West Virginia Railfan Sites
A self-guiding railfan tour
Railfan, railfan--where do you see trains in West Virginia? For a map indicating the relative locations of Frograil's West Virginia tours, go here.
We are struggling to create a west - east B&O Willard, Ohio to DC/Baltimore tour. It's in it's infancy, but a few locations are identified as [B&O] spots.
CSX ex-C&O. There are now 397.6 miles of this tour altogether, and about 108.0 are in West Virginia. Sites detailed on the tour are identified in the Cities and Sites listing with a "[C&O]". In July and August, 2007, Loyd Lowry began completing the tour from Clifton Forge to Hinton. It is now finished in West Virginia all the way to the start of the New River Gorge segment. In January, 2002, John Hopkins contributed a terrific tour of the New River Gorge and the CSX New River Subdivision between Sandstone and Cotton Hill. In July and August 2007, Cabin Creek to the eastern edge of Huntington locations were added, mostly by Andy Wade, and these were followed up by Andy in early 2010 by extending the tour thru the western edge of Huntingtont, beyond MP 501.0. This is not just a railfan tour; it's a family vacation destination, and the tour is written up as such. Those sites listed below which are on the tour are marked with a [C&O] annotation.
Why not take a tour? Markolf Gudjons has started a great tour of the Norfolk Southern's Pocahontas Division. The tour starts at Kellysville and goes all the way to Panther. Hop on board here. Those sites listed below which are encountered on the tour are marked with an [N&W] annotation. As of September 2005, the tour has been greatly expanded by Tony Hill, and now includes Williamson - Crum, and Prichard - Kenova. Locations on this broad tour are indicated by an [N&W] annotation.
On his CSX Cumberland Subdivision site, Markolf has posted a tour from Point of Rocks, Maryland, to Cumberland. Sites on that tour are indicated by a [CSX-CS] annotation, and the tour is highly recommended. The tour is here.
Another young tour is the Roanoke - Harrisburg NS tour. Locations coming out of Virginia cross into West Virginia south of Rippon, and continue up to Shepardstown. Locations on the tour are indicated by an [NW - VL] annotation. The tour is here.
Mapwork: If you're going to be looking for railfan locations, you'll need an industrial strength map resource. I definitely recommend you get a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer, study it before your trip, and copy pertinent pages for your field work.Recent advances in publicly available aerial images on Google Maps, MapQuest and others make those images a valuable resourse for research prior to railfanning.
On WV 3 southwest of White Sulphur Springs, Alderson is a town pretty much out in the middle of nowhere. On the other hand, as far as the Chesapeake and Ohio was concerned, Alderson was right in the middle of things. This town is halfway between Hampton, VA, and Cincinnati, OH. Not much there today but a lovely station and plenty of non-railroad property from which to photograph the CSX coal and manifest trains which rumble through. You can get some really artistic shots from across the river in the afternoon.
This yard (ex-CR, exx-PC, exxx-PRR) is north of the Kanawha River on the far east edge of town in the Cedar Grove area. Go south off US-60 to "Diamond". This is Fairview Street. Turn left onto Diamond Street. Engines are at the corner of Ferry and Diamond. Maybe 2-6 engines. The best place to watch the action is right from Diamond Street, as any movements in and out of the yard go thru here, and at a very slow pace. There are plenty of good photo locations. Bring a lawn chair and a cooler. The action is mostly coal here, with at least one dedicated chemical train daily. While not several trains per hour, there is certainly enough action here to be worth a visit.
This is a place where you can watch the yard and engine action at Norfolk Southern's Dickinson Yard. As you enter the greater Charleston area, via US-60 north of the Kanawha River, watch for the signs to Riverview High School. This is in the Belle area, and the road to the high school, Warrior Way, goes to the south. Just before going over the overpass, park to the right. Looking down to the right (west) you'll see the engine facilities.
Thanks and a tip o'the hat to Andy Wade, who contributed this railfan location.
This is a huge chemical facility north of the Kanawha River, and further west than the NS Dickinson Yard. Zooming by on US-60, I saw 2 engines, both apparently SW-xxxx's -- one was yellow and the other blue. There appear to be dozens, if not hundreds, of tank cars in the plant area. If you want to shoot these engines, you will either need to be Spiderman, or write ahead and get written permission. It's pretty doubtful permission would be granted, but you never know.
This was a RAILROAD town. Tracks and lines were going hither, thither and yon. They met here, crossed or joined, and went on. Manifest freight jockeyed for track clearance with the endless coal trains. This was a quintessential Baltimore and Ohio Railroad town. Today, alas, the branches and spurs are mostly dead. The mainline is a hiking trail (delightful, but not a mainline -- alas, indeed) because of some cost-cutter's inability to see the 1990's and 2000's as the rail expanding era those years are turning out to be. All those things notwithstanding, this is still a place to visit. You've got to walk a lot of this trackage -- global positioning systems mean nothing here -- the entire area reeks of nostalgia and industrial archeology.
