James L. Warsher, a consultant who helped the Elliots complete the purchase, says the deal marks the first time in 69 years the South Parkersburg line has been under local ownership. “The original Little Kanawha River Railroad was incorporated in 1896 out of the Ann Street station,” Warsher explained. “When the B&O purchased the line in 1920, Wood County lost control of the rail line. Now, it has got it back.”
Warsher called the Elliots’ deal with CSX a win-win situation.
“CSX will enjoy the business from the line without having to provide it full service,” Warsher said. “The Elliots will be able to turn a profit by keeping the line’s existing customers. Where servicing four customers wouldn’t be profitable for CSX, it should be for a short line railroad.”
But the two railroad companies
aren’t the only ones who win. The Little Kanawha River Railroad already
has employed four former CSX workers who had been furloughed.
Plus there are the plants who depend on the railroad as their economic
lifeline. Warsher said there will be a definite advantage to having
the line under local ownership. An advantage that could lead to further
economic development along the line. “CSX doesn’t have a local person
who can sit down and help you if you are interested in starting up the
old Viscose plant,” Warsher said. “We would be more than happy to work
with anyone interested in doing that.”
The rail line’s new owners also would be interested in discussing the possibility of establishing a local port authority. That was a hot issue here two years ago, but seems to have died since then. The Elliots have been working closely with the City of Parkersburg’s engineering office and the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council. They have managed to acquire a Federal Railroad Administration grant
that will allow work to be done at several south Parkersburg crossings.
Plans call for the railroad crossings to be moved so that they cause
less disruption to vehicular traffic.
Wednesday’s announcement of the purchase culminated negotiations that began in May 1987. On two previous occasions, CSX had applied to the Interstate Commerce Commission for permission to abandon the line. Although its efforts were rebuffed, CSX had been encouraged again to apply for abandonment. Indications were it would be granted the third time around. The Elliot family business was started in the 1930s by William Elliot, who began a cement business and a towboat enterprise. When he died about a dozen years ago, the firm was placed in the hands of his sons; Scott, Burt, and Grant. Grant will serve as president of the Little Kanawha River Railroad.
~ Many thanks to the late John G. King for much of the information provided on this page.
During the time the Baltimore & Ohio controlled the property originally known as the Little Kanawha River Railroad it referred to it as the "Little Kanawha Branch" which was part of the company's most larger Eastern Region of the Monongah Division (which encompassed many of its lines across northern West Virginia including its St. Louis main line that passed through Parkersburg, seen in the above photograph spanning the Ohio River). The trackage included just 3.6 miles according to records and reconnected with the Ohio River Subdivision at a point known as "Ohio River Junction" just south of the Little Kanawha River. With the loss of customers over the years the LKRR currently operates only about 1 mile or so of this remaining trackage.
Related Reading You May Enjoy
Little Kanawha Railroad