2024 Book Series, Volume #45-#48

  • Model: BK-24-500


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The C&O Historical Society has undertaken an exciting publications project called Chesapeake & Ohio History Series Books.

This series will consist of a book issued every quarter. Each book will treat an aspect of C&O history, equipment, structures, etc., more extensively than we could provide in our C&O magazine. Topics for these books may be continuations or expansions of magazine articles, or entirely new subjects not covered before.

2024 Book Series, Volume #45-#48

1st Quarter

Chesapeake & Ohio Craig Valley Branch

A Collaboration between Al Kresse, Chuck McIntyre & Dave Ostrander

This was one only a handful of C&O branches was not built for coal, but rather was for iron ore extraction. It ran 26 miles from a connection with the James River Subdivision east of Clifton Forge into the heart of Virginia’s iron region, which was booming in the 1880s-90s.

The iron business collapsed by the end of the century and this branch became a largely rural line with agricultural and forest products as the main traffic.  It was abandoned and turned over the Commonwealth of Virginia to be used for a highway in the early 1960s.

Never prosperous after the end of the iron era, the history of the branch serves as a good example of how C&O ran one of the lines that was not dedicated to coal. The Craig Valley Branch in its later decades was similar to the Lexington Branch nearby. (See C&OHS Quarterly Book No. 13, BK-16-876)

In a somewhat unbelievable aspect of the line was the fact that when it was begun, before C&O took it over, the originators had projected it to run all the way to the Midwest! This is another example of a “paper” railroad from the high era of railway speculation.

2nd Quarter

Chesapeake & Ohio Lake Michigan Car Ferries

By William F. Howes

This book features a summary history of the important Lake Michigan railroad car ferry service across Lake Michigan that was begun by the Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad (known as the Pere Marquette Railway (PM) after 1900). The book was developed from a manuscript prepared by the late Bill Howes (who was the last C&O/B&O passenger service director and later a CSX vice president) in the 1990s.

The PM’s operation was highly successful and by the 1930s was using five large modern ships (or “boats” as they were known on the lakes) that carried dozens of railroad cars per day from the port of Ludington, Mich. to the Wisconsin ports of Milwaukee, Manitowoc, and Kewaunee where connections were made with the Milwaukee Road, Soo Line, Chicago & North Western, and Green Bay & Western railroads.

The routing allowed freight to and from the Northeast and the Midwest to bypass the congestion and delays of passing through the complicated Chicago terminals. PM connected with the Northeast at Buffalo, N. Y., then used trackage rights across Ontario where it picked up its own line at St. Thomas. The freight then moved across Michigan to Ludington then across the lake on the car ferries.

C&O emphasized this service after it merged PM in 1947 and in 1952 installed the two largest and most modern ferries: Spartan and Badger. During the 1950s C&O was carrying over 150,000 freight cars across the Lake per year in seven boats. But with the B&O affiliation in 1964 new routes opened and the cross-lake traffic steadily declined, though the passenger part of the service remained strong. However, C&O finally existed the business in 1983.

This book gives a summary history of the service with emphasis on the two C&O-built boats of 1952 as well as the two most modern of the PM-built ships. Over 100 great photos. A complete roster of all the PM and C&O boats is included.

3rd Quarter

Chesapeake & Ohio’s The Sportsman Passenger Train – Vol. 1

By Wendell H. McChord

C&O inaugurated a new passenger train in 1930 that it called The Sportsman. This was because it emphasized the traffic to and from the holiday and recreational areas served: The Virginia seashore resorts, the mountain springs resorts of Virginia and West Virginia, and the vacation regions of western Michigan.

A huge advertising campaign emphasized the train and was the most extensive since the FFV of 1889. New features were not only the routing, using C&O’s new Northern Subdivision line between Kentucky and Detroit, but ultra-luxury coaches with 2-and-1 reclining bucket seats; new diners, and improved scheduling.

The new train actually overlaid the existing C&O passenger system, though it was later more integrated. Inaugurated just as the Depression began, C&O nonetheless lavished much attention and a great deal of money on The Sportsman.

The story is being told in two Volumes: Volume 2 to be issued as the 4th quarter C&O History Series book. (See below)

4th Quarter Book

Chesapeake & Ohio’s The Sportsman Passenger Train, Vol. 2

By Wendell H. McChord

This is the second volume about The Sportsman that completes an exhaustive history of this most interesting train inaugurated in 1930 and operated until 1968. – It is intended to accompany Vol. 1.


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