The South Branch Valley Railroad
The little South Branch Valley Railroad (SBVR) is a shortline operating
on a former B&O branch line in the Eastern Panhandle of West
Virginia and is headquartered in Petersburg. If you are familiar with
the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railraoad tourist line it operates over the
same trackage and both railroads are owned by the State of West
Virginia. The SBVR was started in the late 1970s when the Chessie
System (predecessor to today’s CSX Transportation) was interested in
selling off the line. Realizing the potential the branch still carried
in terms of business as well as its economic
impact on the region, West Virginia stepped in and purchased it. The
railroad is currently operated by the West Virginia State Rail
While the South Branch Valley Railroad purchased its trackage directly from the Chessie System, the history of the routes dates
back quite a bit further to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. And,
even before the B&O took ownership of the line in 1913 an interest
in wanting to connect Petersburg and Romney with the B&O's main line
at Green Spring dates back to the 1880 when the towns looked to charter
a new railroad. By 1884 the 52-mile line had been completed as the
South Branch Railroad, and about 20 years later was turned over to the
Historic Railroads Of West Virginia
Chesapeake & Ohio: "George Washington's Railroad"
Baltimore & Ohio, Our Country's First Common-Carrier
West Virginia Northern, Mountain State Coal Hauler
Chessie System: Comprising The B&O, C&O, And WM
Conrail, Picking Up The Pieces In The Northeast
New York Central System, Commodore Vanderbilt's Railroad: "The Water Level Route"
Pennsylvania Railroad, The Eastern Giant: "Standard Railroad Of The World"
Virginian Railway, Hauling Black Diamonds
Beech Mountain Railroad, The Mountain State's Small Coal Road
Norfolk & Western, From Tipple To Tidewater
Buffalo Creek & Gauley, West Virginia's Fabled Short Line
Penn Central Transportation Company, An Ill-Fated Merger
Western Maryland, Appalachian Coal-Hauler And B&O Competitor: "The Fast Freight Line"
The SBVR is perhaps most famous for the excursion trains that operate over the line (although excursion service on the route did not begin until 1989, more than 10 years since the SBVR had begun operations) it has actually become quite a successful little shortline as well, predominantly shipping grain and chemicals but also is diversified in other traffic ranging from feed to wood products and plastic pellets (in total the railroad sees around 4,000 carloads annually). The South Branch Valley Railroad currently rosters a number of Electro-Motive Division Geeps and SDs of various heritage, which totals 12 units in all. Currently SBVR freight trains are typically operated during the workweek with no service on Saturdays and Sundays.
Interestingly, when the state of West Virginia purchased the ex-B&O
trackage, in doing so it became the first state to ever own and operate a
private, for-profit railroad. The line has had setbacks since its
ownership by the state. Perhaps the worst incident occurred in the fall
of 1985 when severe flooding by the South Branch Potomac River in
eastern West Virginia destroyed much of the railroad's right-of-way
(along with railroads to the south including for the former C&O's
line near Durbin and Cass). It was feared that this flooding would
permanently shutdown the line. However, the state elected to rebuild
the route and it was reopened in the late 1980s, around the time that excursion trains began plying the line.
South Branch Valley Railroad Locomotive Roster
|GE||65-Tonner||80||1943 (Ex-Keystone Ordnance Works)||1|
|EMD||GP9||6135, 6240, 6604||1955-1957 (Ex-C&O and Ex-B&O)||3|
The South Branch Valley Railroad's original locomotive roster
included classic Alcos, which unfortunately have long since been sold
off and are no longer on the property (some of which have also been
scrapped, sadly). Today, the railroad operates almost entirely all EMD
products and it is still fairly interesting seeing SBVR freight trains
that are led by Chessie, B&O, and Chesapeake & Ohio-painted
locomotives (which are also used in excursion service).
To learn more about the South Branch Valley Railroad's locomotive
roster please have a look at the roster above. For a good general description of the South Branch Valley Railroad please click here to visit the West Virginia Department of Transportation's web page covering the operation.
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South Branch Valley Railroad