Watco to acquire NS West Virginia Secondary, portion of Virginian route

Short line operator to breed new life into mothballed secondary route
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Chase Gunnoe
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A shortline railroad will breathe new life into a Class I railroad line that was partially mothballed in West Virginia earlier this year.

Watco companies will acquire more than 300 miles of Norfolk Southern tracks in West Virginia and Ohio, including the majority of its West Virginia Secondary route and a segment of the former Virginian Railway Princeton-Deepwater District. The new business will operate as the Kanawha River Railroad, LLC.

The short line will operate from Milepost RR 7.0 in Refugee, Ohio, to Milepost RR 116.5 at Hobson Yard near Middleport, Ohio, and again from Milepost WV 125.6 at Conco, Ohio, to Milepost WV 253.4 in Cornelia, W.Va. The acquisition encompasses nearly the entire length of the West Virginia Secondary route with the exception of a 9-mile segment owned by CSX Transportation in southeast Ohio.

The Kanawha River Railroad will also operate from Milepost V 435.0 in Alloy, W.Va., to Milepost V 382.0 in Maben, W.Va., on the former Virginian Railway mainline in southern West Virginia. The 53-mile segment of the former Virginian main line is currently used to transport domestic utility and export coal from mines near Charleston, W.Va., to customers in Virginia and the Carolinas. Under the new agreement, coal customers will be served using Watco train crews and NS run-through equipment.

On the West Virginia Secondary, a route consisting primarily of chemical and other local industries between Columbus, Ohio, and south of Charleston, W.Va., Watco will supply train crews and locomotive power for freight trains and local switching.

In February, Norfolk Southern idled approximately 100 miles of its West Virginia Secondary line between central Ohio and north of Nitro, W.Va., funneling a pair of daily chemical trains to routes in the southern West Virginia coalfields. As Watco acquires the route this summer, the short line operator will focus on re-opening the northern segment of the route to regain access to Columbus.

The railroad will have nine locomotives, including a half a dozen EMD six-axle SD-type locomotives and three four-axle EMD GP-type locomotives. Current plans call for three scheduled jobs, including a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday manifest between Columbus, Ohio, and Dickinson Yard, south of Charleston, W.Va. The long-haul manifest will return north the following day. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, two local jobs will serve industries both to the north and south of Dickinson Yard.

The railroad will also look at returning coal to the north end of the West Virginia Secondary. While the railroad expects 70 percent of outbound coal to go via the Virginian route to the south, 30 percent of outbound trains will go via Columbus, Ohio, on the West Virginia Secondary route.

The railroad will hire 29 employees, including 25 positions in train service, mechanical, and track. The remaining positions will include local management and clerks. The railroad will use existing facilities currently used by Norfolk Southern.

Watco says it will begin operating the Kanawha River Railroad in late July.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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