by Alan Clarke
This book documents the construction of railroads in West Virginia, largely to access the untouched stands of timber in such counties as Upshur, Webster, Nicholas, and Randolph. Johnson Newlon Camden and Henry Gassaway Davis were the two men that were the driving forces behind these railroads. They were industrialists and politicians as well as friends and rivals.ï¾ Camden built the Clarksburg, Weston and Glenville Railroad connecting Clarksburg and Weston in north central West Virginia. Completed in 1879, it was extended to Buckhannon in the fall of 1883. The West Virginia and Pittsburgh Railroad soon built extensions from Weston to the Gauley River and south from Buckhannon. Davis started construction of the West Virginia Central and Pittsburgh Railway in 1880, which followed the North Branch of the Potomac River south into Tucker and Randolph Counties. ï¾
Sawmills and towns sprang up all along the railroads as vast quantities of lumber were harvested from the forests of West Virginia. As the forests were denuded, mines opened, more towns were built, and coal replaced lumber as the principal freight. While sections of the W. Va. & Pittsburgh have been abandoned, the present day successor to the B.&O. still hauls coal along these rail lines to the voracious power plants of the eastern United States. ï¾
Author and railroad scholar Alan Clarke has once again offered an in-depth look at the building of railroads in West Virginia in the late nineteenth century. Much of the technical and historical information in the book will be of special interest to railroad buffs. However, Clarke's grasp of the state at that time in history, as well as the book's vintage photographs, maps, and illustrations, cause this book to appeal to anyone interested in the history of the Mountain State.ï¾
Charleston, WV - Quarrier Press is pleased to announce the publication of a new book by railroad scholar and historian Alan Clarke, The West Virginia and Pittsburgh Railroad: The B & O's Road to the Hardwoods. ï¾ The fourth book on railroad history by Clarke, this one chronicles the building of railroads throughout north-central West Virginia in the late 1800s, largely to access the untouched stands of timber in Upshur, Webster, Nicholas, and Randolph counties. Essentially two men commenced the building of railroads in this region: Johnson Newlon Camden and Henry Gassaway Davis.
Much of the specific technical information in the book will be of special interest to railroad buffs. But Clarke's grasp of the state's history at that time is illuminated by the book's hundreds of vintage photographs, maps, and illustrations.
Clarke says, "My sources for the photographs include the WV Archives, the WV Room at WVU, the National Archives and the Smithsonian. Most of the pictures in Chapter 7, featuring W. H. Jackson, had never seen the light of day before."ï¾
Davis started construction of his West Virginia Central and Pittsburg Railway in 1880. The West Virginia Central followed the North Branch of the Potomac River south into Tucker County. Further construction led the railroad in Randolph and Greenbrier counties.
Camden became interested in building a narrow gauge railroad between Clarksburg and Weston along the West Fork River. This project eventually grew into the West Virginia and Pittsburgh Railroad, which was to extend down to the Gauley and along the Buckhannon River.
Initially Davis and Camden worked cooperatively, but they remained friends and political allies even as their railroad interests diverged. Both men wanted to reach the virgin forests and potential coalfields of central West Virginia, but Camden got there first, leading the two men to divide West Virginia into two separate spheres of influence. Camden's pursuit of wealth in the central area of the state proved as successful as Davis's development of the coalfields in the mountains to the east. After many attempts, a narrow gauge railroad connecting Clarksburg and Weston in north central West Virginia was completed on September 13, 1879 by Camden. It was now known as the Clarksburg, Weston and Glenville Railroad and Transportation Company. The railroad was extended to Buckhannon in the fall of 1883.
A new company, the West Virginia and Pittsburgh Railroad, was incorporated to build extensions south from Weston to the Gauley River and from Buckhannon south along the Buckhannon River. Camden had hoped to extend the railroad even further south to the iron ore fields in Virginia, but the Allegheny Mountains proved insurmountable.
The W. Va. & P entered receivership on May 1, 1898, but this did not stop the building of an extension down the Gauley River and up the Cherry River to the new town of Richwood. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad absorbed the W. Va. & P. on September 1, 1899.
Sawmills and towns sprang up all along the railroads as vast quantities of lumber were harvested. Eventually, as the timber disappeared, coal replaced lumber as the principal freight. More mines opened and more towns were built. While sections of the W. Va. & Pittsburgh have been abandoned, the present day successor to the B. & O. still hauls coal along these rail lines to the voracious power plants of the eastern United States.
Author and railroad scholar Alan Clarke has once again offered an in-depth look at the building of railroads in the late nineteenth century. He says that the book is unique, "Because it is based mainly on the letters of the railroad's owner, that were sent to various colleagues and workmen. The letters present a first hand account of the railroad industry in West Virginia over 100 years ago."