The action on the line today primarily consists of thru freights and coal on the Cumberland - Grafton - Clarksburg - New Martinsville (Ohio River) sub-main line.
If you've got the time (weeks or days or years), and can find someone who really knows this area, take a LONG vacation and walk the hallowed grounds of this interesting town. You'll not see lots of trains, but you'll see lots of West Virginia and American history.
We were surprised to find Clarksburg a northern town, population-wise, in that a large percentage of the population was Italian Catholic, whereas, for some reason, we had assumed it would be all Southern Baptist. Soooo, it was with pleasure that we evaluated the many potential places to dine on good Italian food. We ended up dining at Julio's Cafe, and while somewhat pricey, it turned out to be one of the best meals we've had in a long, long time. The bean soup, believe it or not, was just about worth the price of the meal. Highly recommended. Julio's is directly across the street from the yard in the Baltimore Street station area.
From I-79 east of town, take exit 119 and US-50 into town. From US-50, take Joyce Street north to George Washington Highway, and then left (west) to Florence Street [NOTE: George Washington Highway becomes Pike Street] and park anywhere in the area. Walk on the west side of the Florence Street, where there is a sidewalk over the overpass. This is a good place to take pictures under most lighting conditions.
From I-79 east of town, take exit 119 and US-50 into town. From US-50, take Joyce Street north to George Washington Highway, and then left (west) to Oak Street. Take a right at Oak, and then a right on Jackson Avenue. Park somewhere on Jackson, and walk to the end of Jackson, where it meets at Linden Street. There is a large farm and supply firm on your left, and a large Southern States facility straight ahead of you. However, right between these two businesses, you can walk up to the unposted tracks. There are several yard tracks before you, then two main line tracks, then several more yard tracks (total of 2 main and 7 yard tracks). This is apparently a dead yard, but it's still a good place to photograph the 4-8 trains a day which flow thru here, and the sun is almost always your friend here, and will stay behind you.
From I-79, take exit 119, US-50, and go west into downtown. Get off the US-50 freeway at the 2nd Street exit. Get over to 4th Street, and go north to Baltimore Street. Baltimore Street parallels the yard and station area. There are some interesting things here. Even though it's trespassing, and I don't recommend it, you might want to quickly walk out to the grand 3-story tower at the west end of the yard, and get your photos. Check in at the depot office, if anyone is around, for permission. Just east of the depot is a nice, grassy area, including a picnic table, which is an excellent place for the family to sit and enjoy a picnic, while you wait for a train. If you've got young kids with you, they can run around here and work off some excess energy.
From the junction of I-79 east of town, take exit 119, US-50, into town. From US-50, take the Joyce Street exit and drive north to George Washington Highway. Turn right til you see Minard's Spaghetti Inn on your left. Park in their lot, and walk around the east end of the building. You'll almost literally run right into the small tower (actually a 1-story cabin -- now an electronic tower). Just east of here, maybe 10 minutes on foot (if you were on foot, and that would be trespassing, so you won't go there on foot), the main line splits with a junction to the south, and that line is still in OK condition; the tracks are very lightly used, and the branch seems to be on borrowed time.
After all this tramping around, hit Minard's, which seems to have a booming clientele.
In the western part of town is a maze of interchanges in the US-50, US-19 and Baltimore Avenue area. However, many of these tracks are no longer real -- the branches they served are dead, and, at least in the case of the Parkersburg line, even past main line trackage is dead. That said, here's a good place to shoot pictures of trains:
From the intersection of US-50 and US-19 (West Pike Street), take Pike Street south, and stay on Pike Street until the 21st Street area. Park anywhere you can, and walk down to the tracks. Expect relatively few trains per 24-hours (perhaps 4-8 per day), but this is a good place for photos, and a scanner can help you minimize wasted time.
From the Charleston area, head south on US-119. Take the Madison exit, which is some 30 miles south of Charleston, and go under US-119 on WV 85 (which used to be WV-17), and on down the hill. Danville is a small town just north of the somewhat larger town of Madison . In Danville, the yard will be on your right as you enter town. Like the yard in Iaeger you can lie on the tracks and sleep for hours and not be disturbed, or you can see a whole bunch of action in a short time. Engines in the yard vary from 0 to 10.
Restaurants and lodging are available in adjoining Madison. For photo permission, and to find out what's coming your way, check in at the yard office in Danville: Turn right off WV-17 after the Exxon Station, and the office will be on your right, before crossing the tracks. Thanks to Nick Keller for the information on this site.
