Work resumed in 1901 with a 12 mile contract to Big Otter awarded,10 which was completed in 1902.14

Branches

The Belva and Elk River, which followed Blue Creek towards Hitop, was completed in 1896.10 The line, later served by Chessie until the Elk Refinery at Falling Rock closed in 1983, was acquired by Conrail to access Union Carbide mines.11 The last train moved in 1991 and has since been abandoned.

Roaring Creek and Charleston Railroad

The Roaring Creek and Charleston Railroad (RC&C) was issued a charter on April 14, 1893 for a railroad extending from the mouth of Roaring Creek in Randolph County near Coalton to Charleston, with a principal office at Elkins.4 The line at Roaring Creek connected to the West Virginia Central & Pittsburg (WVC&P), and was one of three branches that radiated out of Elkins.12 The incorporators were Samuel B. Dillon, John D. Skiles and William F. Dillon of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, O.C. Womelsdorf of Pottsville, Pennsylvania (who founded Coalton in 1895), and Daniel R. Baker of Beverly. The amount of capital authorized was $300,000.

A three mile extension from Coalton to Flat Bush was completed in late 1896 and a seven mile extension southward to Mabie was graded.9 A press dispatch from 1897 from Piedmont noted that final work on the RC&C’s connection with the WVC&P was being completed.6 9

A July 8, 1899 edition of The Black Diamond reported that the RC&C was being extended from Belington to Beaver Creek, a distance of 8 miles, to tap into a six foot thick coal seam.3 On July 1, 1904, the line was absorbed into the Roaring Creek and Belington Railroad, which was acquired by the Davis Colliery Company.13

The B&O, the eventual successor to the RC&C, requested to abandoned 3.34 miles of line from Coalton to Mabie on January 6, 1972.18 A portion of the line from Roaring Creek Junction east to a mine along Roaring Creek near Norton has not been abandoned, although it sees no traffic – as depicted by the photograph below.

Roaring Creek and Belington Railroad

The Roaring Creek and Belington Railroad (RC&B) was issued a charter on November 11, 1893 for a line from Belington to the mouth of Roaring Creek.5 It was incorporated by Joseph Ruffner, Malcolm Jackson, D.W. Patterson, J.F. Brown, E.W. Knight, all of Charleston, with an authorized capital of $10,000. The line, which had connections with the B&O’s Belington and Grafton Branch at Belington 2 and with the WVC&P at Roaring Creek,1 was completed in 1895.12

The RC&C purchased the RC&B in July 1904, which extended southward from Beaver Creek along the Tygarts River to Mabie via Norton and Coalton.1 The line was owned by the Davis Colliery Company and was leased by the Coal and Coke Railway in perpetually, and operated as part of the C&C.

On January 25, 1905, the C&C paid the Davis Colliery Company $2 million for the purchase of the company.13 Davis had been, for some time, thinking of merging the two companies to ensure that the C&C had a steady source of product for the railroad.

After selling the West Virginia Central & Pittsburg railroad in the January of 1902, Henry Gassaway Davis acquired 19 miles of track owned by the RC&C and the RC&B on January 25.8 The RC&B was merged into the C&C in 1919.

Coal and Coke Railway

The C&C was chartered on May 14, 1902 by former Senator Henry Gassaway Davis to connect the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad and the Kanawha and Michigan Railway at Charleston to the West Virginia Central & Pittsburg Railway (WVC&P) near Elkins.1 15 Davis had acquired a large amount of acreage in the Roaring Creek area in Randolph County, and in the surrounding counties, that were rich with coal seams. He had also noted the vast virgin timber stands in the remote regions between Charleston and Elkins, which was nearly devoid of any population. The construction of a railroad was instrumental in the development of those resources.

The C&C had a capital stock of $5 million.12

To facilitate the construction of the C&C, Davis sold the WVC&P in January 1902 16 and purchased 25 miles of track used by the RC&C and the RC&B, which served his coal properties in Randolph and Barbour Counties.12 Davis was under pressure from a syndicate headed by George L. Gould, a railroad magnate who was forming a cartel among the nation’s largest carriers in an attempt to fix rates.15 Gould had controlled the Wabash, and wanted a railroad into Pittsburgh from an area served by the WVC&P. Gould had purchased the Western Maryland, which reached Hagerstown with an extension to Cumberland proposed.16 Negotiations had only begun in the fall of 1901.

Work began on the C&C April 17, and by May, work had started on the first tunnel at Kingsville.12 By late November, progress had been made at the third, fourth (Shipmans Gap Tunnel) and fifth tunnels (Reeds Tunnel).

