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: [email protected]
) 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.
Member, B&O RR Historical Society
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!