Wellersburg-area Railroads and Tram Roads

The February 1908 Maryland topographic map (below) was provided to Korns.org by Mike McKenzie, along with much of the information that is presented below concerning the contents of the map. The map shows the branch railroad to Wellersburg, and tram roads that served mines located near Wellersburg, Pennsylvania. Click here to see early photos of the branch line that were taken at Barrelville, Maryland. Click here to see other maps that show the branch railroad junction and trestle, including one map that calls the branch railroad by the name "Jennings Run & Wellersburg Railroad". This web page will be updated as more materials are received from interested readers.

Click here to see another, undated map that Mike found that tells us that the name of the North-South railroad was at one time known as the "Wellersburg & Jennings Run Railroad". The railroad corporation by that name was incorporated in Maryland in March 1850; click here to see the incorporation documents.

An 1852 newspaper article provides an early reference to an active railroad branch along the North Branch of Jennings Run. It isn't known for certain if this was a part of the Wellersburg and Jennings Railroad, or a separate railroad branch serving the mines, such as the branch that appears on an 1874 map of the area. The article states "The first mines reached are those of the Parker Vein Coal Company, at Barrallville, on the north fork of Jennon's (sic) run, under the management of M.P. O'Hern, Esq. A Railroad, three quarters of a mile in length, and spanning Jennon's run by an elegant Viaduct forty feed in height and three hundred in length, connects them with the main road, while their little mining village, with its clean and pretty cottages, presents a picturesque appearance. The Parker Vein was the first discovered and eariest mined in the Coal field, and was boated down the Potomac for use in the Government Arsenal at Harper's Ferry, long before the iron age of Railroads had commenced".

Page 591 of the 1854 "American Railroad Journal" includes an article titled "Coal Railroad to Somerset County Pa." which states "The Wellersburg Railroad, extending from Barrellville to Wellersburg, an intended to connect the mines of the Union Company with the Mt. Savage Railroad, has been put under contract and the work is being pushed forward with a degree of energy that will ensure its early completion. Messrs. Walker, Abernethy, Dudley & Co., the contractors, have at this time 200 hands at work."

The Union Coal and Iron Company built an iron furnace in Wellersburg in 1855 or 1856. Click here to see fluff piece-type 1856 articles on the Union Coal and Iron Company and the nearby Wellersburg Coal Company. The article on the Union Coal and Iron Company indicates that the railroad of this company will benefit from connection of the tram road of the Wellersburg Coal Company with it. This tells us that the rail road was already built in 1856. The article on the Wellersburg coal Company indicates that they were constructing a tram road, one mile in length, to connect with the Union Coal and Iron Company's Railroad. According to a lawsuit by Wellersburg resident John R. Brinham et al., the Wellersburg Coal Company was organized in 1855, and was already having trouble paying its bills by 1859. Click here to see an 1855 stock certificate from the Wellersburg Coal Company. Click here to see the 1860 Walker map, which shows the railroad, and also shows a tram line between the "Shaffer Vein" and the iron furnace.

Click here for an 1859 description of the Wellersburg Iron Furnace that indicates that the Union Coal and Iron Company has a railroad branch to the Mount Savage Branch of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. This description matches the railroad shown on the 1908 map, and this 1939 aerial photo shows that at the time of the photo, the tracks ran right past the remains of the collapsed iron furnace. Curiously, although the branch railroad appears to be abandoned in the 1939 photo, it is identified on a 1938 map of the Cumberland and Pennsylvania Railroad. That map also identifes various area mines.

The 1860 charter of the Somerset Iron and Coal Company indicates that it owned a Wellersburg area iron furnace by that time, and a rail road connecting with Cumberland, Maryland, along with "numerous" Tram roads and an Inclined Plane to carry the ores and coal to the head of the Furnace. The information presented in the charter strongly suggests (to me, at least) that the Somerset Iron and Coal Company was evidently a successor to the Union Coal and Iron Company and the Wellersburg Coal Company, combining the assets of both. The 1860 Walker map of Somerset County shows the spool road that ran north of the furnace, to where the ore was mined.

The Southampton Township Section of the 1906 book "The History of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania" indicates that the Union Coal and Iron Company was organized in 1854 and succeeded an older company, that had extensive mineral rights. The book also states that the furnace eventually "passed to the ownership of Ross Forward, of Somerset, who abandoned it about 1866." As noted in the incorporation documents of the railroad, G. Ross Forward was one of the original commissioners for the Wellersburg and Jenners Run Rail Road (see link to the incorporation documents above). Page 65 of the 1878 book "Introduction to a History of Ironmaking and Coal Mining in Pennsylvania" indicates that the iron furnace in Wellersburg "was built by the Union Coal and Iron Company, in 1856, under the management of G. Ross forward.". Taken all together, these two sources indicate that Ross Forward was involved with the Wellersburg furnace at both its beginning and ending, and was also a "commissioner" for the railroad that served the furnace at the time the railroad was founded.

