Potomac Special

This article is about the Amtrak train. For the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad train, see West Virginian (B&O train).
West Virginian
Potomac Turbo
Potomac Special
Transpo '72, spent three months on the West Virginian route under the Potomac Turbo name.
Service type Inter-city rail
Status Discontinued
Locale West Virginia
First service September 1971
Last service April 29, 1973
Successor Blue Ridge
Former operator(s) Amtrak
Start Washington, D.C.
End Parkersburg, West Virginia
Distance travelled 351 miles (565 km)
Average journey time 8 hours 55 minutes
Service frequency Daily
Train number(s) 640-643
On-board services
Class(es) Unreserved coach
Catering facilities Snack-bar car
Track gauge
Track owner(s) B&O

The West Virginian was a daily passenger train operated by Amtrak between Washington, D.C. and Parkersburg, West Virginia. This route was previously served by the Baltimore & Ohio's (B&O) train of the same name, and was the first of several services in the state of West Virginia established at the behest of US Representative Harley Orrin Staggers (D-West Virginia), the powerful chair of the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee. This patronage earned the train the derisive sobriquets "Harley's Hornet" and the "Staggers Special".[1]

Amtrak introduced the West Virginian in September 1971, making it the first Amtrak-operated service on the B&O. In 1972, Amtrak experimented with the UAC TurboTrain along the route, leading to the route being renamed the Potomac Turbo, but the equipment was withdrawn after three months because of teething problems. Amtrak re-christened the line the Potomac Special, but eventually withdrew it altogether in 1973. In its place Amtrak introduced the Blue Ridge, which terminated at Martinsburg, West Virginia.[1][2]:126 The introduction of the high-speed Turbotrain to the mountains of West Virginia, where it was occasionally limited to 15 miles per hour (24 km/h), attracted particular scorn from critics. Staggers denied that he had brought any pressure on Amtrak, although fellow representative Dan Kuykendall acknowledged suggesting to Amtrak officials that they "fix up West Virginia."[3]

A later train, the Shenandoah, operated through Parkersburg to Cincinnati, Ohio. This train was introduced in 1976 and withdrawn in 1981. The Blue Ridge was transferred to MARC and continues presently as the Brunswick Line. Amtrak's Capitol Limited, a Chicago-Washington service begun in 1981, operates over the Washington-Cumberland, Maryland portion of the line.


External links

  • 1972 timetable
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