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Conrail


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The Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) was created in 1976 to operate the bankrupt Penn Central Railroad. It was a for-profit corporation with credit guaranteed by the U.S. government.

In West Virginia, Conrail operated the old New York Central (later Penn Central) line from Point Pleasant through Charleston to a connection with the former Virginian (now Norfolk Southern) Railroad east of Charleston. By 1976, this line was of limited significance to the economy of West Virginia, thus the creation of Conrail had little effect on the state. Any hope for effective competition with the Chessie System was not realized because Norfolk Southern routed only small amounts of traffic over the former Virginian line.

For the first five years, Conrail appeared to do no better than Penn Central. Freight traffic suffered with industrial decline in the service region, and equipment and rail maintenance languished. New management after 1980 and liberalized operating rules allowed after passage of the Northeast Rail Reorganization Act of 1981 brought a turnaround. Conrail posted its first profitable quarter in 1981 and from then until 1999 yielded a profit annually.

The Northeast Rail Reorganization Act had identified 1984 as the year to make Conrail totally private, and plans were made to sell the system to Norfolk Southern. So much opposition developed that Norfolk Southern withdrew its bid. Eventually, Norfolk Southern and CSX (formerly Chessie) developed a plan to divide Conrail between themselves. This plan included Norfolk Southern acquisition of the former Conrail line in West Virginia. In 1999, Conrail ceased to exist as a separate entity.

Written by Robert L. Frey