Viscose Radford Plant-Viscoe Road, Bridge
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Wed Feb 7 16:21:14 EST 2007
At 10:12 PM -0500 1/25/07, Bud Jeffries wrote:
>Farmer Jeffries can not add much. Viscoe Road is the name for the access
>road to the site now from Rte 114. The American Viscose was to build a
>factory there after WWII and the N&W built the bridge across the New River
>to give rail access to the proposed site. There is no reference of the
>bridge's construction in the N&W annual reports, but a source of mine says
>the bridge has a date of 1951 on a builders plate. I thought it was a little
>earlier than that. The factory was never built by American Viscose because
>of decreasing demand for its products. For the same reason, its Roanoke
>plant closed in July 1958.
>A company, unknown to me, built the large industrial building that is there
>now in the 1970s. AT&T took it over about 1981. Today the whole American
>Viscose site is an industrial park, a housing subdivision and golf course.
>The old RR bridge is being used to extend utilities to that area.
I'm a little behind in reading email, but I finally found some time to go through my old clips from my days as a reporter with the Radford News Journal. I found one article, excerpted below, that covers the plant in Fairlawn in Pulaski County, across the river from Radford.
The land was originally for a new American Viscose plant to be built in the late '40s. In anticipation of this, the N&W extended a branch from the east end of Radford yard, crossing the New River on a substantial trestle. Although the line was graded on the plant site, the tracks never extended past the end of the bridge. FMC Corporation (which I claim was a subsidiary of American Viscose; there is/was some connection) built a textile plant on the site in 1971. When FMC divested its fiber operations, Avtex Fibers was formed to purchase the holdings through a leveraged buyout. The plant was closed in September, 1979, and sat vacant until March, 1980, when Western Electric purchased the site for a manufacturing facility. The plant was again left vacant in the late '80s when AT&T shut down operations.
While TerraServer and Google Earth are nice, there is a better alternative for many localities in Virginia. The Commonwealth of Virginia did its own aerial photography in 2002, much of it in high resolution. Localities have access to the data and many have put it on their web sites as part of their GIS system. Pulaski County has a site at http://arcims2.webgis.net/pulaski/default.asp Click on the small map to move to and zoom in on the horseshoe bend in Fairlawn where the plant is located. Click to activate the "VGIN Orthophotography" and you will get a photo underlayerment once you have zoomed in close enough. Zoom in real close and you can see the structure of the trestle as a shadow cast on the New River. You can also see the graded right of way into the plant site, plus other features.
While trying to track down some details about Avtex/FMC/American Viscose, I found a lot of information about the Avtex plant in Front Royal, now a Superfund site to clean up years of polution. One interesting site (which includes a detailed description of the manufacturing process) is the one about Jim Brewer and his friends and construction of a large HO model railroad in Glenwood, Maryland, based on a part of the Shenandoah Division.
Bruce in Blacksburg
Radford News Journal, October 28, 1979
Avtex Fibers officials busy looking for a new tenant
By BRUCE HARPER
One month ago, Avtex Fibers closed the doors at its plant in Fairlawn, putting 330 people out of work.
Since the closing, Avtex officials have been busy collecting information and making contacts in an effort to find a new tenant for the 500,000 square foot facility.
The site in Fairlawn is in a horseshoe of the New River. It was purchased by the American Viscose Company in 1946 as a site for expansion of its operations. Some site work was done and a rail connection with the Norfolk and Western Railroad was arranged, but the plant was never built.
The 750 acres of land remained with American Viscose and on October 19, 1971, plans for a new factory on the site were announced. The plant was built for FMC, a subsidiary of American Viscose.
In 1976, the plant became a part of Avtex as FMC redeployed capital to other operations with high growth potential.
When the original plans for a plant were made, the decision to build in Radford was made because of the New River water supply, the labor market and the Norfolk and Western main line.
In 1946, a bridge was built across the New River by the N and W and American Viscose. The line ran from the east end of the Radford rail yard across a steel trestle, which is stin standing, and onto the Viscose property.
According to Don Piedmont, a spokesman for the N and W, the line was never put in service. The grade up to the bridge is still visible, but the rails and ties have been taken up. Ties and tie plates are still on the bridge, but no rails. A large iron plate was erected to keep trespassers from crossing the bridge to the Avtex property.
Partners Mend Site, Sew Quilt of Future Uses
The Avtex Fibers plant was at one time the world's largest producer of rayon - an instrumental product for NASA's space shuttle program and for parachutes and jump suits made for the Department of War during World War II. While the plant enjoyed a proud history producing important commodities for the nation and employing thousands of local citizens, it also left behind a legacy of contamination and blighted property on the banks of the Shenandoah River. Since its closing in 1989, community, business, and government partners have worked tirelessly to reverse the damage and redevelop the site for future generations to enjoy.
For more than 45 years, the 440-acre Avtex Fibers plant manufactured rayon, polyester, and polypropylene fibers for commercial, defense, and space industries. It employed over 2,500 people in the area. From 1940 through 1962, American Viscose owned the facility and FMC Corporation (FMC) owned the plant from 1963 until 1976. In 1976, Avtex Fibers, Inc. purchased the site from FMC and continued manufacturing operations until 1989, when Avtex closed the plant and declared bankruptcy. In June 1986, the site was listed on the Superfund program's National Priorities List.
Jim Brewer and friends are building a large HO model railroad in Glenwood, Maryland. The layout follows the prototypical Norfolk and Western Railroad along the Shenandoah River in Virginia in the 1956 period.
Movementech works with groups to develop in depth analysis of the context of the situation in which they are organizing. One of the key components of this type of research is analysis of their opponents: typically corporations advancing their own business interests.
Once Virginia's largest Superfund site, this former rayon manufacturing facility is being recovered to provide a 175 acre eco-friendly office park, 30 acres of soccer fields, and 240 acres of conservancy park along the Shenandoah River. This Web site provides current information to interested parties concerning the redevelopment progress of the Avtex Fibers Superfund Site in Front Royal, Virginia.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) site with photos
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