Watoga Bridge carries the Greenbrier River Trail and formerly the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway over the Greenbrier River near Watoga, 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.
On May 4, 1925, a boxcar on a northbound freight train approaching the Watoga Bridge derailed. 3 The boxcar. loaded with brick, bounced along the railway ties, and hit the edge of the bridge, which caused the main span over the river to collapse. No one was injured in the incident.
The main span was replaced with a new Warren through truss by the American Bridge Company in 1925. 4 The smaller secondary span was replaced with another Warren through truss by the Bethlehem Steel Company in 1929.
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 Watoga Bridge. 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: Warren Through Truss
- Status: Active - Pedestrian
- Navigational Clearance:
- “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.
- An interpretative sign along the Greenbrier River Trail.
- Bridge plaque.