Elkhorn City’s Railroads

Historical Marker #2130 in Pike County commemorates the connection of the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Railroad and the Carolina, Clinchfield & Ohio Railroad (later Clinchfield) at Elkhorn City. When the junction was completed in 1915, Elkhorn City became an important railroad town, as it opened up trade from the Ohio Valley to the South Atlantic Region.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Elkhorn City lay isolated in the mountains of the Big Sandy Valley. Rail lines became the city’s link to the outside world. Coal magnates played a large role in getting the C&O extended to Pike County in 1906. However, the absence of a bridge over Russell Fork River allowed the track to only reach the outskirts of Elkhorn City until 1912, when a railroad bridge was constructed. That same year, the Caroline, Clinchfield & Ohio built a railyard in Elkhorn City, and the Chesapeake & Ohio was assured use of it. Construction on a Carolina, Clinchfield, and Ohio line from Dante, Virginia, to Pike County began in 1912. In 1915, construction on the Carolina, Clinchfield &Ohio line was completed, connecting Spartanburg, South Carolina to Elkhorn City.

Steam locomotives pulled the cars until 1959, when they were replaced with diesel engines. Both railroads received contracts with the postal service to haul mail. The line also transported freight and passengers.

After World War II, passenger and mail service began to become unprofitable. Therefore, these services ceased on the Clinchfield in the mid 1950s and on the C&O in 1963. Both lines, however, continued to carry freight. In fact, as the years passed, freight became more profitable. They transported chemicals, heavy equipment, lumber, steel, manufactured goods, and of course, coal.

Economic gains eventually slowed, and the Elkhorn City rail yard closed in 1981. In June 1982, the Clinchfiled Railroad agreed to a merge with CSX Transportation, and C&O had followed suit by 1986.