Abandoned Rails


 

Virginian Railway - First Subdivision (Norfolk Division)

Sewell's Point to Victoria

 

The Virginian Railway is well-known as one of the three major Appalachian coal hauling railroads, along with the Norfolk & Western (N&W) and the Chesapeake & Ohio.  As a result of the December 1, 1959 takeover by the N&W, much of the trackage that comprised the First Subdivision became redundant in relation to the N&W's Norfolk to Roanoke mainline, with little business along the way.  Over time the line between Algren and Abilene was abandoned although some of the rail remained intact until the early 1990's. 

Since 2001 I have documented various segments of the remaining trackage and right-of-way that once comprised the First Subdivision.  In fact, this page was the catalyst for the Abandoned Rails section of the website. 

I would like to thank Steve Hammer, Chuck Rippel, Bill Whitbeck, and Sam Holden for their contributions to this page.  If you have information or photographs that you'd like to share, please e-mail me. 

 

 

Sewell's Point (A8.0)

 

Sewell's Point was the eastern terminus of the Virginian Railway and named after Henry Sewell.  There were two coal piers used to load the colliers.  On the left is Coal Pier No. 1 that was built in 1909 and completed for a cost of $2.5 million.  On the right is Coal Pier No. 2, completed in 1925 and later upgraded in late 1950's.  Both served the VGN faithfully until it's 1959 merger with the N&W at which time coal loading operations were transferred to the N&W's Lambert's Point facility.  The piers physically survived until 1966 when they were sold to the U.S. Navy.  The demise of Sewell's Point resulted from it becoming a redundant facility, especially after coal loading operations were transferred to nearby Lambert's Point.  The yard was used for the storage of coal cars into the early 1970's and was finally abandoned when the U.S. Navy wanted to expand the main runway on the base.  Today various aspects of Naval Station Norfolk occupies all of the land that was once comprised of the coal piers, ground storage facility, engine terminal and yard at Sewell's Point.  There is no remaining evidence of any of these facilities today. 

 

Photo by Evan Siler (June 1961)

 

Quartermaster Junction (A5.8)

 

This view is looking railroad east from Granby Street in Norfolk towards Sewell's Point.  Underneath the I-564 bridge in the distance is Quartermaster Junction.  Here the track branches off and continues compass west one mile to Norfolk International Terminals.  Continuing past Quartermaster Junction will take you on to West Junction (where the former Virginian mainline now terminates) and onto the property of Naval Station Norfolk where the Sewell's Point facility was once located.  The line was double-tracked until around 1990 when the former eastbound main was removed east of Thole Street. 

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (March 15, 2003)

 

Coleman Place (A1.4)

 

Situated northeast of downtown Norfolk near the intersection of Ballentine Boulevard and East Princess Anne Road was Coleman Place.  It was at Coleman Place where the Norfolk Southern Railway (Southern Railway after 1974) crossed the Virginian at grade.  This was Norfolk Southern's North Beach Route between Little Creek and their connection with the N&W mainline at Goff Street. 

 

The tower here was one of several located along the Virginian throughout the Tidewater area.  As you will see in the proceeding photos, it is of the typical architecture and material for towers the company built in the 1940's.  The building seen in the photo was erected in 1946.  While the structure was built by the Virginian, it was staffed by Norfolk Southern dispatchers. 

 

In 1929 the Pennsylvania Railroad relocated it's car float operation from downtown Norfolk to Little Creek, and constructed a freight station at Goff Street and Hanson Avenue.  To accommodate their new operation, the Pennsylvania acquired trackage rights over the Norfolk Southern line between Little Creek and Goff Street where both railroads interchanged with the N&W via a connection track.  Coincidentally the former connection track is now part of the wye utilized for the new Amtrak service to Norfolk which commenced in December 2012.  Other developments in 1929 included the installation of connection tracks at Coleman Place along with the addition of a second mainline track between Coleman Place and Camden Heights.  Adding to the mix was the Norfolk & Portsmouth Beltline Railroad which also had trackage rights over the line from Coleman Place to Little Creek where they interchanged with the Pennsylvania.  As business declined in the subsequent decades, the second track was taken up and the line between Coleman Place and Goff Street was abandoned.  The diamond at Coleman Place was removed in 2006. 

 

Out of the four towers along the Virginian mainline in the Tidewater area, Coleman Place remained in operation the longest.  During it's latter years of use, the operator at Coleman Place was charge with overseeing all movements on the Sewell's Point Branch (Sewell's Point to Tidewater Tower).  Eventually this responsibility was transferred to the operator at Bridge 5, which carried the N&W mainline across the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River on the edge of downtown Norfolk. 

 

Today the Bay Coast Railroad (formerly Eastern Shore Railroad) operates the car float between Little Creek and Cape Charles, and operates over trackage between Little Creek and Coleman Place.  The Bay Coast operates over the former Virginian mainline between Coleman Place and South Norfolk in order to interchange with Norfolk Southern at Portlock Yard.