On October 27, Davis inquired about the CC&S, and considered purchasing the railroad.12 The CC&S, however, was in poor condition due to its cheap construction, which included a handful of metal bridges and several wooden trestles, uneven track and a lack of ballast. Davis went ahead and purchased the railroad on November 19, which extended from Charleston to Otter measuring 64 miles.1 7 12

By mid-January 1903, work on the first tunnel, measuring 2,400 feet, was completed, and that work on the second tunnel had just begun.12 By February, track had been laid from Leiter to Loop. On July 20, a contract was let to construct a tunnel twelve between Perkins Fork and Brushy Fork of Little Otter Creek (Little Otter Tunnel).

By January 1904, tracks had been laid to tunnel three and work on Reeds Tunnel was nearing completion.13 But problems cropped up at Little Otter Tunnel, although work began on tunnel six (Sago Tunnel) in February. Bids were opened on March 10 for construction between Frenchton and Copen Run, a distance of 35 miles On August 24, Davis purchased the Little Kanawha Railroad after encountering issues with securing right-of-way where the Little Kanawha had already laid claim. The Little Kanawha had a better alignment and reduced grades from Copen Run through Burnsville to Walkersville.13 Tunnel eight (Jones Tunnel) was finished by August, and trains were allowed to run between Elkins and Sago on September 19.

On January 10, 1905, the lagest stone bridge on the C&C was completed, comprising of two 52 segmental arches over French Creek.13 The Little Otter Tunnel was finished on August 15, over one year behind schedule. By November 17, only 5 miles of track remained to be laid. On December 1, the C&C was completed, although there was no celebration when the last spike was driven at Walkersville in Lewis County.7 13 15 The C&C included 12 tunnels and 30 steel bridges from Norton to Gassaway, but no wooden trestles or timber bridges. An extension of the line, the Coal and Iron Railroad, had been completed earlier in 1903 from Elkins to Durbin at the headwaters of the Greenbrier River.15

The C&C opened up the resources as promised. The C&C acquired and began operating the Davis Colliery Company properties, totaling around 20,000 acres in the Roaring Creek region, which consisted of five plants that produed 3,500 tons of coal and 700 tons of coke daily for an annual payment of $80,000.1 7 In addition, 49 saw mills were built between Elkins and Durbin.15

One of the biggest developments came from Clay County. Joseph G. Bradley, who owned 102,000 acres of virgin timber, organized the Elk River Coal and Lumber Company in 1903.15 Bradley had inherited the land in 1880 from his father, Simon Cameron, a Pennsylvania politician that had served as Secretary of War under Abraham Lincoln. In 1904, Bradley chartered the Buffalo Creek and Gauley Railroad, which was a 104-mile proposed line from Dundon on the C&C east to Huttonsville in Randolph County. Only 18.5 miles were completed, which served his coal company town of Widen. Bradley also started a farm and dairy at Cressmont and the timber company town of Swandale.

In 1906, Davis purchased the CC&S.14

On November 23, 1912, Davis relinquished his role in management of the C&C at the age of 89.17 Davis, who had been known for his horseback excursions in the counties surrounding the C&C, had overseen the construction of every mile of the C&C and had covered every section of the line with the engineering parties – even into his late 80s.

In 1916, Davis died at the age of 93, and the C&C was leased the following year by his estate to the B&O.15 The line was operated as the Charleston Branch of the B&O.

The C&C by 1917 operated a mainline from Charleston to Elkins for a distance of 175.6 miles, a branch from Belington to Mabie via Norton and Coalton at 16 miles, from Gassaway to Sutton at 6.5 miles.1 It had connections with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) at Belington, with the Western Maryland (WM) at Roaring Creek Junction and at Elkins, with the Kanawha & Michigan at Charleston, and by switching arrangements there with the Chesapeake & Ohio.

Branches

The Dry Fork Railroad, which extended south from Hendricks in Tucker County up the Dry Fork of Cheat River to Horton in Randolph County, extended for 31 miles.15 The line became the Central West Virginia and Southern Railroad in 1913. 29.5 miles were owned by the railroad, and the remainder were owned by the Spears Lumber Company.

Baltimore and Ohio Charleston Branch

The B&O saw a steady amount of coal traffic along the line after the purchase of the C&C, and even congestion during World War I when demand along the railroad increased tremendously.18 The first major improvement came on May 12, 1918 when the Hampton cutoff opened to traffic. The route connected the C&C east of Adrian along French Creek with the B&O Pickens Branch near Hampton on the Buckhannon River, and contained a 313 foot tunnel.

In 1922, a proposal was formulated to eliminate the alignment along Oil Creek east of Orlando and along West Fork River from Jacksonville to Arnold.18 A new alignment would be constructed from Burnsville south of the existing track to Orlando and then divert northeast to Arnold via a less steeper route. The proposal was shelved.

