According to Alan Byer's article, "Submarine Railroad In West Virginia," from the September, 2012 issue of Trains Magazine the movement of logs persisted until owner F.C. Cook & Company elected to discontinue rail operations in 1940 and use the right-of-way as a standard roadway for trucks. Unfortunately, the idea proved less than satisfactory as the flood-prone Left Fork made the entire operation a muddy, impassable mess. During World War II the final sawmill was closed at Alexander and the former right-of-way later purchased by E.L. Claghorn in 1953. He was a developer from Pennsylvania and looked to use the corridor for an entirely different purpose, the movement of coal taken from seams located near the small town of Helvetia.
The newly incorporated Beech Mountain Railroad was formed and rails relaid (to much heavier standards than before) from the B&O interchange at Alexander to a point south of Star Bridge known as Beech Run Junction in Randolph County, a distance of 10 miles. A small, center-cab diesel switcher from the Whitcomb Locomotive Works was initially used; a model model 80-DE-6A built in 1942 as U.S. Navy #65-00082 it was sold to the Beech Mountain and given #100. The railroad would go on to own several switchers. They include: Whitcomb model 65-DE-19A (another center-cab) built in April of 1944 for the U.S. Army as #8442 it saw three different owners over the years before being acquired by the Beech Mountain and given #42; Alco S2 #113 was built as Michigan Limestone & Chemical in 1946 as #113, its nickname is "Old 113"; Alco S1 #9452 was formerly Penn Central #9452 and built as Pennsylvania #9102 in 1949; finally, S4 #115 was built as Michigan Limestone & Chemical #115 in 1950, its nickname is "Bear's Blue Ox."
Over the years the Beech Mountain has seen service disrupted as mines closed and the railroad wasn't needed. It saw a recent 7-year hiatus from 1998 until 2005 when service was reopened by the Carter-Roag Coal Company on February 14th that year. However, only the 8 miles to Star Bridge are currently in use and the remaining 2 miles to Beech Run Junction remains abandoned. According to Mr. Byers' article the railroad usually operates six to eight times per month using S2 "Old 113" on the main line while S4 "Bear's Blue Ox" shuttles hoppers at the load-out site. Recently, however, the locomotives have switched roles due to mechanical issues with #113.
The railroad's most interesting feature are the series of so-called "submarine bridges" it has custom-built, and subsequently modified over the years, to deal with the turbulent nature of the Left Fork. The bridges received their name via the way they are designed, allowing flood waters to rush over top without destroying the track or other infrastructure. Essentially, it works by encasing several culverts within an elevated embankment of concrete. The track is either placed within the concrete or situated on top. The railroad first experimented with the idea dating back to the 1940s and has perfected it several times since. Usually, the bridges work quite well but on occasion the river still defeats the best laid plans and undermines the right-of-way.
Photos Of The Beech Mountain Railroad
Today, the interchange at Alexander is no longer with the B&O but short line Appalachian & Ohio, which handles loads and empties back to Grafton where they are picked up by CSX. Unfortunately, it appears the future of the Beech Mountain is again in doubt as the Carter-Roag announced in October of 2015 it will close its mine at Mill Creek on December 25th. The closure will result in the loss of 170 jobs and also affect the Appalachian & Ohio, which depends on coal shipments for the majority of its traffic. Despite this statement, operations are currently still ongoing both at the mine and railroad although for how much longer is anyone's guess. The future of Appalachian coal across the Mountain State currently appears to be in serious jeopardy, and not only as it relates to the Beech Mountain Railroad.
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Beech Mountain Railroad