Sharps Tunnel is a ex-railroad-turned-trail tunnel located along the Greenbrier River Trail in Pocahontas County, West Virginia.
The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O) chartered the Greenbrier Railway Company on November 16, 1897, to construct a line from the C&O west of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia to the Forks of the Greenbrier River in Pocahontas County. 1 Surveying began in Marlinton on April 9, 1898, and by June work had proceeded south to Caldwell. Right-of-way acquisition for what became the C&O Greenbrier Division began in March 1899 and the first construction contract was let in April for a five-mile stretch from Whitcomb northward. The first train arrived in Marlinton on October 26, 1900, and regular passenger service between Whitcomb and Marlinton began on December 17.
Work soon began on the C&O north of Marlinton to serve the West Virginia Pulp & Paper Company (WVP&P), which had desired pulpwood from Cass for its new paper mill in Covington. 1 By November 6, the track had been laid across a temporary bridge over the Greenbrier River at the just finished 511-foot-long Sharps Tunnel, and Cass was reached by December 25. An extension north to Durbin was built from June 1901 to May 26, 1902, where C&O interchanged with the Coal & Iron Railroad, later a part of the Western Maryland Railway (WM). A contract to extend the C&O east to Bartow was let in August 1903 and opened in April 1904, followed by an extension east to Winterburn, which was built between March and June 1905.
The C&O was in on-again and off-again discussions with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on track realignment proposals as the Corps had proposed several flood control projects along the Greenbrier River. 2 Relocation of a portion of the Greenbrier Division had been discussed as early as 1936 when the Corps studied several flood control projects. The issue was brought up again in October 1967 when the Corps submitted a proposal to relocate 24 miles of the line from Marlinton to Cass. The new route would have paralleled the original line to Thorny Creek before gaining elevation. About one mile from Sitlington, the relocated line would cross Peters Mountain either via a tunnel or deep cut. The relocation would cut the Greenbrier Division by three miles and require the abandonment of Sharps Tunnel.
Following the closure of several large customers along the line in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the C&O approved the abandonment of the Greenbrier Division in December 1971. On March 18, 1975, the C&O requested permission from the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to abandon 92 miles of the Greenbrier Division from North Caldwell to Cass which included Sharps Tunnel. 2 The ICC granted C&O permission to abandon much of the Greenbrier Division on August 16, 1978, with the route from North Caldwell to Cass closing to through traffic on December 29.
Chessie, the C&O’s successor, donated 92 miles of the out-of-service Greenbrier Division to the West Virginia Railroad Maintenance Authority (WVRMA) for reuse for a multi-purpose trail. 2 Chessie began track removal in July 1979 from North Caldwell to Cass and was completed by mid-1980, with the land transferred to the WVRMA on June 20. Development of the multi-purpose trail, dubbed the Greenbrier River Trail, was slow, as portions of it were damaged in a flood in 1985. Federal Emergency Management funds were awarded in 1992 to repair the damaged sections, and the Greenbrier River Trail between North Caldwell to Cass opened in 1994.
- State: West Virginia
- Route: Greenbrier River Trail
- Type: Tunnel
- Status: Active - Pedestrian
- Total Length: 511 feet
- “The Chesapeake & Ohio Builds a Branch Line.” The Durbin Route. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing, 1985. pp. 13-34. Print.
- “Depression and the Final years.” The Durbin Route. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing, 1985. pp. 57-84. Print.