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (August 2, 2003)

 

Carolina Junction (V4.5)

 

The Norfolk Southern Railway's mainline from Elizabeth City, NC crossed the Virginian at grade at Carolina Junction in the City of Chesapeake.  The diamond was located approximately 200' to the left of the tower.  Just south of Carolina Junction was Norfolk Southern's Carolina Yard, which was the railroad's primary yard and servicing facility in Tidewater area.  In the foreground is the former Virginian mainline with the northeast connection track visible in the background.  This connection led to the former Norfolk Southern line between Carolina and NS Junction.  This track is now unused since the diamond at NS Junction was removed in recent years.  Following the formation of the Norfolk Southern Corporation in 1982, the track configuration at Carolina underwent a number of changes.  The diamond and the connection track in the southeast quadrant were removed.  A new connection track was then built in the southwestern quadrant of Carolina to allow trains access to nearby Portlock Yard.  Today the former NS line south of Carolina is utilized by the Chesapeake & Albemarle Railroad, a shortline based out of Ahoskie, NC. 

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (August 2, 2002)

 

South Norfolk (V5.1)

 

There were only two locations where the Virginian Railway intersected with the N&W's mainline between Tidewater and the coal fields of West Virginia.  At Glen Lyn, VA the Virginian soared over the N&W on a massive bridge which also carried the railroad across the New River.  The other location was in the City of South Norfolk, which merged with Norfolk County in 1963 to form the independent city of Chesapeake.  Of the countless diamonds in the Tidewater area, South Norfolk was the busiest.  In addition to the endless parade of coal trains, manifest and passenger trains of both railroads pounded the diamond at South Norfolk day and night for decades.  In the photo above, the Virginian mainline ran through the grassy area and between the two poles in the right side of the photo.  The track in the foreground leads to Portlock Yard (ex-N&W) and is the former connection track between the Virginian and N&W.  This connection and the one in the northwest quadrant dates back to the Virginian era and allowed traffic to be interchanged by the two railroads.  The diamond was removed in August 1969 at which time an additional connection track was installed in the northeast quadrant of the interlocking.  The structure seen in the distance was the Virginian's interlocking tower at South Norfolk.  

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (August 2, 2003)

 

South Norfolk Tower (V5.1)

 

This building was the Virginian Railway's interlocking tower at South Norfolk where the Virginian and N&W mainlines crossed at grade. The stucco building was constructed in 1946 and replaced a wooden two-story tower that stood in the northwest quadrant of the diamond were the Virginian crossed the N&W mainline at grade. The diamond was removed in August 1969 and the tower was demolished in November 2012. 

 

Top photo by Jeff Hawkins (January 16, 2011)

Bottom photo by Jeff Hawkins (August 2, 2003)

 

Chesapeake

 

Here we are looking west towards Suffolk from the City of Chesapeake.  This photo was taken at the Ramp Shop Road grade crossing which is approximately one mile west of the South Branch Bridge over the Elizabeth River.  There is a cement plant just behind me and I believe it's the westernmost business on the existing Jarratt District trackage in Tidewater.  I have not investigated the line any further to the west through Chesapeake, but plan to do so in the future.

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - August 2, 2003

 

 

 

Sunray - Homestead Road

 

This view is looking south on Homestead Road near Sunray toward it's intersection with Sondej Road.  The former VGN mainline is still easily identifiable.

 

Photo by Sam Holben - March 2010

 

Algren

This small concrete bridge is located about 2/3 of a mile west of the former crossing at Algren along Sondej Avenue.  If you look closely you'll see exposed rail above the center of the structure.  

Photo by Sam Holben - March 2010

Algren - V15.4

About halfway between Norfolk and Suffolk, the Virginian crossed the Seaboard Air Line (SAL) at grade.  This location was known as Algren and is easily accessible from US 460.  This photo is just east of Algren looking south down Snowden Road where it intersects with Sondej Avenue.  This old grade crossing is about 1,000 ft. east of where the diamond was once located.  One can only guess at what purpose the concrete base to the left of the road served.  It's on the wrong side of the road for a crossing gate.  Perhaps it served as the base for the distant signal to the diamond? 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - August 2, 2003

 

Algren - V15.4

This photo is looking east along the former SAL mainline at Algren.  Note the westbound home signals visible in the distance on both lines.  By the time this photo was taken around 1970, the tracks were owned by the Seaboard Coast Line and Norfolk & Western.    

Photo by Walt Gay - Circa 1970

 

Algren - V15.4

Steve Hammer submitted this excellent view looking east at Algren where the Virginian and the SAL crossed at grade.  The last remnants of the Virginian track are still visible in this 1992 photograph.  The exact location of the former crossing is about 400' east of the Bisco Street grade crossing. 

Photo by Steve Hammer - July 1992

 

Algren - V15.4

This photo illustrates the proximity in which the Virginian and Seaboard Air Line operated in this area.  Between Suffolk and Algren, a distance of 13 miles, the two railroads paralleled each other less than 100' apart.  In this photograph we see the eastbound home signals for the diamond at Algren.  The SAL mainline is in the foreground with a familiar Virginian searchlight signals looming in the distance.  Visible beyond both signals are vehicles traveling eastbound along US 460.   

