The West Virginia Midland
by
Don Hensley
Part Two
West Virgina Midland # 3
West Virginia Midland # 3 at Webster Springs, WV in October of 1913.
Photo by K. Schlatcher Sr./Don Hensley Collection
Pittsburg s/n 404 2/1880 ; ex-Pittsburg & Southern # 5(B&O narrow gauge)

Then on August 12, 1905, a new company was chartered, the West Virginia Midland Railroad, though it was not until May 17, 1906 that it was able to absorb the Holly River & Addison. Also in that year a new extension was built from Webster Springs to the coal mines at Breece. The Coalburg branch was taken out of service at this time, the rails may have been used on the new extension. In 1910 a new branch was built from Holly to Long Run. Times however were not good, and the railroad was always in financial trouble. But this was the lot along single purpose railroads. The West Virginia Midland main purpose was hauling out the lumber for it owners and this it did well. All other purposes including passenger and freight service was secondary and was provided because they were a common carrier. Why incorporate a logging road and become a common carrier? This status gave the owners the powers of condemnation and a right of way could be pushed through any land owners property, even if they did not want to sell, and land prices were fixed by the court system. The loggers could operate the railroads at a loss, an expense that would have come off the profit of the sawmill, if they operated the railroad privately. As the railroad company was owned by the sawmill owners, they didn't if the road didn't turn a profit. But their sawmills were listed on the stock market and had many large investors, so it was better that the sawmill return the big profit. The railroad went into receivership on May 20, 1920 after the death of John McGraw. George Curtin took over the company at this time and the West Virginia Railway was formed, but it was not until July 25, 1925 that the courts allowed the takeover to occur. Now the railroad was completely owned by the Pardee & Curtin Lumber Company.  But bad news, the Webster Springs Hotel burned down in a fire in June of 1925 and passenger traffic just died.

West Virgina Midland Map & Schedule
But the railroad was ready for more expansion. In April of 1925, the ICC authorized the construction of a branch from Webster Springs to Bergoo, where they would connect with the Greenbrier, Cheat & Elk Railroad (soon to be Western Maryland). This would open up new coal and logging areas to be exploited in the near future. This new extension was built in 1929 as a standard gauge with a third rail to allow narrow gauge trains to operate it. Two sawmills and three coal mines were on this extension, making it very important, and it attracted the attention of the Western Maryland which was expanding to the area. On May 31, 1929, an agreement was reached with the Western Maryland and the Greenbrier, Cheat & Elk for the sale of the Bergoo extension, the Breece extension and two mile of track west of Webster Springs. The West Virginia Midland retained trackage rights to Bergoo and cleared up their long term debt, the mortgage was paid in full. But traffic dried up and the road was swiftly going broke. For example the road carried 12,044 passengers in 1929 mostly to Webster Springs. In 1930 they only carried 2,837 and most of those were transported before May. The Western Maryland was now carrying all the tourist and freight traffic to Webster Springs. This caused the West Virginia Midland to abandoned the railroad from Diana to Webster Springs on September 26, 1930. At this point all they had left was the main line from Holly Junction to Diana, everything else had been removed or sold.  And this track was leased to the Ford Lumber Company for movements of the log trains! But that  income came to an end by 1931 and with all the timber exhausted and the sawmills closed the West Virginia Midland filed for abandonment which was approved by the ICC on November 7, 1931. The track and equipment was swiftly removed in 1932, probably sold to the sawmills at Webster Springs and Bergoo. The last equipment listing of  1931  list the equipment totals as follows: 4 locomotives, 3 passenger, 1 combination, 1 baggage and express,  10 box cars, 4 flat cars, 10 coal cars, 2 cabooses, 52 logging cars, 2 company service cars.

To Part Three

 


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