The first abandonment proposal was announced in 1928 for the right fork of the C&C Turner Branch that was abandoned a year later.18 The left fork of the branch was abandoned on April 7, 1931. In December 1930, the B&O was granted permission the Flatwoods – Sutton branch after encouraging industries and businesses to locate along the C&C mainline. All service stopped on December 31 when a new bridge for automobiles was completed across the Elk River. In October 1933, the B&O was granted permission to abandoned 21 miles of the Little Kanawha Railroad.

During this time, passenger service was being scaled back or discontinued due to roadway improvements in the area.

On October 7, the board of the C&C authorized the sell of the railroad to the B&O, which was finalized on January 5, 1934.18

Further abandonments occurred. The B&O was abandoned from Adrian to Midvale, which included the Hampton cutoff, in 1941.18 On August 14, 1940, permission was granted for the B&O and the Western Maryland (WM) to share trackage rights between Elkins and Belington, and the B&O abandoned their line between the RC&B at Leiter near Roaring Creek Junction to Belington. The WM abandoned the WV&P line from Elkins to Roaring Creek Junction. The trackage right agreement dated to 1931, although it was not formalized for nearly a decade.

Work began in May 1946 on track realignment due to the Tygart Valley River flood diversion project that included a levee and diversion channel west of Elkins. The work was completed in 1948.18

The 1940s and 1950s saw much labor unrest in the coal mining industry, which led to sharp reductions in coal transported during certain months and caused considerable losses for the railroad. In April 1951, the Middle Creek Railroad was abandoned, although the B&O operated a short segment of the line for several years to serve a mine.18 The owner of the line, Porter Hyer, reported in May 1941 that the railroad was losing money and was making attempts to “give away” the line. The remainder of the line was abandoned in 1965 when the mine played out.

The first new construction on the line occured in 1957, when the Heathcliff branch was constructed along the Little Kanawha River from Gilmer westward towards Glenville. A construction contract to build 1.5 miles of track was announced on January 10 to serve a mine at Trubada. Coal was trucked to a tipple west of Sand Fork.18 After a thick seam of coal was discovered, the B&O extended the line westward towards the tipple with a contract let in May 1958. The first train to run to the tipple occurred on July 23, 1959. But while production expanded just as fast to 937,092 tons by 1964, it had also declined with equal speed to 596,423 tons just two years later. The mine closed on July 31, 1967. The Healthcliff branch was abandoned on December 16, 1971. The below USGS topographic image shows the end of the line near Sand Fork and the mine.

The B&O requested to abandoned 3.34 miles of line from Coalton to Mabie on January 6, 1972. which was part of the RC&C.18 Later that year, the B&O requested to abandon the Sutton branch, but was withdrawn only to be reapplied for in 1984. Permission was granted on February 14, 1985.

One of the most significant abandonments occurred in 1977, when the B&O requested permission to abandoned the C&C mainline from Clendenin and Hartland, a distance of 28.75 miles.18 Permission was granted on April 1, 1979. Another request was made in 1985 for abandonment of the line from Hartland to Dundon, a distance of 5 miles. But the B&O’s successor, CSXT, filed for the abandonment of 61 miles of C&C trackage from Gilmer south to Hartland.

The saving grace for the Gilmer to Hartland segment came shortly after when it was announced that the line had been sold to the Elk River Railroad (ER), which owned the Buffalo Creek and Gauley Railroad (BC&G), which extended from Dundon to Widen.18 The BC&G was proposed for abandonment in 1965 by its owner, the Clinchfield Coal Company. The line was closed with the exception of a coal train from Dundon to Swandale, a distance of 12 miles. The line to Widen was reopened in late 1975 to serve a new mine.

The ER had hoped to start operations on the line in October 1991, although runs did not begin until May 1996.18 The ER also wanted to acquire more C&C trackage from Hartland to Reamer from CSXT, which had been transferred to Conrail in 1985. That portion of the line had earlier been operated by the C&O, but abandoned by Conrail in 1986. Conrail, the successor to the Kanawha and West Virginia (K&WV), operated the former C&C line from Charleston to Blue Creek after the K&WV was abandoned on the north bank of the Elk River. This would give the ER a line from CSXT’s line at Burnsville Junction south via Gilmer, Gassaway, Dundon, Hartland, Falling Rock, Blue Creek to Charleston.

On September 15, 1996, permission was granted for the ER to reconstruct the C&C from Hartland to Reamer despite objections from Conrail and CSXT.18 It was later in the month that Conrail and CSXT merged. After a mine at Avoca closed in September 1999, operations along the ER ceased. The line, however, was used for car storage after a contract was signed with Appalachian Railcar Service on November 15, 2001.

As of the writing of this article, the line from Blue Creek south to Charleston has not been formally abandoned, although it is in serious disrepair and has not seen a train for over a decade. After the Conrail split, the Falling Rock to Charleston line was absorbed into Norfolk Southern.

Digest
Sources
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