Photo by Walt Gay - Circa 1970

 

Kilby - V26.0

In this 2008 photo we are looking west at Kilby, where the N&W's Norfolk to Roanoke mainline crossed over both the Seaboard Air Line (SAL) and the Virginian.  The red line to the right represents where the VGN tracks once laid.   The single track in the left of the photo was the ex-SAL main between Norlina, NC and Portsmouth, VA.  This track is now CSX's Portsmouth Subdivision with the line being abandoned from between Garysburg and Norlina, except for a short stint between Weldon and Roanoke Rapids.  The N&W's bridge is visible in the distance while the large concrete bridge carries US 13/58 around Suffolk on what is called the Northern Bypass.

Photo by Chuck Rippel (2008)

Kenyon - V27.7

We are on the west side of Suffolk in this view looking west from the old Kenyon Road grade crossing which is in the process of being removed. 

Photo by Chuck Rippel (2008)

Sedley - V46.0

Looking east near Sedley.

Photo by Steve Hammer - December 1991

Sedley - V46.0

Another view from Sedley, this time looking west towards Victoria. 

Photo by Steve Hammer - December 1991

Sebrell

An eastward view from Sebrell.  

Photo by Steve Hammer - December 1991

Sebrell

Looking west from Sebrell. 

Photo by Steve Hammer - December 1991

Jarratt - V73.3

In a view looking towards the east, we see what is left of the Virginian mainline in Jarratt.  This 1.5 mile remnant of track remains active as it is used by CSX to serve the Georgia Pacific wood chip plant on the west end of town.  Just east of this spot there was once a diamond where the Virginian crossed the Atlantic Coast Line's Richmond-Jacksonville double-track main at grade.  Today the route is CSX's North End Subdivision and sees on average 30+ trains per day.  The rise in the far distance is Interstate 95.

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - September 2002

Jarratt - V73.3

 

The station at Jarratt is a modern structure by Virginian standards.  It was built on the site of the previous station which burned down in 1954.  Just behind where I'm standing is the mainline of CSX's North End Subdivision (ex-ACL).  Note the old code line pole to the right of the building still sporting three cross arms.  Can you imagine what this scene might have looked like in the 1950's with a pair of Fairbanks-Morse Train Masters waiting to cross the diamond while the ACL's Champion blows past with a purple and silver E8 on the point?  

  

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - July 2, 2001

 

Jarratt - V73.3

The above two photos were taken just west of the station at the Jaratt Road grade crossing, each looking in the opposite direction.  In the top photo we are looking east with Interstate 95 on the fill in the distance.  The station is hidden behind the pine trees on the right were the code line poles are visible. 

Both Photos by Jeff Hawkins - September 2002

Alberta - V98.0

Not much to be seen here.  This view is looking east towards Norfolk from Church St. in Alberta.

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - January 4, 2002

Alberta - V98.0

In this view we are atop the Virginian right of way in Alberta looking east.  This is where the Virginian crossed over the Seaboard Air Line (SAL) on a bridge constructed in 1906.  By the mid-1980's both of Alberta's railroads were gone.  It's hard to believe such high drama took place in a location that now looks like this.  The Virginian and Seaboard Air Line had a joint station located in the northwestern quadrant of the crossing.  In the early days, there was an elevator to aide passengers in reaching the platform for Virginian trains.  That station was later replaced by a smaller, more humble structure which still stands, albeit buried in a thicket of pine trees.  You can learn more about the abandoned Seaboard Air Line through Alberta here

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - April 2002

 

Alberta - V98.0

Here we are standing in "downtown" Alberta on Main St. looking west and can get a true sense of where the tracks once ran.  The electrical box and code line pole are long forgotten infrastructure from a truly magnificent operation. 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - January 4, 2002

Alberta Water Tower - V98.0

The old water tower that served the Virginian in Alberta. 

Photo by Steve Hammer - July 1992

Danieltown - V104.0

While driving down Route 137 I happened upon this old underpass near Danieltown.  The old roadbed can easily be made out thanks to the recent snowfall.  The concrete abutments still sported faded chevrons which were painted for the safety of approaching motorists.

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - January 4, 2002

Victoria - V123.0

One of the more recognized locations on the Virginian was Victoria.  Fifty years ago I would have been standing in the middle of the yard next to the passenger station.  The silver water tank to the right was once utilized by the railroad.  The Route 49 overpass is referred to by locals simply as "the bridge".  This view is looking west towards Roanoke.

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - January 4, 2002

Victoria - V123.0

An eastward view from "the bridge" offers this overview of the site that the yard and shop complex once occupied.  The roundhouse was located in the wooded area on the right side of photo.  Much of this area is now a rail heritage park dedicated to the Virginian Railway.  The centerpiece of the park is Virginian C-10 caboose No. 342 which was placed on-site December 22, 2004. 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - May 17, 2003

 

 

 

Copyright 2002- | Jeff Hawkins

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