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
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,
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
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
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.