Page 193 John C. Cassady's 1932 book "Somerset County Outline" also indicates that the Wellersburg Iron Furnace was abandoned in 1866, resulting in abandonment of the railroad that served it. Click here to see an 1874 map that shows the railroad to Wellersburg and a spur that apparently served a mine. If Cassady is correct that the railroad was abandoned around 1866, then it was evidently ressurected at a later date to serve the mines. More on this subject below.

The 1903-1909 Mine-Related Reports

The 1903 to 1907 mine reports for Allegany and Garrett Counties, MD indicates that the Wellersburg railroad branch was open during that time period. In a description of the Cumberland Basin Coal Company in the 1903-04 report, the following is written: "Has. .. a station on the C. & P. R. R., and connected with this road by a branch which connects the company's mine at Wellersburg, Pa., with the same road.".

In a description of the Cumberland Basin Coal Company in the 1904-05 report, the following is written: "A small locomotive owned by the company, operates over a branch line, which serves to ship the coal from the Georges Creek Bald Knob Coal Company's mine, by a 'switchback,' over the Cumberland & Pennsylvania Railroad.". As described below, the 'switchback' is on the Wellersburg branch that permits shipments to be made to the Cumberland & Pennsylvania Railroad.

In a description of the Georges Creek Bald Knob Coal Company in the 1904-05 report, the following is written: "A tramroad about two miles in length is used to convey the coal in the mine cars to the head of the plane, by means of a locomotive. Thence the cars are lowered down the plane, about half a mile to the dump, which is across the State line in Pennsylvania, and there shipment is made via the 'switchback' on the Wellersburg branch, to the Cumberland & Pennsylvania Railroad, back into the State.". This can only be referring to the mine served by the tracks that, in the map below, extend into Maryland to the area that I have marked "Bald Knob".

In a description of the Cumberland Basin Coal Company in the 1905-06 report, the following is written: "A locomotive operates over a branch road from off the Cumberland & Pennsylvania Railroad and hauls the coal to the main line of the above mentioned road.".

In a description of the Georges Creek Bald Knob Coal Company in the 1905-06 report, the following is written: "A locomotive conveys the output to the head of the plane where it is lowered to the dump, and from there hauled to the Cumberland and Pennsylvania railroad by another locomotive, operating on the Wellersburg branch of this road.".

In a description of the Cumberland Basin Coal Company in the 1906-07 report, the following is written: "The company owns the branch road leading to the mines from the Cumberland and Pennsylvania Railroad, and operates a good sized locomotive for the purpose of hauling the coal from these and their Wellersburg mines. It is a standard guage (sic) mine.". The company was under new ownership at the time of the report.

In a description of the Georges Creek Bald Knob Coal Company in the 1906-07 report, the following is written: "This operation is located near Mt. Savage, and ships on a branch road of the Wellersburg branch. The means of conveyance to the railroad is by a long incline plane and a long tramroad over which a locomotive hauls the coal.". The company was in receivership at the time of the report.

Page 201 of the 1909 "Maryland Geological Survey" indicates that by that time, what had been known as the Georges Creek and Bald Knob Coal Company was now known as the Brailer Mining Company. The description of the mine makes it sound as if it is Bald Knob, but the book indicates that ""the property has not been in operation for the past three years." The tram road sounds as if it is the one that ended in Wellersburg, although Wellersburg is not mentioned by name. The book states "A tram-road 1-1/2 miles in length leads from the mine to an inclined plane 1800 feet long at the base of which is a substantial tipple on a spur of the Cumberland Basin Coal Company's railroad. The tipple is provided with a screen for the separation of the coal for smithing purposes. The company owns an 18-ton locomotive and 48 mining cars of two-ton capacity.". This is a clear 1909 description of an active railroad that is described as the "Cumberland Basin Coal Company's railroad".

Page 211 of the same book describes the Cumberland Basin Coal Company as having two mines "... on the southeast side of the valley of the North Branch of Jennings Run, one-half mile northeast of Barrelville.". The mine location sounds as if it would be in Maryland. In regards to the company's railroad, the book states "The tipple is located across the North Branch of Jennings Run from the mines, on a siding of the Cumberland Basin Coal Company's railroad a half-mile from the junction of the latter with the Cumberland and Pennsylvania Railroad.". The book is obviously describing a different tipple than the tipple that we know was once located in Wellersburg. The 1908 map below and does not show any tipple siding, and neither does this 1915 Pennsylvania state highway map that shows the Wellersburg-area rail lines.