The March, 2000 issue of TRAINS Magazine had a spread on a little-remarked, ex-Virginian line which connected the railroad, via Conrail, with the rest of the world to the west of West Virginia. This obscure line comes across the Kanawha River about 20 miles east of the ex-Conrail Dickinson Yard just east of Charleston. Theoretically, this route, which is now all-Norfolk Southern, may become more important as an alternate route for certain trains.
Deep Water is a tiny dot on the map, and is on the south bank of the Kanawha. From Dickinson Yard go east on US-60, cross the river at Smithers, and continue east on WV-61. You'll go under the large railroad bridge, and will have to do some exploring to find a good photo site. The bridge is quite large and is a great prop for the few trains which use it. Don't feel too badly about only a few trains a day, because the big-time CSX (ex-C&O) is right here at grade level. This is the main east-west coal route for CSX, and will give you lots of big dogs pulling super-heavy trains.
If you don't subscribe to TRAINS Magazine, I strongly recommend it.
From the intersection of I-70 and US-522, take US-522 south over both the Potomac River and the CSX (ex-B&O) tracks. Immediately after the tracks, take a left down the hill to the tower and parking area. You can park at the west end of the parking lot, away from HO tower, and you'll probably not be bothered. However, there are some really low-hanging, bodacious, ugly wires here which will hamper photography. I'd suggest walking on the road, past the tower, to a grassy area next to the tracks. There are a few spots where you can get decent photo fields. Be aware that many trains tend to pretty much fly thru here, so be safe and be prepared. The light will be good for photos virtually all day here.
This entry is primarily for those visiting Hancock and then moving on via the Interstates. For those with the time to take a proper railfan tour, at Hancock you can join Markolf Gudjons' excellent tour of the CSX Cumberland Subdivision, which is here.
Hinton is a big-time railroad town from days past--but not from today. Nearly perpendicular cliffs on both sides of the tracks make any photos problematic at best, and the yard is relatively inaccessible, with aggressive CSX police protecting the company's property. There are better places to watch trains along the CSX in mountainous West Virginia. The station, however, should not be missed. Take a picture or two, and move on to better places.
Iaeger (don't ask me to pronounce this name, and don't ask me why some authorities spell it "Iaeger", and others have it as "Iager"). For now, I'm going by the West Virginia highway map. Anyway, this is a most interesting railroad town, and a rather difficult one in which to railfan. Here, the NS Pocahontas Division mainline has a branch shooting off to the south, all the way to Cedar Bluff, VA, on the NS secondary main down to St. Paul, VA. This branch is quite important, and there is a pretty good-sized yard at its northern end -- Auville Yard in Iaeger. There appear to be about 8 tracks here, and a reasonable amount of traffic -- perhaps a train every 2-3 hours or so, which ain't bad for a branch.
To get to Iaeger, travel about 15 miles west of Welch on US-52. Before crossing over the river and mainline to head further NW on US-52, get off and take WV-80 into town. Follow WV-80 until it does a right turn across the tracks, and then a left to go further south. Where WV-80 goes over the tracks (actually the wye tracks from the mainline into the branch) go straight into the road marked "dead end." Park along here (turn around first, in one of two possible places), and you'll have excellent AM shots well down into the ladder tracks of the yard without having to trespass. The nice big trees behind you will help keep you cool on a summer day, also. In the afternoon, you'll have to make do with pix from immediately south of WV-80, on the west side of the tracks. You cannot venture further south, as this is NSC property, and most emphatically posted.
The site of a coal-railroading junction, Madison is some 35 miles south of Charleston. Take US-119 to the Madison exit, and go southeast on WV-85 (which used to be WV-17) thru Danville and on to Madison. There is a junction in Madison, whereby two coal branches meet to funnel traffic north to Danville, Sproul, and Charleston. While on WV-17 from US-119, turn left after crossing the tracks in Madison, and the junction will be right in front of you.
Thanks to Nick Keller for the information on this site.
Situated well above the Ohio River, this CSX yard was the Baltimore and Ohio's Cumberland- Cincinnati main line's yard in Parkersburg. That mainline has been abandoned just east of this yard, and all the way to Clarksburg. However, there is a vibrant industrial complex up and down the Ohio River, and there is plenty of traffic which needs to get across the Ohio, and the route which has to be taken in this area is from Belpre, Ohio (see that town on the Ohio railfan page), to the bridge over the river, which leads into the high yard. Also, there is active container and bulk distribution traffic in the yard itself.
Get to the yard by going south from US-50 downtown to Depot Street. The yard parallels Depot Street. Good lighting conditions most time, except during high summer evenings.
CSX (ex-B&O) has no glamorous fleets of double stacks running up and down the river thru here, but it has a goldmine of industrial traffic generated by the many large facilities on both sides of the river. You can easily be fooled here, as the initial suspicion is that relatively little happens along here; however, this is a very active yard, and there are endless switching and train movements in this area.
