Eastern Shore Railroad
By Michael J. Rotolo TCA 92-35372
The Eastern Shore Railroad facility is located in the middle of the U.S. Navy Amphibious Base, located in Little Creek, VA., inside the town of Norfolk. While at the LOTS convention this past July, we viewed the American flags flying at half staff in honor of the 2 Navy Seal Teams that were killed in Afghanistan in June.
The Eastern Shore Railroad, Inc. (“ESHR”) commenced operations on October 1, 1981 over the former Virginia and Maryland line from Pocomoke City, Maryland to Norfolk, Virginia, a distance of 96 miles. This north-south route on the Delmarva Peninsula was established in 1884 and is still the most direct route between the Northeast and Norfolk, Virginia. The ESHR consists of 70 miles of mainline and a 26 mile car float operation from Cape Charles to Little Creek, Virginia.
The ESHR by-passes the congested Northeast Corridor and its restricted clearances, with the unique capability to handle high-roof 60 ft. boxcars, tri-level enclosed auto racks, and “over dimension” shipments.
The uniqueness of this railroad is defined in its floating operations. Two barges (car floats) of 25 and 15 car capacity are used on the 26 mile water route across the Chesapeake Bay between Cape Charles and Little Creek. The tug boats used to pull the car floats are subcontracted out. While the cars are being loaded onto the barges, every car has its’ brakes locked and wheel blocks are placed at both ends to help keep the cars from moving.
This float operation is one of only two remaining in the Eastern United States and is the longest water route in the country, (the other being the New York Cross Harbor Railroad Terminal Corporation (“NYCH”) between the Greenville Terminal Yard in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Bush Terminal Yard in Brooklyn, New York).
This particular floating operation has been in continuous service from these terminals since April, 1885.
The float bridges, consisting of four tracks each, are located at both Cape Charles and Little Creek and allow cars to be loaded directly onto them.
ESHR motive power consists of four 1,750 hp EMD GP10 locomotives and two MRS1 Alco units to facilitate its mainline and switching operations.
Each round trip between Cape Charles and Little Creek takes approximately 12 hours.
Some of the commodities handled are: coal, stone, grain, propane gas, concrete, chemicals, clay, brick, fertilizer, paper, and food stuffs.
It was a pleasure watching, for the better part of a half hour, the continuous switching of loading and unloading in this unique rail to the sea operation.