Marion’s Railroad HistoryMarch 26, 2021
Marion County rail-trails are a great public space for walking, biking, or just being active outdoors, but these paths also connect to our state’s vast railroad history. These former railroads played an enormous role in our state’s growth and development, connecting our natural resources to the rest of the world.
As mentioned in our Coal History blog, the Baltimore & Ohio Railway (B&O) arrival in the early 1850s transformed the region. It made Marion County a crucial strategic area during the Civil War. The main line of the B&O Railroad traversed Marion County and transported coal to Union troops. After the war ended, the railroad served as the mainline of transportation for West Virginia’s natural resources. Much like coal mining, the railroad offered employment and sparked business developments in the communities where workers and their families lived.
On December 10, 1883, the Fairmont, Morgantown and Pittsburgh Railroad Company was incorporated in West Virginia to construct a railroad from Morgantown to Fairmont. The existing railway, supported by the B&O Railroad, was created to lengthen the B&O’s line from Fairmont to Morgantown and join with the B&O line at Uniontown, Pennsylvania. The railroad line opened in January 1886, after the route’s construction was delayed by legal disagreements with the West Virginia and Pittsburgh Railroad over the right-of-way legalities — once at Fairmont and later at Point Marion and along the Cheat River where there was room for only one railroad. By the time the railroad line opened, it was owned and operated by the B&O Railroad. The opening of this railroad extension resulted in many new coal mining operations in the Fairmont Coal Field.
Over the last several decades, the railroad industry has changed dramatically with consolidations and mergers, significantly reducing the number throughout the state. Many railways have been converted into rail-trails, with four routes crossing through Marion County.
Rail-trails are former railroad corridors and old train tracks that have been re-purposed for public recreational use. Due to its railroad past, these trails’ terrain is generally flat or gently sloped, making them accessible to many people. Rail-trails are typically wide enough to accommodate bicycling, walking, running, and riding horses, making these trails a suitable place for all ages and abilities to exercise. In addition to recreation, remnants of railroad heritage, such as whistle posts, communication boxes, telegraph lines, and train depots, can be found along rail-trails.
Take advantage of the four rail-trails that cross Marion County. The Marion County Trail, better known as the MCTrail, runs for nearly 3 miles along Pricketts Creek through rural Marion County. The trail’s main highlight is Meredith Tunnel, a 1,200-foot lighted tunnel under Speedway Avenue and Suncrest Boulevard. At Prickett’s Fort, connect with the Mon River Trail and continue to Morgantown. Other local rail-trails include the Ralph S. Larue/West Fork Trail, which features three bridges and access to the river, and the Joel McCann Memorial Trail, in Mannington.
Dive deeper into Marion County history with our guide. Request your copy now to start planning your trip to the Middle of Everywhere!