Winifrede Railroad: A History
Railroad Company was incorporated on November 16, 1881.
But its story begins 30 years earlier.
Coal was mined on Fields Creek in the first half of the 19th
century on a limited scale. The
horse and wagon was used to transport the product to local residents
along the Kanawha River. In
the early 1840s, the Winifrede Mining and Manufacturing Company, an
English syndicate, acquired leases on Fields Creek and expansion
narrow gauge railroad was constructed using wooden rails; the coal
from the Winifrede mines was loaded in wood side-dump cars and
dropped by gravity to the Kanawha River.
Wood chutes then conveyed the coal to river barges.
Mules or oxen pulled the cars back to the mines for
reloading. In 1851,
Daniel O'Connor, co-owner and president of the Winifrede Mining and
Milling Company, met Ralph Swinburne, while on a trip to Cincinnati,
Ohio. Swinburne a civil
engineer as well as a locomotive engineer had just recently
emigrated from England. There
he had worked with George Stephenson, know as the inventor of the
steam railroad locomotive. Swinburne actually ran Stephenson's
first locomotive as engineer and was superintendent of the railroad.
After a discussion of his experiences with the first railroad
in England, Swinburne accepted OConnors offer to come to West
Virginia to build a railroad on Fields Creek.
was February, 1851, when Swinburne began the building of a railroad
from the Winifrede mines to the Kanawha River. (It is believed that
Winifrede mining and Manufacturing, and later the town was named for
O'Connor's daughter, Winifrede.) According to historian Phil
Conley in his publication "The West Virginia Review" this
was the first railroad built in southern West Virginia. In
fact, it may be claimed to be the first completed railroad in the
entire State. The Baltimore and Ohio entered the State in 1838
but was not completed until 1852. The Chesapeake and Ohio was
not completed through the Kanawha Valley until 1873.
Railroad was built with 56-pound steel spiked to wooden ties.
Shortly after the completion of the railroad, a small steam
locomotive was shipped from England arriving on a flat boat from
locomotive was designed by Stephenson and weighed only 15 tons.
Swinburne supervised the assembly of the engine, put it on
line at Winifrede Junction and trained the first engineer.
the early 1860s a group of Philadelphia entrepreneurs acquired the
Winifrede properties and the Winifrede Railroad and purchased 15,000
acres of coal and timberland on the headwaters of Fields Creek.
They organized the Winifrede Coal Company to carry out the
the Civil War and into the 1870s the mines were not operated and the
railroad tracks and ties rusted and rotted away.
In the late 1870s, Winifrede Coal Company began to recover
and work commenced to rebuild the railroad.
Winifrede Railroad Company received a charter as a separate
organization on November 16, 1881.
The Railroad was of standard gauge (4'8 1/2"inches) with
56-pound steel rails. It linked the Winifrede Mines to
Winifrede Junction, a distance of about six miles, connecting there
with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. A second-hand locomotive
was purchased from M. Colwell & Canning for $4,500.
However, within 15 months a new 45-ton Baldwin locomotive was
purchased for $12,500. A passenger car was bought from Mepro
Jackson & Sharpe Company of Delaware for $1,200 and 60 six-ton
coal cars from Mepro McKee Fuller & Company, Pennsylvania at a
total cost of $15,600. Also reported in the September
1882 report the construction of a tipple upon the Kanawha
River. "It is the finest structure of its kind.
It works in every way satisfactory to our General Manager,
and lowers with ease six ton dump cars within a foot of the barge,
thus delivering the coal without breakage."
same report stated "The C&O has established a station at
the junction of their road with ours, and named the same 'Winifrede
Junction.' A telegraph
office is located there. Communication
by telephone between the station at the river and the store near the
mines has been established. The
Winifrede carried 1,271 passengers and 12,512 tons of coal that
first year after incorporation.
1888 improvements included the construction of a car repair shop,
the investment in a turntable, and the purchase of one new
locomotive and more coal cars.
The following year, 1889, a traffic contract was entered into
between the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Chicago Railway
Company, and the Winifrede Railroad, for the shipment of coal to
Chicago and the northwest. A
trust agreement was negotiated for the purchase of 500 cars, which
in turn were leased to the other railway for these shipments.
years after the incorporation, business was well established.
