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Chesapeake and Ohio Railway South Side Branch

The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway South Side Branch is a partly abandoned line along the New River between South Side Junction to Macdougal, West Virginia.

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The Greenbrier & New River Railroad (G&NR) was incorporated on August 6, 1881, with the goal of building a railway from Hawks Nest to Hinton along the south side of the New River. 2 There was never any serious intention to build the line as the G&NR was owned by C&O director Abiel Abbot Low; it was more of a ploy to prevent the Norfolk & Western Railway from building a line downstream along the New River from Glen Lyn, Virginia. The discovery of rich coal seams along the New River changed that decision.

The New River Bridge Company was formed on January 25, 1887, with the desire to build a railroad crossing across the New River at Captain Thurmond’s Ferry and connect to a proposed C&O railroad branch along Dunloup Creek. 2 Partly owned by Low, construction of the bridge began in October. At around the same time, Low began work on the G&NR from the south end of the new bridge under development to tap virgin coal seams between Thurmond and Hawks Nest.

Under an agreement from March 1889, the C&O agreed to operate the new New River bridge at Thurmond when it was completed, along with the G&NR, which was to be referred to as the Greenbrier & New River Branch. 2

By April 1889, the new bridge at Captain Thurmond’s Ferry had opened, along with 3.31 miles of the G&NR from South Side Junction to Rush Run, which was operated by the C&O. 2 The line was then extended to Butchers Branch near Kaymoor in May 1894. Plans were made to extend the line further north and west to meet with the C&O mainline at Macdougal opposite Hawks Nest.

The West Virginia Herald proclaimed in October 1901 that the G&NR would be opened to Macdougal by November 18, but landslides hampered construction. 2 On November 31, the G&NR was acquired by the C&O. Finally, the line between Kaymoor and Macdougal was opened in December 1903, and the entire route from South Side Junction to Macdougal became known as the South Side Branch.

As part of the double-tracking of the C&O mainline between Clifton Forge and Cincinnati, the railroad opted to utilize a portion of the South Side Branch for its second track through the New River gorge. 2 In 1907, it constructed a bridge across the New River below Mann’s Creek near Sewell to connect its c. 1873 mainline to the South Side Branch. Upon completion, the original line on the north side of the river was used as the westbound mainline, while the South Side Branch between Macdougal and Mann’s Creek on the south side of the river was used as the eastbound mainline (referred to as the South Side Mainline).

As part of the project, the original wood bridge across Mann’s Creek was replaced in 1906 with a 31-foot double-arched concrete culvert, and MJ Cabin (Bridge Junction) was built at Mann’s Creek, which was operated until 1921. 2

MilepostStation NameOpenedClosed
391.1South Side Junction (Begin South Side Branch)
391.5Arbuckle, Rend, B. Mine, Minden No. 1, Weewin1900
392.1Thurmond Mine, ErskineJul. 1898
393.3Rush Run, South Rush Run1898Apr. 1957
393.9Red Ash1898Apr. 1957
398.8MJ Cabin/Bridge Jct. (End South Side Branch, Begin South Side Mainline)Jul. 1906
399.3South Caperton1900
399.8South Caperton, Chapman, ElevertonOct. 1898
401.6Brown, South Nuttall1901
402.6Kaymoor No. 1
403.6Kaymoor No. 21910
404.8South FayetteApr. 1907
408.9MacDougal – (End South Side Mainline)1873
List of stations along the South Side Branch. 1

By 1921, there were seven mines operating along the 7.8-mile South Side Branch which had decreased to just two mines along the South Side Branch and four along the South Side Mainline by 1944. 2 By 1950, the Brooklyn Mine was the only one open along the South Side Branch, with the South Side Mine, Elverton Mine, and Kaymoor Mine were the only ones open along the South Side Mainline. In April 1957, the C&O closed the stations at Red Ash and South Rush Run since they had produced very little carloads since 1953.

On July 22, 1958, a significant landslide destroyed the South Side Branch near Red Ash. 2 As the line was only used to serve the Brooklyn Mine, the C&O opted not to clean up the slide, which resulted in the permanent severing of the South Side Branch with the line abandoned between Red Ash and South Side Junction. The railroad accessed Brooklyn Mine by backing a train down from the South Side Mainline at Mann’s Creek.

The C&O abandoned 2.8 miles of the South Side Branch from Red Ash to Brooklyn in 1963, 2 followed by the remainder to the long-gone MJ Cabin in 1972. 3




  1. McChord, Wendell. “Stations on the South Side Branch, the Rend Branch, and South Side Mainline.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine, Fall 2014, pp. 4-9.
  2. McChord, Wendell. “Building the Rend and South Side Branches and South Side Mainline in New River Gorge.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine, July/August 2014, pp. 6-.


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