Harpers Ferry to Winchester VA

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chnhrr
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Harpers Ferry to Winchester VA

Post by chnhrr » Fri Jul 01, 2011 4:06 pm

Yesterday I was at Harpers Ferry and Charlestown (no I didn’t do the Casino) West Virginia. I have some questions concerning the branch line from Harpers Ferry to Winchester VA.

1) What main industries did it serve?
2) How long did passenger service last?
3) The line on the attached map shows it terminating at Strasburg Junction, VA. Did the B&O connect with another railroad at this point?
4) Currently does CSX or NS own the line and what is its current purpose?
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hutton_switch
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Re: Harpers Ferry to Winchester VA

Post by hutton_switch » Sat Jul 02, 2011 8:00 am

Sir,

I have contacted a couple other individuals about your questions who are considered experts on this section of the B&O/CSX. Mr. Bob Cohen (e-mail: orl96782@yahoo.com) has provided answers for nos. 2 - 4 and Mr. John King provided answers for no. 1. What they say follows:

1) What main industries did it serve?

Going west (to most, that would seem to go south), this listing can cover the years 1930-1960:

Millville: There were three large quarry operations extracting and processing dolomite. Dolomite is a form of limestone containing approximately 45% Magnesium Carbonate and 55% Calcium Carbonate. US Steel subsidiary Pittsburgh Limestone (later Michigan Limestone) and Jones and Laughlin subsidiary Blair Limestone produced raw stone for Open Hearth and Blast Furnace flux. Blair also produced some burnt lime for flux in the steel industry. Standard Lime and Stone produced various types of processed dolomite for use as refractories and flux in the steel industry.

Halltown: Halltown Paperboard Company. Processed waste paper into cardboard.

Charlestown: Various businesses supporting agriculture and small town including feed mills, lumber yard and coal dealers. Victor Products produced vending machines. There were apple cold storage warehouses and processing plants on the Belt Line (jointly owned and operated with N&W).

Winchester: Various businesses supporting agriculture and small town including feed mills, lumber yards and coal dealers. There were three cold storage warehouses shipping apples plus several apple packing houses. Fresh apples shipments were mostly by truck in the 1950’s and later. National Fruit (White House) and Heinz had processing plants producing vinegar and canned apples products. National Fruit was on PRR but provided traffic to the B&O. Zeropak produced frozen apple slices for used by bakers and restaurants. The O’Sullivan Rubber Company and American Brakeblock Company also had manufacturing plants in Winchester.

West (south on the map) of Winchester: The primary industry was high calcium limestone. M.J. Grove had plants at Stephens City and Middletown. Central Chemical (later Chemstone, now ON Minerals) and Shenandoah Valley Lime and Stone had plants at Oranda (between Cedar Creek and Capon Road. Standard Lime and Stone had a plant at Capon Road and Powhatan Lime Co had a plant at Strasburg Jct. In the 1960’s West Virginia Pulp and Paper had a pulpwood loading yard at Strasburg Jct.

2) How long did passenger service last?

Regular scheduled Passenger service on the B&O line ended on Saturday, August 13, 1949. They continued running extras for the Charlestown Races at least into 1966 but those had limited stops in each direction and went no further than the race tracks. They may have continued another year or so after that but that is the latest I have confirmation of. The Pennsy line, which today is owned by the Winchester & Western and which terminated in Winchester ceased passenger service in September 1948. At least into the mid-1980's, CSX did run an occasional chartered excursion as far as Winchester but has ceased that practice entirely for at least 20 years.

3) The line on the attached map shows it terminating at Strasburg Junction, VA. Did the B&O connect with another railroad at this point?

Strasburg Junction -- the rails kind-of-sort-of still connect but are out of service for the last 200 yards between the former B&O and the former Southern line which continues. Regular interchange used to take place here but sometime after the Staggers Act, it ceased. I don't believe there was ever any formal petition for abandonment but it definitely is out of service for those last couple hundred yards or so. A rail was missing the last time I looked and trees and weeds were growing up between whatever rails and ties were still there. All ties seemed to be there, however, if the termites quit holding hands, even they might fall apart immediately, if not even sooner.

While it becomes complicated because of the timeline and history, suffice it to say, the B&O once owned and operated the line all the way from Harpers Ferry to Lexington. The rails from Staunton to Lexington were removed during WW II and the line between Harrisonburg to Staunton was sold to Chesapeake Western in 1942 who in turn sold it in 1993 or thereabouts to a local business consortium, which continues to manage it. Different operators have run the line in the nearly 20 years since the last sale.