The railroad carried 272,314 tons of coal and 13,224
passengers in 1899. During
1902-3, the Railroad replaced the 56-pound rail with 85-pound rail.
During this time the Railroad also sold to Winifrede Coal
Company the river tipple located on the Kanawha River.
By 1906, the Winifrede Railroad had rolling stock consisting
of two locomotives, 235 six-ton coal cars, one passenger car, two
flats, two box and one dump car.
Buildings consisted of an engine house, machine shop, repair
shop and blacksmith shop. There
were 7 1/2 miles of mainline and 3 miles of siding.
The Railroad also had a contract to deliver the mail from
Lewiston to the Winifrede Post Office.
were many shortline railroads built in southern West Virginia during
the latter half of the 19th century, but Winifrede Railroad is one
of the few which survived. A copy of the Official Guide
indicated that there were three trains scheduled which made the 7.2
mile run in 30 minuets. At first they made connections with
the C&O and river steamers to Charleston and Point Pleasant and
later to C&O and Charleston Interurban Railroad.
a good year, when the Winifrede Coal Company mines worked regularly,
the average amount of coal hauled by the railroad was 210,000 tons.
Beginning in 1910, the Railroad began replacing the 6- to 7-
ton cars with 30-ton second-hand steel cars. Also in 1910 a new
Baldwin 70-ton steam locomotive became the main motive power.
In 1915, Winifrede Coal built a new steel tipple at Winifrede
Junction. In 1922, the
Railroad purchased 60 steel double hopper cars of 50-ton capacity.
Railroad served the Winifrede Coal Company until the mid-1920s, when
due to the declining coal market the coal operations and the
Railroad were forced to close.
The Railroad retained its charter and was back in business
again in 1930 when Winifrede Collieries acquired the Winifrede
In 1931, David P. Morgan wrote an article about shortline railroads
in which he devoted a good portion of the account to the Winifrede
Railroad. "The 6.75 mile coal hauler enjoys a fidelity to
its corporate name that puts many a trunk line to shame, for it
operated between Winifrede Junction, West Virginia and Winifrede,
the former site is on the main line of the Chesapeake & Ohio
and the banks of the Kanawha River. Locomotion is supplied by
nos. 9 and 10, a pair of Richmond-built engines.
engines are dapper machines; compact, gutty, even handsome in a very
solid sort of way. Up front, the headlight is off center in a
small smokebox door, giving the engine a smart look, and
illuminated number boards, fat domes and small cab, and a
comparatively huge track extend such an initial impression.
Mounting footboards on pilot and tank, the 9 and 10 looked quite
capable of hauling out any tonnage of coal that their owner might be
able to produce."
it merged with Winifrede Collieries in 1955, Carbon Fuel Company
acquired Winifrede Railroad Company and Winifrede Company.
Although Carbon preferred to keep steam engines operating,
they were faced with the difficulty of getting parts to maintain
shortly after acquisition, Carbon began a study to determine the
number and size of diesel-electric locomotives required to haul the
expected tonnage. A
General Electric 70-ton, 720 horsepower diesel electric was
purchased and 85-pound steel rails were replaced with 100-pound
1955, the Winifrede Railroad has transported over 20 million tons of
coal. It has utilized eleven steam and two diesel-electric
locomotives. There are
seven miles of main line track with a total of 14 miles trackage.
Until it closed in 1988, the Winifrede Railroad Company operated
with 10 employees, a 1500 h.p. Diesel-electric locomotive, and 180
50- and 70-ton steel hopper cars.
Morgan's account provides a tribute to the Winifrede Railroad of
1931 that is nearly appropriate today: "It goes to work
with the sun and by eventide there's not much to do....but lock up
the engine. At night, everyone sleeps, including the motive
power. Small Time? Yes. Insignificant, No. A railroad - any
railroad- lends substance and maturity to a community. A
railroad is something tangible, a roadbed and ties and rails leading
out through the winding, shady glen toward an oblivious and
important world beyond. A railroad is married to the earth,
and the track tells of locomotives and trains whether there is
engine exhaust and whistling to be heard or not."