The South Branch Valley Railroad is a short-line railroad that operates in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, USA. The railroad runs from Petersburg to Green Spring, West Virginia, and it is approximately 84.3 miles in length.
It then links up with the CSXT mainline to connect to Cumberland and Martinsburg, West Virginia. You will find that the South Branch Valley Railroad generally parallels the southern branch of the Potomac River. This is also the river where the railroad gets its name.
It features a track gauge of 4 feet and 8.5 inches. West Virginia State Rail Authority (SRA) owns the South Branch Valley Railroad and they bought it from Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. It is currently headquartered in Moorefield.
The South Branch Valley Railroad was originally constructed in the late 19th century as a way to transport coal, timber, and other natural resources from the mountainous regions of West Virginia to the rest of the country.
The railroad was also a key transportation link for the residents, providing passenger service and connecting them to other parts of the state and the nation.
It became fully operational in 1978 and has been operating since. Its purchase by the West Virginia State Rail Authority would occur in the same year later on. This was mainly due to the fact that the original company folded, and the next owner was also unable to get the ball rolling.
It took a decent chunk of effort to finish the project. This was the direct result of both the owning company and the local citizens of Hampshire County.
Throughout its history, the South Branch Valley Railroad has had a significant economic impact on the region. The railroad has provided jobs for local residents, and it has helped to support the growth of local businesses.
Additionally, the railroad has been a vital transportation link for the region’s farmers and timber companies, allowing them to get their products to markets in other parts of the state and the country. Serving communities such as Grant County, Hardy Country, and Hampshire County has easily led to a lot of prosperity in West Virginia.
Currently, the South Branch Valley Railroad operates several trains per week, carrying a mix of freight, including coal, chemicals, agricultural products, and general merchandise. The railway also serves as a vital transportation link for the region’s chemical, paper, and natural gas industries.
Freight operations occur five days a week, except for the weekends. These operations carry out a major supply of lime, plastic, and poultry feed. Total car loadings can go as high as 4,000 per year.
In recent years, there have been several investments and improvements made to the South Branch Valley Railroad. In the early 2000s, the railroad underwent a significant rehabilitation project, which included the replacement of aging tracks, bridges, and other infrastructure. This project helped to improve the safety and reliability of the railroad.
In addition, the South Branch Valley Railroad has been investing in new locomotives and railcars, which has helped to increase the efficiency and capacity of the railroad.
Despite these improvements, the South Branch Valley Railroad has faced its fair share of challenges over the years. In 1985, a major flood caused significant damage to the railroad’s infrastructure, resulting in a temporary suspension of service.
The total damage repair cost amounted to almost $12 million, as there were more than 34 miles of track that were completely devastated. The damage would soon take more than 2 years to repair.
The railway authority could have easily abandoned the railway roads but instead chose to rebuild and invest in them further. This resulted in the protection of countless jobs and services.
Furthermore, the continuation of the railway roads meant that the service would continue its daily routes and cargo transports. Further investments led to even more jobs being created, which resulted in a better economy overall.
Later, in 2012, a derailment caused an environmental disaster and resulted in fines for the company. These incidents have highlighted the importance of continued investment in the railroad’s infrastructure and safety practices.
Overall, the South Branch Valley Railroad is a vital transportation link that has played an important role in the economic development of the region. While there may have been ups and downs in its history, it is still going strong and operational.
With its rich history and ongoing operations, it continues to serve as a major economic engine for the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. With continued investments and improvements, it is in a good position to continue to serve the region.