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Kanawha & Michigan Railroad

Last revised: May 8, 2023

Not long after Donald Mills, Jr.'s title, The Kanawha and Michigan Railroad, "Bridgeline To The Lakes" went on sale I was asked by the publisher, Mid-Atlantic Highlands/Publishers Place, Inc. to review the book and give my thoughts concerning it.

Being a native of West Virginia I was very excited at the chance to further study the history of railroading in my home state.

Overall I must say that I was thoroughly impressed with Mr. Mills' book and I think I can safely say that his title covers the K&M in more detail than any other.

If you have an interest in West Virginia rail history or would like to learn more about one of the state's least understood railroads you should certainly pick up a copy of The Kanawha and Michigan Railroad, "Bridgeline To The Lakes".

Mr. Mills' book centers on the Kanawha and Michigan Railroad during its "heyday" of operations between the late 1880s and early 1920s, prior to the railroad becoming an official part of the large New York Central System.

The book is broken down into several different chapters with the first dozen or so highlighting the K&M's operations by county from southeastern Ohio through southwestern/central West Virginia, as well as covering the K&M bridge over the Ohio River and its construction. 

With each county the railroad operated through being given its own chapter Mills does a superb job of providing an unbelievable amount of information and historical footnotes (i.e., in the form of newspaper articles) about each region. For myself, the most interesting aspects of the book was the areas of West Virginia the K&M operated through.

I came into the book understanding not only very little about the Kanawha and Michigan Railroad but also how and when the company was constructed.

After finishing Mr. Mills' title I now have a fairly good understanding of the K&M, its history, and how it affected the communities in which it operated through.

To give a general breakdown of the book:

* Chapters 1 and 2 give a general overview of the K&M and the counties/communities in which it operated.

* Chapters 3 through 5 covering the Kanawha and Michigan Railroad's operations through Ohio, by county.

* Chapter 6 gives a general history of the K&M's two bridges it built over the Ohio River, how they were constructed and the politics involved. It also explains how the bridge is currently operated by Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation.

* Chapters 7 through 9 gives a general history of the K&M in West Virginia, by county.

* Chapter 10 covers the K&M's oil field operations north of Charleston.

* Chapter 11 is one of the most interesting in the book as it gives a synopsis of the recently chartered Charleston, Blue Creek & Sanderson Railroad which is looking to reopen defunct sections of the K&M.

* Chapter 12 covers the K&M's extensive operations throughout Kanawha County, West Virginia (where Charleston is located).

* Chapters 13 through 20 (the rest of the book) are more or less reference categories providing statistical information (such as profit/loss, locomotive/car rosters, annual reports, etc.) although the last two chapters are essentially epilogues relating to how the K&M survives today.

For those who are not aware, the Kanawha and Michigan Railroad survives today, almost entirely intact to Charleston, West Virginia.  It is owned by Norfolk Southern but now leased to Watco as the Kanawha River Railroad.

The line is commonly referred to by railroad crewmen and railfans as the West Virginia Secondary, which is the name it was given under Conrail control.

For myself, I never thought I would learn so much about a railroad that was only a minor player in terms of overall train operations in the state's West Virginia and Ohio.

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