The Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad was formed in 1869, in Virginia from several smaller Virginia railroads that had begun in the 19th century.
Organized by industrialist Collis P. Huntington, the company's reach was from Virginia's capital city of Richmond to the Ohio River by 1873, where the railroad town (and later city) of Huntington, West Virginia was named for him.
Tapping the coal reserves of West Virginia, the C&O's Peninsula Extension to new coal piers on the harbor of Hampton Roads resulted in the creation of the new City of Newport News. Coal revenues also led the forging of a rail link to the Midwest, eventually reaching Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo in Ohio and Chicago, Illinois.
By the early 1960s the C&O was headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. In 1972, under the leadership of Cyrus Eaton. The company became part of the Chessie System, along with the Baltimore and Ohio and Western Maryland Railway. The Chessie System was later combined with the Seaboard Coast Line and Louisville and Nashville. Both the primary components of the Family Lines System became a key portion of CSX Transportation in the 1980s.
C&O's passenger services ended in 1971, with the formation of Amtrak. Today Amtrak's tri-weekly Cardinal passenger train follows the historic and scenic route of the C&O through the New River Gorge in one of the more rugged sections of the Mountain State. The rails of the former C&O also continue to transport intermodal and freight traffic, as well as West Virginia bituminous coal east to Hampton Roads and west to the Great Lakes as part of CSXT.
The company owned and operated many tugs, moving railroad cars via barge. The tugs where all eventually sold.