The Winchester and Western Railroad dates back to the summer of 1916
when it was chartered to connect Hardy and Hampshire Counties in West
Virginia with southwestern Frederick County in Virginia to haul timber
products and railroad ties to a connection with the Baltimore & Ohio at Winchester. Originally, the W&W was to be constructed
as a three-foot narrow gauge line but eventually it was decided to build
the railroad as a standard-gauge operation. The W&W was contracted
to Intermountain Construction Company for actual grading of the line.
Interestingly, due to the ongoing World War I at the time and lack of
heavy machinery to build the line Intermountain had to resort to much more antiquated practices including sledgehammers, mules, and general manual labor.
By 1918 the first section of the line was complete between Gore and
Winchester, opening in January of that year. Three years later on May
25, 1921 the Winchester and Western Railroad was officially completed
between Winchester, Virginia and Wardensville, West Virgina with West
Virginia Governor John J. Cornwell marking the occasion by giving a
grand speech on the new line's importance to the region (of note, two
years earlier in the summer of 1919 a golden spike ceremony had been
held at Capon Springs as the railroad neared completion). The railroad stretched about 40 miles in length along its new
route although it connected no significant communities between its two
major towns. The route roughly resembled an upside-down "L" and quickly
began hauling vast amounts of timber thanks its subsidiary company the
Winchester Lumber Company which
owned a large amount of land in the area. While the railroad never had
significant passenger train operations it did run several railbuses
which were popular with the local communities along the line.
During the early 1920s the W&W reached its peak when it chartered a
new railroad, the Lost River Railroad, to build and operate three,
three-foot narrow-gauge lines radiating from Wardensville to further tap
timber interests in the region. Unfortunately, with the Great Depression
setting in later that decade these lines were used for only a short
period of time before they were eventually abandoned. The railroad
remained a profitable operation but after the timber played out in the
area in the mid-1930s and with increased competition to automobiles, the
W&W began cutting began back operations as early as the 1940s when
it abandoned its line between Gore and Wardensville, leaving the line in
place as far as the Virginia/West Virginia state line. By 1970 the railroad was operating just 18 miles of track.
Interestingly, it was in the mid-1980s that the W&W began to see a
rebirth. In 1986 it purchased the former Pennsylvania Railroad's route
between Winchester to Williamsport, Maryland from Conrail. This gave
the railroad essentially a new main line between Winchester, north to
Hagerstown (which again allowed it to field
a main line about 40 miles in length). Then, a year later in 1987 it
picked up three small shortlines in the state of New Jersey (whose
trackage was originally built by the Central Railroad of New Jersey),
further increasing its size and reach. Today, its two unconnected
systems are known as its "Virginia Division" and "New Jersey Division".
The W&W's current roster is an all-EMD fleet, made up almost
entirely of GP9s and GP10s. For a bit more reading about the W&W's original route to Wardensville, West Virginia please click here.
Winchester & Western Locomotive Roster
New Jersey Division
|EMD||GP9||459, 475, 517, 520, 732, 811||1955-1959 (Ex-NKP, Ex-NYC)||6|
|EMD||GP10||575||1959 (Ex-PRR GP9)||1|
|Alco||MT-4||107, 120||1957/74 (Ex-PRR RS11)||2|
|EMD||GP9||403, 445, 498, 709||1954-1956 (Ex-SP, Ex-PRR, Ex-NKP)||4|
|EMD||GP10||572, 8066||1954, 1959 (Ex-NKP and Ex-IC GP9s)||2|
For more reading about the history of Virginia's railroads you enjoy the title Virginia Railroads: Volume 1: Railroading in the Old Dominion by authors William Griffin and Thomas Dixon. Both of these individuals have spent many years studying the history of trains, particularly in Appalachia and have written many books on the subject, several of which I have within my collection that are quite good. This particular piece was released in 2011 through TLC Publishing and offers brief overview of all the state's major railroads that once were located there. If you're interested in perhaps purchasing
the book please visit the link below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com.
Winchester & Western