In the summer of 1916, it was decided by the Baltimore & Ohio RR as well as the Winchester Lumber Company that the forests of Hardy, Hampshire, and Frederick Counties of West Virginia could potentially be tapped for their resources. In the years following, the country was participating in the First World War and more railroad ties were needed due to the resulting increase in rail traffic.
The Intermountain Construction Company began working on the Winchester & Western Railroad, and the first train set track in January 1918 to carry lumber from Gore to Winchester, VA. Construction was a long process due to a shortage of heavy machinery during wartime, and the track itself was completed to Wardensville, WV by May 25, 1921.
West Virginia Governor John J. Cornwell spoke during a celebration held at the end of construction, saying that the railroad line will help to grow the region’s economy. His brother, William B. Cornwell was named president of Winchester and Western Railroad at the time.
The Winchester & Western began to cut back operations throughout the 1930s and 40s, but remained active between Gore and Winchester. The railroad has seen more use since the mid-1980s due to WW’s acquisitions of the Conrail “Winchester Secondary” line to Williamsport, MD as well as three short lines in New Jersey. The railroad was then split up into the Virginia Division and the New Jersey Division, which both have connections to the CSX Transportation and the Norfolk Southern Railway, two major eastern rail lines.
Today, the Virginia Division has 53 miles of track running through the Shenandoah Valley, and moves approximately 15,000+ loads per year. The New Jersey Division has 47 miles of track and moves approximately 11,000+ loads per year. The New Jersey Division has four lines: the Mainline, Seashore Line, Deerfield Branch, and Bridgeton Port Branch. These four lines are all interconnected through WW, Conrail, CSXT, or NS tracks. The Virginia Division has 2 lines: the Winchester Mainline, and the Sandman Branch. The latter covers the 18 miles of track between Gore and Winchester, VA.