THE CUMBERLAND DIVISION'S EAST END IN THE 1950S
by Scott Dunlap and Henry Freeman
The East End of the Baltimore and Ohio’s Cumberland Division in the 1950’s ran between Weverton and Cumberland, Maryland, a total of 100 miles.
The Cumberland Division started at Weverton, which was the end of the Baltimore Division and 173.2 miles from Park Junction. From Weverton the line proceeded west to Sandy Hook. After just a few miles it went through a tunnel, crossed over the Potomac River, and entered historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. While the two ends of the subdivision were in Maryland, most of its trackage was located in the state of West Virginia.
Passing Harpers Ferry the main line left the Potomac Valley and continued westward towards Engle where a third track was added to the double track line. From Engle it was on to Duffields, Shenandoah Junction, Hobbs, Kearneysville, Vanclevesville, and Martinsburg, where the third track ended. After Martinsburg came Fawver, West Cumbo, North Mountain, and Cherry Run. Here the line reentered the Potomac Valley and once again expanded to three tracks.
Having returned to the Potomac Valley the railroad next came to Miller, Sleepy Creek and Hancock. The main expanded yet again at Hancock, this time to four tracks. It would run that way for about five miles to Sir Johns Run before reverting back to three. From there it went to Great Cacapon, Woodmont, Lineburg and Orleans Road. At the Orleans Road Tower it was back to four tracks with two continuing along the original main line that followed the bends of the Potomac River and two more heading off to become the Magnolia Cutoff.
The Magnolia Cutoff, also known as the High Line, was opened in late 1914. It was built to help relieve congestion on the East End and provide a shorter, easier route for the railroad’s fast freights. While the main line continued to follow a serpentine path along the south bank of the Potomac, the Magnolia Cutoff made its more direct passage by tunneling through the mountains four times and crossing the river and original Low Line twice.
From Orleans Road the Low Line snaked its way to Doe Gully, Hansrote, Green Ridge, Magnolia, Paw Paw, Little Cacapon and Okonoko. Okonoko Tower was where the Magnolia Cutoff rejoined the original main. With three tracks it proceeded through French and Green Spring as far as Patterson Creek.
At Patterson Creek Tower the Patterson Creek and Potomac Branch split off the main line. This branch, also referred to as the Patterson Creek Cutoff, was used to bypass Cumberland and did not reconnect with the main line again until reaching McKenzie, Maryland on the division’s West End. The route was a shortcut to Keyser and helped keep coal drags from clogging Cumberland Yard.
Less than two miles after passing Patterson Creek Tower the main line, again with two tracks, crossed back over the Potomac River and into the state of Maryland. The line expanded to three tracks at North Branch as it prepared to enter Cumberland Yard at Evitts Creek, A fourth track starting at mile point 270.8 helped the railroad route traffic through the busy complex.
Cumberland was the site of one of the B&O’s most important classification yards, located as it was near the confluence of the East End and West End of the Cumberland Division, as well as the East End of the Pittsburgh Division. Cumberland was also the location of many on line industries. Throughout most of the 1950’s the yard complex contained one hump yard as well as a large locomotive facility. In 1960 a second, much larger hump yard was added increasing the importance of the complex. To this day Cumberland Yard remains a key facility for CSX.
After passing the main freight yards the line came to the Queen City Hotel which also served as the Baltimore and Ohio’s passenger station for Cumberland. Just west of the hotel the line arrived at Viaduct Junction. It was here that the East End joined with the division’s West End and the Pittsburgh Division.
In addition to the Magnolia and the Patterson Creek cutoffs, there were a number of other B&O branches that connected to the East End’s main line. From east to west they were the Shenandoah Sub at Harpers Ferry, though that branch was considered part of the Baltimore Division; the Baker Branch at Engle; Frog Hollow Branch at Martinsburg; Cherry Run and Potomac Branch from West Cumbo Tower at Cumbo to Miller Tower at Cherry Run; Berkeley Springs Branch from Hancock to Berkeley Springs; South Branch from Green Spring to Romney, connecting with the Moorfield & Virginia Branch to Petersburg; and finally the short Wharf Branch which connected to the division's West End right after crossing the Cumberland Viaduct.
Along with the various B&O branches there were also a number of connections to foreign roads; one to the Norfolk and Western at Shenandoah Junction; two with the Pennsylvania, at Martinsburg and Cumberland; and four with the Western Maryland located at Cherry Run, Green Ridge, North Branch, and Cumberland. Some of these were used to interchange cars while others were used only to provide alternative routes in case of an emergency.
To appreciate the importance of the East End to the Baltimore and Ohio one must first understand the true nature of the railroad. As with all major U.S. rail systems the B&O had its share of branch lines. It even had two substantial north-south corridors, one running between New York and Washington, and another between Detroit and Cincinnati. But, first and foremost, the Baltimore and Ohio was an east-west railroad.
The original main line ran from Baltimore west to Cumberland, Grafton, and by 1853 to Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia), which was located along the Ohio River. In 1857 the B&O completed the Northwestern Virginia from Grafton to Parkersburg. Eventually that line was linked with a number of others that together created a B&O route all the way to St. Louis.
While the Baltimore and Ohio was heading west it was also building north into Pennsylvania. By 1871, having finally overcome political obstacles, not to mention geographic ones, the line from to Cumberland to Pittsburgh was completed. From there it would later extend to Chicago, the Capital of American railroads, with important branches to Cleveland and Detroit, among others.
All B&O traffic moving between points east of Weverton and points west of Cumberland traveled over the East End. Points east of Weverton included the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington. Points west of Cumberland included Cincinnati and St. Louis on the original main line, and Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago to the north. In addition to the major and minor cities were numerous factories, farms, coal mines, river ports, Great Lake ports, tidewater ports, foreign road interchanges, and so on all along the system. All of this together generated tons of freight for the Baltimore and Ohio, and more of that freight ran over the East End than any other portion of the railroad.
Of course it wasn’t just freight, passengers rode the B&O too, and almost all of the railroad’s most famous passenger trains traveled over the East End including the Capitol Limited, National Limited, Columbian, Ambassador, Diplomat, and Shenandoah. One of the few exceptions was the Royal Blue, which ran between Jersey City and Washington. Even the Cincinnatian used the East End for a short time before being moved to the Detroit-Cincinnati corridor. Add in the locals and mail trains and you had quite a parade.
The Cumberland Division’s East End may not have had the torturous grades of the division’s own West End, or of the Pittsburgh Division, but what it may have lacked in that drama it more than made up for with almost endless traffic. Indeed the East End was where action was on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
Hollis, Jeffrey R. and Roberts, Charles S.: East End, Baltimore, Md. 1992.
Stover, John F.: History of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, West Lafayette, Indiana, 1987.
B&O Cumberland Division Time-Table No. 70, effective Sunday, April 29, 1956.
B&O Form 6, issued January 1, 1954.
Copyright © 1999-2017 Scott Dunlap
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