- Associated Press - Sunday, July 31, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Trains will resume chugging along Norfolk Southern railroad tracks in West Virginia’s Kanawha Valley after being mostly silent for months.

A new short line railroad will operate a route from outside of Mullens in Wyoming County, through the Kanawha Valley and on to Columbus, Ohio, The Charleston Gazette-Mail (https://bit.ly/2aqGMOz) reported.

In February, as part of system-wide cost-cutting efforts, Norfolk Southern suspended operations on most of the Ohio portion of the route. While the portion of track through West Virginia - from Point Pleasant through the Kanawha Valley and on southeast - technically remained open, traffic on the line plummeted.

That’s when Watco Companies stepped in, leasing the 309 miles of rail line and creating the Kanawha River Railroad. Watco spokeswoman Tracie VanBecelaere said the Kanawha River Railroad will be Watco’s 36th short line railroad and its first in West Virginia.

Watco operates short line railroads in 17 states, from Washington state to the East Coast, she said.

In addition to multiple local trains daily, the Kanawha River Railroad will run coal trains about every other day, as well as a daily mixed freight manifest that make runs the length of the route, said KRR general manager Derrick Jackson.

“We want to bring life back to the railroad industry in this area,” Jackson said.

KRR initially will have 35 employees, he said.

Keith Burdette, secretary of commerce and executive director of the state development office, said he’s thrilled Watco is taking over operations of the Norfolk Southern line.

“We’re pleased to see it happen because rail is having a more and more important role in offering a complete transportation infrastructure in West Virginia,” he said.

“We’re hopeful they generate enough business, and we can help them generate enough business to be successful,” Burdette added.

Jackson said the KRR will operate engines with yellow and black color schemes, and it will lease Norfolk Southern engines.

“We do have plans to paint out one of our local switcher locomotives, and our goal is to get WVU colors on it real soon,” he said.


Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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