"Takin' Twenty" with the Virginian Brethren by Skip Salmon

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Fri Apr 9 18:09:37 EDT 2010

Thanks, David. Not being familiar with Algren, but knowing that the belt line around the south side of Prince Edward County ran side by side with the Virginian, and not knowing of any other location where this was the case, I did assume that this was the reference. If I understand what you tell us about Algren, the N&W and Virginian tracks are too far apart to see a race between trains on the two. So it looks to me that there is something wrong with Skip's anecdote, regardless of location. But I stand to be corrected. "Never say never!"

Jim Nichols

From: NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org>
To: nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Sent: Fri, April 9, 2010 2:24:52 PM
Subject: Re: "Takin' Twenty" with the Virginian Brethren by Skip Salmon

I think there may have been be a mix-up below in either the cited location or identification of the passenger train getting left in the dust in your original anecdote below.  Based on Rev. Jim’s reply, I gather he inferred the subject location was near Abilene on the Farmville Belt Line.  Could you provide clarification?
Algren (on the VGN) is in Chesapeake, near the Suffolk city line, at the northern edge of the Great Dismal Swamp.  The N&W mainline lies parallel, but at least a mile farther south, passing from Yadkin (in Chesapeake) at the east end of the swamp, through Juniper deep in the swamp, to Suffolk at the west end of the swamp.  Juniper is where the J611 NS employee’s excursion train sadly jumped the rails in May ’85.
At Algren, the VGN crossed the SAL at a shallow angle.  The Virginian and the Seaboard Air Line rights of way are directly side-by-side each other (and adjacent to highway US 13/58/460) from Bower’s Hill, about 1 mile east of Algren,  all the way to downtown Suffolk.  The VGN right of way lies north of the SAL west of Algren and south of the SAL to the east.  East of Bower’s Hill, the VGN forms the southern border between the cities of Portsmouth and Chesapeake, and the SAL line diverges northward into Portsmouth.  The rails were pulled up from the old Virginian right of way some years back (80’s or 90’s, maybe?), but the right of way is still intact.  On N. Main St. in downtown Suffolk, the VGN and SAL shared a passenger depot.  This depot in recent years has been nicely restored and is open as a museum that is well worth a visit.  The Seaboard line is still active as CSX’s link to Southside Hampton Roads.
Interestingly, a recent proposal for bringing high speed passenger rail service to Norfolk could revive this section of the old VGN.  Talks of running a train from a new station in downtown Norfolk by Harbor Park (i.e., former site of Union Station, by Bridge 5) to Richmond include stops -- and new stations -- in Bower’s Hill and Petersburg.  Since the only current rail route from downtown Norfolk to Bowers Hill involves looping around the Norfolk & Portsmouth Belt Line over to the SAL track in Portsmouth, I wonder if the powers that be are considering restoring the VGN line at least as far as Bowers’ Hill.   From Suffolk, the route would follow the N&W to Petersburg, and the ACL from Petersburg to Richmond.  …Anyone up for a ride on “The Cannonball” (21st century edition)? 
David Rice
Chesapeake, VA

What was the Powhatan Arrow doing there? It ran on the old main line through Farmville.    Jim Nichols

I The Jewel from the Past is like one in Louis Newton's Watham Cresent Model 1892, 21-jewel given to him by his grandfather, James A. Newton, Railway Postal Clerk is from July 1, 2004: "Keith Sowder, VGN clerk said that for a while he came home to Roanoke from Sewells Point every weekend and would ride VGN trains both days. Several times near Algreen, where the N&W and VGN were almost side by side and the track is pretty straight, the VGN 900s pulling the crack Ford Train #72 would walk away from the N&W Powhatan Arrow.

Skip Salmon

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