In 1896, the B&O quit paying its lease rent on the line south of Strasburg Junction and it reverted to Southern Railway at that time. Southern operated it as a through line from Starsburg and points east plus all the way to Harrisonburg until April 1989 when the line was operationally chopped in two. There was the middle 6 miles or so which hadn't had any local business in nearly 20 years, so from Harrisonburg to Mt. Jackson in the south, the line has been operated by shortline Chesapeake Western. From the Mt. Jackson area to north of Edinburg, the line has been out of service since 1989. From the northern area of Edinburg, there was a roofing manufacturer, the Johns Manville Co. which received about 8-10 loads of perlite/week until October 2007 when with the housing downturn, demand for their product was significantly diminished and the plant closed at that time. Since that time, the rest of the line north to the East Strasburg area has also had no customers, so the line is in place, but out of service. Unneeded cars have been stored on this line, including about 6 or 8 passenger cars just south of Strasburg Jct. Regular freight service only really goes as far as Eastern Strasburg and that is from NS.

Passenger service on the Southern line ended October 25,1941 and was resumed for 8 months April 27,1947 to January 5,1948 when it ceased completely. A few chartered diesel excursions were run in the 1960's but according to my records, none since then have gone farther than Strasburg, which last had an exclusion in 1979. The Southern and NS steam program regularly ran steam excursions as far as Front Royal until May 1994.

4) Currently does CSX or NS own the line and what is its current purpose?

CSX owns and operates the line from Harpers Ferry to just short of Strasburg Jct. They have a number of customers along the line, including one just north of the junction (like 300 yards north) and they regularly pickup loaded cars of grain or aggregate in the 50 miles between Harpers Ferry and there at several locations.
Wade Rice
Member, B&O RR Historical Society
http://www.borhs.org
Daniel Willard (1860-1942) and Jervis Langdon, Jr. (1905-2004) - Two of B&O's best presidents and managers!
President Leonor Loree (1858-1940) brought the B&O into the 20th century!

chnhrr
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Re: Harpers Ferry to Winchester VA

Post by chnhrr » Sat Jul 02, 2011 10:21 pm

Thank you Wade for the very thorough and informative posting and my thanks to Messrs Cohen and King for their input. I was going to subsequently ask if there were any special trains to the Charlestown race track, but you have answered the question. I would like to find a photo of the trains at the race track stop. I am assuming that the trains departed from DC’s Union Station. The race track was started in 1933, so in the early years it was possible that horses were delivered to stables by rail horse cars. I walked along the track from the Casino to Ranson/Charlestown, but was not able to locate the old depot. I visit this area on a consistent basis so I will now see this line with a sense of its history. Thanks again to you and the B&O group.

Chuck Crawford
Alexandria VA

R,N, Nelson
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Re: Harpers Ferry to Winchester VA

Post by R,N, Nelson » Sat Jul 09, 2011 8:13 am

Passenger extras (PX) called the Apple Blossom Special operated from Baltimore to Winchester and return for the festival each year. They lasted until around 1960

I have noticed a common mistake in the spelling of Charles Town in the post. The name of the town is spelled with two words, not Charlestown

Norman

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Re: Harpers Ferry to Winchester VA

Post by R,N, Nelson » Sat Jul 09, 2011 8:28 am

Chuck:
The race track trains originated in Baltimore and did not stop in Union Station. To avoid the fee from coming in and out of Union Station, the trains came around the wye and stopped at University, just about where the Brookland Metro stop is today, then they stopped at Silver Spring and for a time, Rockville, then non-stop to the race track. For a while they also stopped at Laurel and Hyattsville.

There were two racetracks there, Charles Town Race Track and Shenandoah Downs, across from each other and one common platform served both. There was no station there but one at Charles Town, which had an Agent. The trains would usually lay over on the main.

The two race tacks had a racing season that did not conflict with each other.

If it was daytime racing, the special would get you there by post time which was just after noon. If evening racing, the trains came west from the Washington area right after 6:00pm and got you back sometimes very late at night.

