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Any self-respecting treatment of Chesapeake & Ohio ought to begin near Richmond, Virginia
around 1836, right? Whether or not this effort qualifies as about C&O, it doesn’t start near, or 
even approach, Tidewater: our effort purposefully begins from a viewpoint of C&O’s objective—
sustained commerce with the region at its west. This book is about my C&O: one plied by
modern CSX diesels and whose ostentatious physical plant at times seems difficult to justify in
comparison with its traffic patterns. It’s a modern railroad with high tonnage but with echoes of 
the past that are becoming more difficult to find across the present landscape. In number and 
variety of trains, my C&O doesn’t compare with the great main lines of today with their streams of 
automotive, merchandise, intermodal, and commodities traffic. However, my C&O has something 
the others lack: something difficult to describe but will have to bear attempting. Though its spirited 
backwoods character is always changing it yet remains; so, may we visit this same area in 
the future it will not be just the same but it may command a similar potential for affinity.

My C&O is rooted in youthful fascination with things railroad—especially lineside signals 
fleetingly glimpsed on a family drive down toward the hill country, with gleaming reds, yellows,
or greens beckoning an idea that something just might be about to happen. Thus, a stage is set 
for where this effort really begins: the author’s first visit many years later to Vauces, Ohio—
a place that appears to have far too many big signals in too small a distance. Basically, with its 
nearby junctions and local interchange interest, a railroad oasis in the middle of nowhere. Once 
we recognize that Vauces lies amidst a scenic subdivision with bursts of traffic plus occasional 
diversions in the form of a nearby competitor, we’ve just found something to do on a pleasant
day in Ohio. Let’s hope they’re running!

Nearly as pointedly as it seems to begin, my C&O journey appears to end in a way at St Albans, 
West Virginia. This is a location one would have trouble dreaming up as a modern railroad 
inter-change. It has heavy traffic, a river crossing and station, sidings, a screeching wye to a busy 
coal branch, tunnels, a scenic valley westward, and an industrial center to the east. St Albans 
was one of the first places in my C&O marked by changes that hit too close—in the downfall of its 
stately and photographically appealing cantilever signal bridges. It’s an end in a significant way, 
and yet—since we expect to return and explore areas in the hills or elsewhere along the way that 
we may not otherwise have noted—it may also be another beginning. In this spirit, we continue 
our eastward journey along the railroad until it completes its trek through West Virginia at the 
summit of the Eastern Divide.

In journeying through my C&O, we’ll explore features of Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia: the
operational heart of a railroad that no longer exists and yet does. We’ll follow evolution of train
operations from the classic C&O stemming through three mergers—B&O, CSX, and Conrail—
and even find examples where old traditions hold true. This is one main stem that hasn’t been 
carved up, piecemealed, or massively realigned as many of the more glamorous lines of yester-
year. It was, is, and quite likely may remain a commodities road. In between River, Lake, and 
Alleghany, it’s guaranteed we’ll see plenty of action while attempting to help form the picture
of a once proud and still interesting enterprise—Chesapeake & Ohio.

Content of page 4 of my C&O by Steve Fuchs with Rick Acton, Jr.