A Southeast Regional Railroad of the 1930's - 1940's
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The Virginian Railway (VGN) was a Class I railroad located in Virginia and West Virginia in the United States that transported coal from mines in southern West Virginia to the port at Hampton Roads, Virginia.
Early in the 20th century, William Nelson Page, a civil engineer and coal mining manager, joined forces with industrialist financier Henry Huttleston Rogers (of Standard Oil and a very wealthy man), to develop the Deepwater Railway, a modest 85-mile long short line railroad to access untapped bituminous coal reserves in rugged southern West Virginia. When the connecting roads. N&W and C&O decided to charge
excessive rates to transport this coal to east coast ports, Page and Rogers decided to build their own railroad to the coast. Thus they conceive the Tidewater Railway in Virginia to link the Deepwater to a new port at Hampton Roads.
The resulting Virginian Railway was a very successful, well built railroad, with very modest grades in southern Virginia that offered stiff competition for the larger roads for 50 years, until N&W finally merged the VGN in 1959.
The VGN has a large following of fans and extensive documentation, which can be easily reviewed on the web.
The VGN was not particularly interested in passenger service, since it was primarily a low cost coal hauler, but it did operate one all stop day coach train between Norfolk and Roanoke, Virginia each way, and also a similar train between Roanoke and Charleston, West Virginia.
History of the Virginian Railway
The Deepwater Railway (DWR)
1896 - William N. Page had begun a small logging railroad named the the Loup Creek and Deepwater Railway in Fayette County, WV. which went up a 4% grade from Deepwater and an exchanged with the C&O Railroad on the Kanhowha River following the Loup Creek to a sawmill at Robson. The C&O had an operating agreement.
1898 - The Deepwater Railroad is incorporated as Page plans an extension to reach coal deposits near Glen Jean,
1902 - With the financial help of Henry H. Rogers, the plans for the DWR were extended as an intrastate line intended to run in West Virginia to the Virginia state line..
cir 1902 - Competitors for coal traffic (N&W and C&O) impose high rates to move the Deepwater coal.
1907 - The DWR is acquired by the Virginian Railway (VGN)
The Tidewater Railway
1904 - Tidewater Railway is formed in Virginia, by Page and Rogrers to silently build across state from Hampton Roads near Norfolk, to the West Virginia state line to connect with the Deepwater Railway to bring West Virginia coal to the export docks at Hampton Roads.
1906 - Near the halfway point on the Tidewater Railway between Roanoke and Sewell's Point (Hampton Roads), a new town with space set aside for railroad offices and shops was created in Lunenburg County, Virginia. It was named Victoria, in honor of Queen Victoria of England, who was long-admired by Henry Rogers.
1907 - Tidewater obtains rights to build across Virginia. The principal points were Roanoke, Victoria, Suffolk, and Sewell's Point (HamptonRoads), a rural location where a new coal pier was located on the harbor near Norfolk.
1907 - The Tidewater plays an important part, along with the Old Norfolk Southern in transporting people to the 1907 Jamestown Exposition, marking the 300th anniversity of Jamestown.
1907 - The Tidewater Railway is renamed the Virginian Railway.
The Virginian Railway (VGN)
1907 - Ther Virginian Railway acquires the Deepwater Railway.
1907-09 - Construction continues despite efforts of large railroads (the "Robber Barons") to stop the VGN. One way wasd to charge exoritant rates ffor VGN interchanges.
1907-09 - Deepwater portion extended to Virginia state line at Glen Lyn. Important points on the Deepwater portion were Page, Mullens and Princeton in West Virginia. The Tidewater portion is completed in Virginia. The road is well built to newest standards and financed completely by Rogers money.
1909 - Coal dock is built at Hampton Roads, Virginia.
1909 - Henry Huttleston Rogers and Mark Twain, old friends, returned to Norfolk, Virginia together once again for a huge celebration of the new "Mountains to the Sea" railroad's completion.
1917 - US Navy established large base adjacent to VGN Hampton Road docks and VGN delivered smokeless coal for use by Navy.
1917 - US assumes operational control of VGN & N&W during WW1.
post 1917 - N&W and C&O make many attempts to gain control of the successful VGN with no approval from ICC.
1922-25 - VGN is electrified in a 134 mile section over Clark's Gap grade in West Virginia, and over smaller grades to Roanoke, Virginia. The VGN built its own power plant at Narrows, Virginia. A link was established with Norfolk & Western to share electricity from its nearby electrification during contingencies. ALCO and Westinghouse supplied the electric locomotives, which were equipped with pantographs. The 36 initial units were normally linked in groups of three as one set, and had much greater load capacity than the steam power they replaced.
1954-57 - 66 diesel-electric locomotives were purchased, including 25 Fairbanks-Morse H-24-66 Train Masters, and 40 H-16-44 smaller road switchers, two with steam generators to haul passenger trains.
1957 - The last steam locomotive is retired.
1959 - VGN is purchased by Norfolk and Western.
Today - Major portions of the VGN low-gradient route are the preferred eastbound coal path for the N&W's successor, the Norfolk Southern Railway. Other portions of VGN right-of-way in eastern Virginia now transport fresh water and are under study for future high speed passenger rail service to South Hampton Roads from Richmond and Petersburg. The former VGN property at Sewell's Point is part of the US Naval Station, Norfolk and the largest naval facility in the world.
Epilogue - The Virginian Railway is still a favorite among the many fallen flags of railroading in the US. The Virginian Railway (VGN) Enthusiasts, is one of the Internet's most vibrant Yahoo! Railway Enthusiast online groups. A group of retirees in Roanoke, Virginia meet each week and answer questions from a worldwide base of over 700 members. Annual seminars have a growing attendance and preservation activities have been increasing, even as the VGN itself fades into history.
Virginian Railway - 1955
Private Collection of Richard R. Parks(rp)
Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia [web](wik)
Official Guide- Various editions
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