Norman

chnhrr
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Re: Harpers Ferry to Winchester VA

Post by chnhrr » Sat Jul 09, 2011 8:39 pm

Thanks Norman for the info. I wasn’t familiar Shenandoah Downs and it’s interesting that for the District, the trains stopped in Brookland. I went the Catholic University. I read that on some occasions the racetracks would have to delay the races until the arrival of late trains.

Chuck Crawford

R,N, Nelson
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Re: Harpers Ferry to Winchester VA

Post by R,N, Nelson » Sun Jul 10, 2011 1:37 pm

I think that the race track itself for the other race track ( I have forgotten which of the two was shut down) is still there, now used for an exercise/training track One race track was for flat racing and the other was harness racing.

I guess you figured out that the station at University was named for CU. Since there was racing on Saturday, the Agent would have to come in just for the train. University only had local trains, Monday-Friday. We'd hear his grumbling for weeks afterwards.

Yes, the races would be delayed if the trains were, since that was a large part of the patronage. And the trains were held until after the last race, with some getting back in the wee hours.

The trains had about 8 Coaches and a food service car in the middle, normally a Lunch Counter. Sometimes more cars on Saturday. They couldn't sell alcohol while in West Virginia but sure made up for it when in Maryland. If there were disorderly passengers on the return trip, the crew phoned ahead to have them taken off at Silver Spring by the police.

I have to correct what I said about the trains "usually" laying over on the main. I should have said they "often" laid over on the main. There was a siding there for them and in the steam days, the road engine would cut off and the engine from Millville would come up behind the cars and shove them into the siding and then go back light to Millville. The road engine would then back, light. to Brunswick and turn on the turntable, take water and then back to the train at the race track. In the diesel days, they would take the train up to the N&W interchange track and run around it.

Norman

chnhrr
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Re: Harpers Ferry to Winchester VA

Post by chnhrr » Fri Jul 22, 2011 8:58 pm

Just following up on this one. As noted above, when I was in Charles Town I wasn’t able to locate the old station, so I assumed that it had been demolished. With later research, I’ve learned the station was relocated to the edge of town and beautifully restored as shown.

On Google satellite views it appears that the Norfolk and Western station is close by to this new location.
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BaltOhio
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Re: Harpers Ferry to Winchester VA

Post by BaltOhio » Sun Jul 24, 2011 3:07 pm

It's been quite some time that I've been to Charles Town, so I wasn't aware of this relocated station. But I can say that it's definitely not the old B&O Charles Town station. Perhaps it's a B&O station relocated from somewhere else, an N&W station from somewhere, or maybe even a newly built re-creation.. I'd be interested in its story, if anyone knows.

chnhrr
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Re: Harpers Ferry to Winchester VA

Post by chnhrr » Sun Jul 24, 2011 11:48 pm

BaltOhio the first link below is where I got the information of the building pictured being the relocated B&O station. I guess this is a question for the local historical society.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/chuckandal ... 326857394/

The link to Wikipedia below states that this is the Shenandoah Valley Railroad Station.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Charl ... ilehistory\

I don’t know if this helps, but here is a pic of the N&W station back in the day.
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chnhrr
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Re: Harpers Ferry to Winchester VA

Post by chnhrr » Sun Aug 14, 2011 3:22 pm

Here is an update concerning the B&O station at Charles Town. This is a response from the Jefferson County Historical Society to my inquiry concerning the renovated station shown above.
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“The B & O passenger station was located on North Street in Charles Town - between Mildred and Samuel Streets. It burned some time ago. Your photo shows the old Shenandoah Valley/N & W station, which was built near Rt 51. To the best of our knowledge, it has never been moved.”
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The picture above from the 1920’s of the other station must be a subsequent facility built by the N&W in the early 20th century.

NellieBly
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Re: Harpers Ferry to Winchester VA

Post by NellieBly » Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:55 pm

I rode an "Apple Blossom Special" revival in the mid-1980s from Baltimore to Winchester with former B&O (MARC, at the time) RDCs out the Old Main LIne to Point of Rocks and then down the branch to Winchester. The B&O station was still right next to the tracks. It was a very nice trip, with pretty scenery and spring foliage. It's a nice line down to Winchester, and of course you get to ride over the old Harper's Ferry bridge (the early 20th Century version) and over that wonderful S-curve wood pile trestle too.

As far as I know, that was the last Chessie/CSX trip over the line, and that must have been 25 years ago.
Randy Resor, aka "NellieBly" passed away on November 1, 2013. We honor his memory and his devotion to railroading at railroad.net.

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