Map showing the projected route
of the Potomac and Ohio Railway.
In the late 1860's magnetic iron ore formations were discovered, extending northeast and southwest all along the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The ore was determined to be of high quality and of inexhaustible quantities.
On the western slope of Blue Ridge high grade brown hematite, or blood-ore, was found in abundance. All along the table-lands of Virginia, large deposits of specular iron, which were determined to be of very high grade, were found.
The projected Potomac & Ohio Railway was included in a government feasibility study done by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers in 1874. The study was to determine whether it was possible to access the valuable mineral regions, lying between the routes of the Baltimore & Ohio, and Chesapeake & Ohio Railroads, by building an intermediate freight line from the navigable waters of the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers through the Virginia territories to the Potomac River.
While studies to build the railroad progressed in 1874, another line, the Washington & Ohio Railroad, applied for a different, more convenient route to the mineral regions, and received the connection. The Potomac & Ohio Railroad was never built.
This map of the middle Atlantic states was published in 1874 by G.W. & C.B. Colton & Co. It shows drainage, cities, towns, counties, and the railroad network of 1874.