had done a good job, both on the Norfolk and
Western Railway from whom they were pur-
chased, and on the Chesapeake Western, but
they were obsolete and excessively expensive to
operate and maintain. The first of the new diesels
was delivered during the first days of the 1946
miners' strike. As a result of the reduced amount
of traffic moving during the coal strike the one
diesel (operating throughout the twenty-four hours
of each day) was able to handle all engine as-
signments of this important short-line until the
remaining two diesels were delivered by Baldwin
in the following ten days. Thereby, the Chesa-
peake Western became the first railroad in the
United States (of those operating more than one
locomotive) to convert wholly at one time from
steam to diesel motive power.
   All through its fifty years of sometimes turbu-
lent and always interesting history the Chesa-
peake Western has been an unusual railroad.
The late W. E. D. Stokes, of New York, built the
road in 1896 as the key link in a great traffic
artery planned to connect the deepwater termi-
nals of Chesapeake Bay with the rich coal fields
of West Virginia. A few years later, the Standard
Oil baron, Col. Henry H. Rogers, attempted to
purchase the 40-mile length of road and extend
it east and west as originally planned by Stokes
(construction having stopped on the east against
the Blue Ridge Mountains at Elkton, and on the
west at Stokesville at the foot of the Alleghenies,
due to the enormous cost estimated as necessary
to penetrate the rugged mountains). Unfortu-
nately, Stokes' asking price was too high for Col.
Rogers and the latter then proceeded to build the
Virginian Railway, now known by its place
among the "big three" of the Pocahontas coal
carriers. Cut off from the coal fields it was inevi-
table that the Chesapeake Western should fight
a valiant but losing battle against decreasing
traffic and increasing expenses of operation. Fi-
nally, by 1926 the owners of the road were try-
ing to give it to any reputable party who would
agree to pay the taxes. At this time a new Gen-
eral Manager, D. W. Thomas, was hired to make
a last-ditch stand against abandonment of the
plucky little short-line. Apparently this was the
"shot in the arm" that was needed, for under the
aggressive and able management by Mr. Thomas
the fortunes of the "Crooked & Weedy" (as the
line is affectionately known to the local citizens)
began improving slowly but surely. By 1932 the
financial and physical condition of the railroad
showed marked betterment, but truck and bus
competition was beginning to make serious in-
roads into both freight and passenger traffic.
Thereupon, Mr. Thomas ordered passenger fares
cut to one-half cent per mile-packing the pas-
senger trains with patrons and forcing the com-
peting bus line clear out of business. But the im-
portant revenue was that produced by freight,
and its retention was a much more difficult mat-

CW 662 & 661

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