Click here to see an undated map of the Parker mine layout and the Bond mine entrance in Maryland that Mike McKenzie found. These mines are located as stated in the report ( 1/2 mile north of current (2009) route 36 and above Barrelville). Mike reports that the location is in the area of the present day Curry Lumber Company sawmill (currently non-operational). On the map, the lowest dashed line is the branch railroad to Wellersburg. Other dashed lines show a siding that serviced the mines, the Parker Tipple, and the Bond Tipple. The tram roads from the extensive mines connect with the powerhouse as well as the two tipples. This seems to indicate that the powerhouse was coal powered. I don't know what the powerhouse was used for, but I will take a wild guess that it might have been used to power the mine fan, lights, and perhaps some of the other mine machinery. Click here to see another undated map that Mike found that shows the Bond mine layout. Click here to see a very large (2530 KB) annotated 1939 aerial photo of the area below Wellersburg, including the Bond Mine Tipple. Annotation of this photo was a joint effort between L. Dietle & local area resident Mike Mckenzie. (For best results, use your browser to zoom in and out and pan, or download the photo to your desktop and use photo viewing software with the same features.)

Cumberland Basin Coal Company Railroad
A table on page 686 of the Interstate Commerce Commission's "Twenty-Fourth Annual Report on the Statistics of Railways in the United States for the Year Ended June 30, 1911" indicates that the "Cumberland Basin Coal Co.'s R. R." was a "Private road, subsidiary. Used as a coal switch by Cumb. & Pa. R. R." that was 3.13 miles long.

The 1919 Annual Report of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia indicates that the "Cumberland Basin Coal Company Railroad" had a track that extended from Barelville, Maryland to Wellersburg, Pennsylvania, and also indicates that the Cumberland and Pennsylvania Railroad Company had an agreement that allowed them to use the track. Click here to see a copy of the relevant page of the report.

Interpretation of the 1908 Map
Returning to the subject of the 1908 map below, to the left (west) of Route 160 is the tram road and "inclined plane" leading out of Wellersburg, Pennsylvania to the mine on Bald Knob in Maryland. Mike McKenzie reports that remnants of this railroad bed, including a few stone abutments, can still (2009) be seen along what is known locally as the Hollow Road.

To the right (east) of Route 160 is another inclined plane. The bed for this inclined plane can still be clearly seen from Route 160 today (2009). Mike reports that the remains of a tram line extends from the top of this inclined plane, across generally level ground, to the western/lower fields below the Cook Cemetery. According to Mike, there is a huge coal shale tailings pile along the eastern side of the tram road at the eastern side. Mike enjoyed using this tailings pile for motorcycle hill climbing as a youth. Click here to see a 1939 USDA aerial photo of this inclined plane.

Click here to see an 1898 topographical map that does not show the railroad. Taken together, the 1874, 1898 and 1908 maps are confusing. The 1874 map certainly suggests that the railroad was in condition for operation in 1874, along with a mine spur. The absence of the railroad on the 1898 map is either a significant cartography mistake, or else the railroad was actually not in operation at that time. The 1908 map also shows a tram line coming up from Ellerslie, and almost reaching the location of Michael Korn's lot no. 3356 on the 1787 Deakins Survey.

Click here to view a very large (1757KB) JPEG of a 1939 USDA aerial photo of the the entire Wellersburg area, with the beds for the rail lines outlined in red dashes (the annotations are a collaborative effort between L. Dietle & Mike McKenzie). Click here to see another large (2110 KB) 1939 aerial photo the tram road and inclined plane leading from Wellersburg to Bald Knob (also outlined in red dashes). With both of these photos, you will have to use your browser's pan and zoom features to move around (may not be possible with all browsers). Alternatively, you can download the photos to your desktop and open them with some type of image viewing software that has pan and zoom features. The beds for the double tracks under the Wellersburg tipple can clearly be seen in the first photo. In other areas, what may be beds for double tracks, or more likely a parallel maintenance road, can be seen. The steel tracks themselves do not appear to be present in any of the railroad beds. Click here to see 2010 photos of a few surviving crossties from the railroad.

In 2009 interviews, Wellersburg resident Richard Witt told Mike McKenzie that he does not recall ever seeing the railroad in operation, but he played in one of the tipples as a kid and remembers it being in bad shape and all grown up with briars, & etcetera. Mike estimates that Richard is about the same age as his own father, and was therefore born circa 1934. Having seen the abandoned infastructure in his youth, Richard made a quick guess that the time period that railroad may have been abandoned was possibly in the late 1920's. Mike asked Richard if he knew of the branch railroad owning its own locomotive. Richard said that the C&P (Cumberland and Pennsylvania) railroad brought their own locomotives up to pick up the coal cars. We don�t know who Richard heard this from, but it certainly might be true for certain time periods, even though the 1909 mine report specifically mentions that the Cumberland Basin Coal Company owned an 18-ton locomotive. We know from the 1919 West Virginia report (above) that in later years at least, the C&P had an agreement that allowed them to use the Cumberland Basin Coal Company's Wellersburg branch railroad.

For some reason that I can't quite fathom, there is a "Wellersburg Railroad Company" that is is still (2009) listed as an active business entity (Entity No. 383582) by the Pennsylvania Department of State. The Department of State indicates that the business entity was created January 1, 1920.

L. Dietle September, 2009

Map of Wellersburg area railroads

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