WV Central and Pittsburg Railway
The West Virginia Central & Pittsburg [sic] Railway evolved from a charter issued by the West Virginia legislature in 1866 under the name of the Potomac & Piedmont Coal & Railroad Company. The WVC&P culminated from Henry Gassaway Davis’s ambition to develop for the world market the vast coal and timber resources in the Potomac headwaters region and the western slopes and valleys of the Allegheny Mountains.
Work commenced in April 1880, with track-laying crews building southwestward from Cumberland, Maryland. Davis, a U.S. senator (1871–83) and industrialist, formally opened his railroad on November 2, 1881. By November 1884, the WVC&P had been built to Davis, Tucker County. The rails reached Elkins in November 1889, and the first passenger train arrived on December 3. Charles M. Pepper, Davis’s biographer, said that the West Virginia Central & Pittsburg ‘‘unlocked the imprisoned resources in the heart of the state.’’
Starting at Cumberland, the railroad followed the North Branch of the Potomac River up to its source, passing over the divide and continuing south of Backbone Mountain to Thomas. From Thomas the main line followed the waters of the Blackwater River to Dry Fork, then through the mountain gap to Parsons at the forks of Cheat River. The line then followed Shavers Fork a short distance, crossed over to Leading Creek and followed that into Elkins. From Elkins branches ran to Huttonsville, Belington, and Bemis. The Coal & Iron Railroad extending from Elkins to Durbin and the Coal & Coke Railroad from Elkins to Charleston were also built by Davis as extensions of the WVC&P. Davis sold the entire system to the Gould interests in 1902, and it became part of the Western Maryland Railway Company in 1905.
From e-WV, The West Virginia Encyclopedia; article by L. Wayne Sheets
Western Maryland Railroad
The history of West Virginia is tied to coal and lumber, and associated industries such as paper milling and coke production. The resources harvested and products created were shipped across state lines via the intricate railroad systems put in place.
The Western Maryland Railroad stretched through Maryland, Pennsylvania and of course, West Virginia. The rail road system initially had many names and owners; however, under ownership of George Gould, son of legendary rail baron Jay Gould, the small rail line grew exponentially, reaching from Hagerstown to Cumberland, to the coal deposits and lumber stands of West Virginia. Building railroads in the Allegheny Mountains proved to be difficult because of the steep mountain grades and switch backs. After decades of fast service, the WMRR was acquired by the B&O RR in 1964, but the tracks laid down by the WMRR were no longer the most direct owned by the B&O, so much of the extension was abandoned around 1975, leaving the property available for reuse and resulting in recreational paths like today’s Allegheny Highlands Trail. For more information about the Western Maryland Rail Road, visit here.
Turning former rail road tracks into trails promotes community revitalization and human health. It can transform a piece of history into something useful for today. These transformed spaces give unique points of view into history, nature and human ability.
To learn more about the Rail Trail Conservatory, click here.