The West Virginia Railroad Museum is a recently created organization but during its short time of operation has several acquisitions and accolades to its credit. Over the last decade the WVRRM has been able to acquire a number of historical railroad pieces, many of which have their origins in some way relating to the State of West Virginia. This, of course, is the museum’s purpose and goal, to educate and showcase West Virginia's rich railroading heritage. Since I am a West Virginia native myself seeing the work the museum has done thus far has been a thrill and I wish them the very best in their efforts.
Reading a bit of the museum's mission statement they really are carrying out their intended plans:
This mission will be accomplished through the collection, preservation and interpretation of significant locomotives, rolling stock, artifacts, photographs and memorabilia directly related to railroads and railroading in West Virginia. In addition to static exhibits, select pieces of equipment in the collection are restored and operated throughout the year to demonstrate steam, gasoline, and diesel technology and provide visitors with a first-hand experience of our railroad history through the sights, sounds, and sensations of a train ride.
Over the last decade or so the West Virginia Railroad Museum has acquired some pretty spectacular pieces of equipment. They currently have three historic steam locomotives, all of which they plan to restore to operating condition and all of which have their origins in West Virginia. These locomotives include two Baldwin 2-8-0s, #8 and #9, which were originally used on the West Virginia Northern Railroad, a little coal hauler once located in Kingwood, WV (just south of Morgantown). Because the locomotives have been sitting on private property for thirty years and partially exposed to the elements much work will need to be done to restore them but the current plans still call for both to be returned to operation.
The other steam locomotive is a Heisler, originally owned by the Middle Fork Railroad as #7. It was acquired by the museum a few years before the 2-8-0s but the plan is the same as with the Baldwins, to eventually return it to operation (although it currently is sitting in pieces on museum property).
The WVRRM’s other locomotive project is B&O E8 #92. The E8 has had quite a history since being sold by the B&O to Amtrak in 1972. After Amtrak ownership the unit went to the US Department of Transportation, leased to NJ Transit in 1975, sold to the Central Oklahoma Railfans in 1986, sold to Ed Bowers in 1993, and finally the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum acquired the unit before donating it to the B&O Railroad Museum in the mid-1990s. By the time the West Virginia Railroad Museum acquired the E8 in 2004 it was in very bad condition and currently needs much work before its able to be returned to the rails in operating condition, which is the eventual plan for the locomotive (complete in B&O colors).
Some of the other equipment owned by the West Virginia Railroad Museum includes Western Maryland FA #302 (currently used in freight and passenger service on the West Virginia Central), Middle Fork Railroad Baldwin VO-1000 #12, and Western Maryland Motor Car #6. Perhaps, though, what the museum has been most recognized for, along with the help of the city of Elkins, WV, the Randolph County Development Authority, and the citizens of Randolph County, is the restoration of rail service to the former Western Maryland (WM) railroad yard located in downtown Elkins. Upon CSX Transportation pulling out of Elkins in the early 1990s (removing the yard), the railroad also removed the bridge which was the only means of accessing the yard.
Since the West Virginia Central Railroad was started in the mid-1990s from segments of former B&O and WM lines stretching from Tygart Junction to Bergoo, WV (some 135 miles), the WVC has never really had a place to call “home.” When funds were secured for the bridge replacement in recent years plans also went into place to redevelop the former WM yard property for commercial and railroad use, with the former depot also to be used as both the WVC’s main office and station to board passengers (the station was previously restored in the early 1990s).
In any event, if you may be planning a trip to West Virginia please think about visiting either the museum or the WVC (or both!), as you will certainly not be disappointed (the trips the WVC operates through the heart of West Virginia are quite breathtaking). Not only is much of the former yard planned to be used as it was originally intended, the West Virginia Railroad Museum also plans to make it its home as well by rebuilding the former WM roundhouse to store its growing collection of equipment, on the very original foundations of the original!
After fifteen years, with the first train rolling into Elkins Yard on May 26, 2007 the future looked extremely bright for the West Virginia Railroad Museum. However, it was recently announced that the museum may have to cut back some of its projects due to funding shortfalls, such as the rebuilt roundhouse. The question still remains as to whether this complex is ultimately constructed (partly because the West Virginia Forest Festival organization backed out of the deal as they were going to construct a museum on site as well) but it looks as though it will be a very long time before anything happens, if the plans do remain in place. For more information about the West Virginia Railroad Museum please click here.