Abandoned Rails of Winchester

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  • States: Virginia   
  • Railroads: PRR   
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Former Pennsylvania Railroad Freight Station in Winchester, VA, adjacent to US 50. The station building is now used as a local theater and child care center. Conrail boxcar at left is on a remnant of the station track; car is used for storage. Other track remnants are buried in the gravel parking lot. Photo by Mike Palmer, August 2003.

Winchester was the "end of the line" for a Pennsylvania RR branch that extended southwest from Hagerstown, MD, through Martinsburg,WV to Winchester. Most of this branch was sold to the local short-line Winchester and Western (WW) around the time when Conrail was created in 1976. A new connection with existing WW trackage was made north of downtown.

The former PRR track and sidings in Winchester were then abandoned, although several of the rail sidings are still in place. The produce warehouses formerly served by the PRR now use trucks.

The PRR line that goes to Hagerstown, MD was known as the "Winchester Secondary" in the Conrail days. It started out as part of the Cumberland Valley RR in the late 1800's, which merged with the PRR in (I believe) 1919. This line was operated by the PRR until the merger with the New York Central (Penn Central) in 1968. PC continued to operate the line six days a week until its own merger into Conrail in 1976, who would cut operations back to three days a week. This continued until 1985, when Conrail filed to abandon the line, as they were emerging from bankruptcy and they would again have to pay property taxes on the line. The Winchester and Western RR caught wind of this, and bought the line in 1986.

One of your pictures of this section shows some abandonded, but still existant, track. This was known as the "Wyck Running Track", and was in operation as of 1983 to the best of my knowlege. It served Winchester Cold Storage until they eventually went to trucks.

Another interesting part of the "Winchester Secondary" was the "Fairmont Running Track", some of which is still in sporadic service for National Fruit (AS FAR AS I KNOW). It used to run all the way to the PRR freight station that you pictured in your section on this, but is now abandonded past North Avenue (the southern edge of National Fruit's property). On North Ave., you can clearly see the end of line, on the other side of the street, the abandonded ROW with the tracks removed. I can say with near certainty that the abandonded section was in service as of 1983. Conrail's only client on the abandonded portion was Southern States Co-Op. I am not sure what the story is behind this. I saw a document on the Internet about Winchester and Western filing to abandon a 0.63 mile section of this line in 2001. This might be it, but I'm not 100% sure.

This winter, when the brush is down, I intend to take a walk down the abandoned ROW. If I can afford a decent digital camera by then, I'll send you some pictures of it. ;)

Here's a good website on the "Winchester Secondary".

http://us.geocities.com/svrr_photos/page6.htm

Jeffrey Hege
Strasburg, VA
10/12/2009

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Also, the Winchester Little Theatre moved into the PRR freight station in 1974.

The tracks, however, must have still been in use as of 1976 as a Conrail boxcar is on that remnant of track behind the building.

There are also a lot of railroad artifacts behind the building like rails and ties.

Jeffrey Hege
Strasburg, VA
2/15/2010

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Nice brief on CV/PRR branchline to Winchester. My wife's dad started his railroad career as a brakeman on the Pennsy. He frequently worked the Hagerstown to Winchester run. As a point of interest there is a picture of the Winchester CV passenger station on page 71 of the book "Post Cards of the Past" by Charles Thorne. It was just past the freight station at the corner of W. Boscawen & S. Stewart St. The station was a brick building with a large arch window facing Stewart St. and a Victorian round tower on the right corner. Entrance was from Boscawen St side and passengers board on opposite side of the building on a stub track that ended just before Stewart st. Not surre when it was torn down, but today there is a gas convenience store where the station once was.

ernest bellinetti
strasburg, VA
10/13/2011

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Regarding the leftover box car, it was common when Penn Central and Conrail abandoned lines to sell surplus/obsolete box cars to former customers, leaving them behind to become a permanent addition to the building. Often the track they were left on was owned by the customer, not the railroad.

Bill K.
Liverpool, NY
3/19/2014

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