The Greenbrier Division, a branch line of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, served the Greenbrier Valley in Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties in West Virginia. Unlike most C&O branches in West Virginia, the Greenbrier Division was not a coal-hauling line, but served the valley’s timber industry. Construction began in July 1899 and was completed to Cass in December 1900, to Durbin in 1902, and to Winterburn in 1905. The final length was 100.96 miles. At Durbin a junction was made in 1903 with the Coal & Iron Railroad, later part of the Western Maryland Railway.
The Greenbrier Division served the numerous sawmills and two tanneries that quickly located along the new railroad. This business, along with the existing communities and the agriculture of the valley, made the Greenbrier Division an important branch of the C&O for freight and passenger traffic.
By the early 1920s, the original timber had almost all been cut and motor vehicles were beginning to affect railroad traffic. However, this decade was one of the busiest for the Greenbrier Division, as the C&O began using the line as part of a freight route between eastern and western cities. The Depression of the 1930s led to the end of the through trains and the closing of almost all remaining industries on the division. World War II saw the last busy years. Through freight trains returned to the line and wartime rationing of gasoline and tires brought people back to the passenger trains.
Following the war, the decline in rail traffic resumed. Passenger service ended on January 8, 1958. In 1975, the C&O requested authority from the Interstate Commerce Commission to abandon the line. The authority was granted in 1978 and the last trains ran on December 27 and 28. The right of way was donated by the railroad to the state. The section between North Caldwell and Cass has become the Greenbrier River Trail.
This Article was written by William P. McNeel
McNeel, William P. The Durbin Route: The Greenbrier Division of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1995.