Approximately two miles east of downtown
Norfolk the Virginian Railway and the Norfolk Southern Railway (not to be confused with the
modern day Norfolk Southern Corporation) crossed at
grade. The Norfolk Southern Railway was
headquartered in Norfolk until 1961 and was merged into the Southern
Railway on January 1, 1974 after being purchased by the Southern.
The area was known as Tidewater Junction or
simply Tidewater in Virginian speak. The Norfolk Southern Railway's line from
downtown Norfolk to Virginia Beach intersected here with the Virginian mainline to Sewell's Point.
An operator controlled the entire interlocking and connection track from Tidewater Tower which was located in the southwest
quadrant of the diamond. The tower stood for many years after
being closed until finally being demolished in 1993.
Not only was Tidewater Junction where the
two railroads met, but a connection track in the southwest quadrant
facilitated the movement of Virginian passenger trains to and from
downtown Norfolk as the line originally extended to Norfolk Terminal Station.
Just east of Terminal Station the line crossed the N&W on a diamond just
north of where Interstate 264 crosses the Norfolk Southern mainline to
Lambert's Point today. The Virginian operated it's passenger trains via
trackage rights over
the Norfolk Southern Railway between Tidewater Junction and the N&W
diamond. The trackage west of the N&W diamond to Terminal Station
belonged to the Norfolk Terminal Company which was jointed owned by the
N&W, Virginian, and Norfolk Southern Railway. The Virginian's
"South Branch Switcher" based out of Sewell's Point also operated over
this line in order to service the Virginian freight station which was
located adjacent to Terminal Station.
According to official Norfolk Southern
Timetables, the former Norfolk Southern Railway line was identified as
the South Beach Route. For many years the western terminus of the
line was located near the intersection of Brown Avenue and Reservoir
Avenue just east of the former N&W line to Lambert's Point. To the
east, the tracks extended as far as South Birdneck Road, just over a
mile from the Virginia Beach oceanfront.
Today Tidewater Junction is only a memory and the
area is almost unrecognizable even from the modern day photos at the
bottom of this page. The diamond at Tidewater Junction was removed
in 2003 and the former
Norfolk Southern Railway line was abandoned between here and Virginia
Beach. It now serves as the right
of way for The Tide, a light rail system operated by Hampton Roads
Transit. Extending for 7.4 miles, The Tide connects the
downtown Norfolk area with the western fringes of the City of Virginia Beach.
Up until construction of The Tide began in
2007, there were still several Virginian searchlight signals guarding
the diamond and connection track at Tidewater Junction. If you
visit the junction today you'll find no evidence that there ever a
crossing at grade here between two railroads. A new bridge has
been erected which allows The Tide to span the Norfolk Southern mainline.
It is interesting to note that the
original connection track was left in place to maintain an outside rail connection between
The Tide light rail system and Norfolk Southern.
Despite the many changes Tidewater Junction
has undergone in recent years, the junction still retains a unique piece
of Virginian infrastructure. Situated next to Westminster Avenue
is a dual purpose milepost. The mainline east of Tidewater
Junction to Sewell's Point was designated as the Sewell's Point Branch.
It was assigned an "A" prefix, thus one side of the milepost is
inscribed with "A0" since Tidewater is the origin of the branch.
The other side reads "2.3" which references the 2.3 mile distance from
the junction to the Virginian's freight station, home of the zero