West Fork Trail History

In 1881, by act of Legislature, the Potomac and Piedmont Coal and Railroad Company was reorganized as the West Virginia Central and Pittsburg Railroad Company (WVC&P), with Henry G. Davis as president and Davis' son-in-law, Stephen B. Elkins, as vice-president. The railroad's main line was completed to Elkins, WV, in 1889. Davis formed another railroad, the Coal & Iron Railroad, in December 1899. On August 1, 1903 the C&I completed a rail line from Elkins connecting with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O) at Durbin.

On November 1, 1905 Davis sold the Coal & Iron Railroad to the Western Maryland Railway Company. At that time it consisted of 46.4 miles of main line track and 5.8 miles siding used initially to haul lumber out of the Cheat Mountain area and upper Greenbrier River Valley. The railway began hauling coal from the Cheat Mountain and Point Mountain coal fields after the decline of the timber industry.

It later became part of the CSX Transportation network. With the switch from timber to coal the traffic on the section of track from Greenbrier Junction to Durbin dropped off. This 28 mile section of track was eventually abandoned. In 1986 it was taken over by the US Forest Service and became the West Fork Trail.

1903 map of West Virginia railroads
(I've highlighted the Coal & Iron Railroad)

If you are interested in the Coal and Iron Railroad I can highly recommend the book "West Virginia Central and Pittsburg Railway" by Alan Clarke.

Another invaluable resource on West Virginia railroads is the web site Northern West Virginia's Railroads.

Former Railroad Stops along the Coal and Iron Railroad
Miles From
295.5Greenbrier Junction
296.8Cheat Junction
298.8Tunnel #2 Summit
314.0Benchmark at West side of South stone abutment on trestles over Little River
1925 County Survey published by West Virginia Geological Survey

Three Junction Wye

Cheat Junction - Greenbrier Junction - Elk River Junction

A railroad wye is is a triangular shaped arrangement of tracks
with a switch at each corner. With a sufficiently long track
leading away from each corner, a train of any length can be turned.
The first picture is a overhead photo of the wye at Durbin.
The second photo is a ground level shot of the lower left
corner of that wye.

Now & Then: How the Durbin Wye looked in 1905.
Because of the limiting nature of the Shaver Fork River Valley there wasn't room for a regular triangular shaped wye. While not originally built as one, over time the three junctions evolved into a wye that included two bridges and miles of track. It lasted from 1931 to 1985. Still listed on maps the junctions themselves no longer serve that purpose since no railroad switching is possible. In the case of Cheat Junction there is not even any rails.
Aerial photo of Three Junction Wye.
Evolution of the Three Junction Wye over time
1903 - The Coal and Iron Railroad is completed
from Elkins to Durbin.
1905 - The C&I RR is bought by the Western Maryland
1917 - The Greenbrier, Cheat and Elk Railroad
completes a 38 mile section of track from Spruce WV
that joins the old C&I RR at Cheat Junction.
1927 - The GC&E RR is bought by the Western Maryland.
1931 - Trains wanting to go from Spruce to Elkins first
must go to Durbin. To solve this problem a mile long
connecting track is built from Elk River Junction to
Greenbrier Junction. The Three Junction Wye is completed.
1985 - Rail lines are now owned by CSX. The line from
Elk River Junction to Durbin and the line between Cheat
Junction and Greenbrier Junction are abandoned. The
rails are removed.
1997 - The rest of the rail lines in the Tygart Subdivision
are abandoned by CSX but the rails are left in place.
That same year the West Virginia Central is created and
it takes over ownership of the rails.

How To Read A Piece Of Rail

I took this picture of a section of rail right where
the West Fork Trail met the WV Central.
On the inside of the rail is the following lettering:

115 RE CC BSCo LACKAWANNA 1948 ||||||||

Not realizing that rails where marked I was curious
so did a little research.

115 RE - 115 pounds per yard of rail
CC - Control Cooled. A way of reducing internal
rail flaws developed in the late 30s
BSCo - Bethlehem Steel Company
Lackawanna - Mill it was rolled in, near Buffalo, NY.
1948 - Year of manufacture
|||||||| - One line for each month - 8 lines means made in August.

West Fork Trail

Fun Places To Bike In West Virginia
All information is presented without any assurance of accuracy. Use at your own risk.
Distance measurements are approximate.
All photos © 2008 J. Watson. All rights reserved.