The yard itself is reached from OH-14 and 12th Street close to downtown. Go towards the river on 12th to under the tracks. Go thru the floodwall gate and then right to enter the yard. However, this area is conspicuously posted "No Trespassing", and the photo angles are kind of lousy anyway. I do not recommend any railfan being in this area for any reason. Just a half mile or so south down the mainline, the B&O and US-50 Ohio River bridges pass far overhead. This was the site of SX tower and a station (both gone), and offers good AM photo sites. You can get PM shots from the entrance to a small riverside park just south of the US-50 bridge. Any movement from the low yard to the high yard starts/ends its assent/descent here, so you can get good shots of these movements any time of day.
Downtown, from just south of the bridge on Avery Street, is a great AM view of the track coming off B&O's massive bridge. Expect relatively little traffic here, so you might want to check in with the CSX High Yard office before you set up.
Located in Mercer County, less than 12 miles from Bluefield, Princeton is a popular overnight stop on I-77 coming up from Charlotte and down from Cleveland. In the days of the Virginian Railway, Princeton was a major yard, engine and shops area. When the N&W bought the Virginian, having a complete shops facility only a dozen miles from Bluefield quickly led to the demise of Princeton's status. Alas, there's not much left today, but you'll see the coal trains coming down the long series of hills towards the Virginian's junction with the N&W in Kellysville to the southeast.
Take the US-460 exit from I-77 and head west, past the motels, restaurants, etc., and continue towards the downtown area. Follow the signs to WV-20, which will take you right one block from US-460, and then turn left to go into town. This will be or become Straley Street. You'll go over a river and then some tracks. You'll see the remains of the yard and shops to the north. Once over the tracks, take any left to get to Mercer Street, and turn left again to go down to the tracks. Mercer will end at a low barrier, and to go beyond this is trespassing, but is unnecessary, because there's excellent viewing all along to the south. Note that this is a PM location, as you're on the west side of the tracks. There is no way to get to the east side without majorly trespassing.
There is a road going up into the yard to the north of Mercer Street; it goes under the overpass of the tracks and river. Do not go up this road, as it is clearly posted. To the south, there is an eastbound (compass south) signal, and the three tracks in front of you go down to the single secondary main line about 200 yards south of Mercer Street. The railroad building to your south looks to be a yard or freight office, and not the passenger station.
While this location is included on Markolf Gudjons' most excellent tour of the CSX west of Brunswick (which is here), this description is much more inclusive of the general location, including traffic levels, detailed driving instructions, and has been prepared by Henry Mikus, a frequent contributor to Frograil.
Shenandoah Junction is an unincorporated village in West Virginia not far from Charles Town and Harpers Ferry. It is the site of a crossing of the CSX (ex-B&O) Baltimore - Cumberland main, and the NS (ex-N&W) Shenandoah Valley line between Roanoke and Hagerstown. CSX sees 40+ trains a day, and NS about 15. The single track NS crosses over double tracked CSX on a bridge. There is a controlled siding on NS just south of the crossing. Interchange tracks are infrequently used, as that business is usually conducted in Hagerstown.
There are several ways to get to Shenandoah Junction, and your DeLorme will help greatly. From Frederick, take US-340 south through Harpers Ferry to Charles Town, and then WV-9 towards Martinsburg. After about 3 miles, take a right onto Shenandoah Junction Road/CR-20, which will take you right to the NS tracks. On either side of the NS tracks, take a left to go north a short distance to CSX.
The March, 2000 issue of TRAINS Magazine had a spread on a little-remarked, ex-Virginian line which connected the railroad, via Conrail, with the rest of the world to the west of West Virginia. This obscure line comes across the Kanawha River about 20 miles east of the ex-Conrail Dickinson Yard just east of Charleston, and connects to the ex-"mainline" in the Mullens area. Theoretically, this route, which is now all-Norfolk Southern, may become more important as an alternate route for certain trains. Because it was built by the Virginian, the engineering was superb, and grand bridges and trestles are a hallmark of the line.
At Slab Fork, there is a large, curving trestle which spans a valley where the Slab Fork and Low Gap Branch meet. To get there, go west from Beckley on WV-3, and go south on WV-54 about 8-10 miles west of town. After 6-7 miles, the road will leave Low Gap Branch in a broad curve to the west. Slab Fork Road comes in from the east at the western (south) end of the curve. Take your left, cross the creek, and go under the trestle. To get up (way, way up) to trackside, you'll have to talk to someone in the area, or get out and hoof it. The photographic results can be successful, but those results will have to be earned, and you won't have very many chances on most days! [NOTE WELL: You need to be very, very careful to respect property rights in this area. Country folks, and I'm one of them, take their property and privacy seriously.]
If you don't subscribe to TRAINS Magazine, I highly recommend it.