Iconic Virginian Route Briefly Reactivated to Store Cars

Train U87 climbs Clark’s Gap Mountain at Garwood, W.V. on April 18. It was the first train to operate on this stretch of the Virginian since 2015. Photo by Samuel Phillips.

Iconic Virginian Route Briefly Reactivated to Store Cars

A short stretch of the former Virginian in West Virginia briefly saw train service earlier this month for the first time since 2015.

For nearly five years, the rails of the former Virginian P-D (Princeton Deepwater) District have been silent. On Oct. 1, 2015, Norfolk Southern mothballed roughly 30 miles of track between Elmore Yard in Mullens, W.V., over Clark’s Gap Mountain, to Princeton. The stretch of railroad is known as “The Hill” to railroaders and rail enthusiasts alike and is marked by several massive trestles that have been the subject of many iconic Virginian photos. 

A stretch of rail was removed to cut off service on the line the following year and many believed they would never see a train cross the former Virginian again. But that all changed in early April when rumors began circulating that NS planned to store cars on the route. On April 16, train 799 departed Norfolk, Va., with 150 bottom dump hoppers with orders to be stored at Clark’s Gap. The rail was reattached later that day and what many believed was a fantasy was becoming a reality. 

On April 18th, train U87 was called to take the cars up “The Hill.” For one morning, the old Virginian was alive with the sound of a train climbing the still grade to Clark’s Gap. A few hours later, the three locomotives that brought the cars up the hill returned lite and the familiar sound of silence returned to the hollows. It is unclear at this time how long NS plans to keep the cars on the former Virginian or if additional cars will be stored there. 

—Samuel Phillips


This article was posted on: April 29, 2020