Why All the Documentation?


Here’s a scan of my Uncle’s examination card to certify his qualifications to work as a passenger conductor on the Cumberland Valley.  Note that this branch line is organized as a part of the Philadelphia Division.  Intimate knowledge of every detail of the right of way was required of passenger train crews.  The location of every switch, crossover, interlocking, signal, etc., was all part of a day’s work.  In the collection of his materials that my Uncle Paul gave to me, I have his mile-by-mile hand made drawings of the main line from Harrisburg through Philadelphia and on to New York.  I’ll scan and post these in the future.


Speaking of documentation, here’s some history of the line.  Unlike many diminished or forgotten branch lines, this branch of the PRR has a rich history and played an important role in Pennsylvania history.  It continues today as an important artery for Norfolk Southern.

Before merger with the Pennsy, the Cumberland Valley Railroad connected Chambersburg with Harrisburg.  The Franklin Railroad connected Chambersburg with Hagerstown.  Both were absorbed into the Pennsylvania Railroad.  According to an entry on Wikipedia, the CVRR was  officially purchased on June 2, 1919, but that the PRR had substantial control as early as 1859.

The CVRR connected with the Norfolk and Western at Hagerstown but also continued on a separate right-of-way to Martinsburg, West Virginia and Winchester, Virginia.  This line was freight-only, I believe, but may have hosted passenger traffic earlier in the twentieth century.  (If you know, let me know.)

The CVRR has a rich history.  The railroad and its Chambersburg facilities were attacked by Confederate cavalry in the days leading to the Battle of Gettysburg and another confederate raid occurred the next year in 1864.  Retired Defense Department intelligence operations specialist Paul J. Westhaeffer has written a history of the railroad.  His Web page summarizes his work and contains a map of the early configuration of railroads in the Cumberland Valley.  There’s a wealth of information at the links at the bottom of his page.

If your a model railroader and visit the area, there’s a club in Chambersburg you may want to see, the Cumberland Valley Model Railroad Club.

There’s a great summary of CVRR history at this link, including images of stock issues and the cover of a timetable courtesy of railroad author Dan Cupper.

Someone is intending to build a Web site about the Cumberland Valley Railroad.


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3 Responses to “Why All the Documentation?”

  1. laurence hampton Says:

    My name is Mr. Larry Hampton. I am a railfan, especially on RR history.Great history on the cumberland valley railroad. In the Smithsonian was on display for many years was the cumberland valley raILroad pioneer steam locomotive. Its coach is on display at the railtroad museum of pa. More other railroads should have their histories done and posted on the internet for us railfans to enjoy. I have a big framed picture of the pioneer in my railroadiana collection. Larry Hampton

    • Gary Says:

      Thank you for the comment, Larry. I will post more information on the CVRR in the weeks ahead so check back.

  2. Jim Says:

    Passenger trains ran south from Hagerstown to Winchester up until about 1950. Back around 1890 they would hit speeds as high as 80 MPH in places.

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