The Gassaway Railroad Bridge carried the Elk River Railroad and other lines over the Elk River and a county route in Gassaway, West Virginia.
The Charleston, Clendenin & Sutton Railroad (CC&S) was chartered in May 1891 to construct a railway from Charleston north to Sutton along the Elk River. 2 Construction to build the first 20 miles of the CC&S was awarded in February 1892, and by mid-December 1894, work had progressed to Queen Shoals. Another bond issue in January 1895 allowed for the construction of the CC&S to Ivydale, which was finished in 1902. 2 3 The CC&S stretched for 64 miles between Charleston and Sutton when it was acquired by Henry Gassaway Davis and organized under the Coal & Coke Railway (C&C). 1
Davis had proposed the C&C to connect the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad and the Kanawha & Michigan Railway at Charleston to the West Virginia Central & Pittsburg Railroad near Elkins. 4 5 Only 107 miles of new track from Roaring Creek to Sutton had to be built to provide through traffic from Charleston to Elkins. 1 Construction on the C&C’s extension began in the spring of 1903 and was completed in December 1905 when the last spike was driven at Walkersville. It included 12 tunnels, 30 steel bridges, and numerous stone culverts, including a bridge over the Elk River in Gassaway.
Completing the C&C provided a much-needed north-south route through the heart of West Virginia. The Coal & Coke Railway provided a way for West Virginia coal to get to outlets on the Great Lakes and an alternate route to Atlantic Ocean ports. After Davis’s death in 1916, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) purchased the controlling interest of the Coal & Coke, which became identified as the Charleston branch of the B&O.
By the 1970s, three trains a week traversed between Charleston and Gassaway, 6 but declining traffic led to one of the most significant abandonment of the line in 1977 when the B&O requested permission to abandon 28¾-miles of the mainline from Reamer and Hartland, which was granted on April 1, 1979. 7 Another request was made in 1985 for the abandonment of 5 miles of the mainline line from Hartland to Dundon. The B&O’s successor, CSX, filed for the abandonment of 61 miles of C&C track from Gilmer south to Hartland. 7 The closure of a refinery in Falling Rock sapped most of what traffic remained on the line. Conrail acquired the southernmost portion of the line in 1985 for continued access to Union Carbide mines along Blue Creek. 6 7
The Gilmer to Hartland segment was sold to the Elk River Railroad (ELKR) in 1991, with operations beginning over the line in 1996. 7 The ELKR also wanted to acquire more C&C trackage from Hartland to Reamer from Conrail, which would give it a line from CSX’s line at Burnsville Junction south via Gilmer, Gassaway, Dundon, Hartland, Falling Rock, and Blue Creek to Charleston.
The ELKR began work to rehabilitate the former C&C mainline from Hartland to Reamer in 1996, despite objections from Conrail and CSX. 7 After a mine at Avoca closed in September 1999, regular operations along the ELKR ceased. It was then used for car storage after a contract was signed with Appalachian Railcar Service in November 2001.
Operations of the ELKR were suspended over the winter of 2022, with the Gassaway Yard trackage dismantled. Tracks north of Gassaway to Gilmer are being dismantled, and it is expected that the Elk River Trail will be extended northward along the former C&C right-of-way.
- State: West Virginia
- Route: Elk River Railroad
- Type: Plate Girder
- Status: Abandoned / Closed
- Total Length: 73'
- Rice, Donald L. “Coal & Coke Railway.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia, 30 Jan. 2012.
- Clarke, Alan. “The Charleston, Clendennin and Sutton Railroad: A Brief History.” West Virginia’s Coal and Coke Railway. Lynchburg: TLC Publishing, 2002. 1-12. Print.
- West Virginia Geological Survey, Charles E. Krebs, and D. D. Teets, Jr. County Reports and Maps: Kanawha County. Vol. 1. Wheeling: Wheeling News Litho, 1914. N. pag. Print.
- Poor, Henry Varnum. “Coal and Coke Railway Company.” Poor’s Intermediate Manual of Railroads. NewYork: Poor’s Manual Company, 1917. 550. Print.
- Lewis, Ronald L. “The Touch of Capital: Railroads, Timber, and Economic Development of the Backcounties.” Transforming the Appalachian Countryside. N.p.: University of North CarolinaPress, 1998. 73-75. Print.
- Robie, Dan. “B&O ROW Part I-Charleston to Blue Creek.” West Virginia and North Carolina Rails. N.p.,n.d. Web. 3 Jan. 2012. Article.
- Clarke, Alan. “The B&O Years and Beyond.” West Virginia’s Coal and Coke Railway. Lynchburg: TLC Publishing, 2002. 133-. Print.