Walton Cutoff

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Fri May 4 11:27:42 EDT 2012

OK, changing the subject line to keep things straight, now that the
location of the photograph has been established, but there may still be
some questions in the original thread about the dates of the excursions and
the diesels, unless Bud Jeffries' answer took care of the diesel details.

But on to the Walton cutoff, or "New River Connecting Branch" as it is
referred to in the 1902 annual report. In the photo with the J and the
archive photo that Jeff pulled out, there are two tracks on this line,
which was built to reduce distance and eliminate the grades both from
Radford and Belspring. As noted by both Ray and Louis, the second track was
removed (reportedly by Stuart Saunders) in the 1962-63 timeframe. I know
the Southern Railway removed miles of second track for tax purposes, but
does anyone know the rationale for removing just under 3 miles of this
piece of track? Would there be something in the archives that might shed
some light on this? It just seems a little baffling to yank out that small
piece of railroad. I'll bet there are times that today's dispatchers would
like to have that extra piece of track to free up things around Walton,
across the river at Cowan and when there is traffic coming and going on the
Bristol line.


*Norfolk & Western Railway, 3rd Annual Report, June 30, 1899, pg. 10*

Attention was called in our last report to the necessity of reducing grades
wherever practicable . . . In pursuance of this policy the construction of
a low grade branch line, near Radford, has been authorized. This branch is
7.2 miles in length. It leaves the Main Line near the mouth of Crab Creek,
near the 289 mile-post from Norfolk, and rejoins it near the 309 mile-post,
near the mouth of Back Creek. The construction of this branch shortens the
haul 4.3 miles, and reduces the controlling grades between the points named
from 78 feet per mile east bound and 86 feet per mile west bound, to 11
feet per mile east bound and the maximum curvature from 14 degrees to 6
degrees. The work of gradation is heavy and costly, owning to the necessity
of bridging New River and piercing the high hill in the bend of that river
by a tunnel, about 3,500 feet long. The entire cost of the Branch is
estimated at $415,000, of which sum $300,000 has been charged to Surplus
Income as above mentioned. . . The work of grading the Branch has been
commenced and is being prosecuted with vigor."

*Norfolk & Western Railway, 5th Annual Report, June 30, 1902, pg. 12*

*New River Connecting Branch*: This line was opened for traffic October 11,
1900. The Company has accepted an Act of the General Assembly of Virginia,
approved February 15, 1901, authorizing the abandonment of the old
high-grade line between New River Depot and Back Creek, in Pulaski County.

Pg. 71 Tower and interlocking plant of 40 levers was erected at Walton
Combined freight and passenger station, 24' x 61', was erected at Pepper.


N&W once had a double track main (with a few, short exceptions) from
Portsmouth, Ohio to Norfolk. It was said in the 1960’s that Stuart Saunders
picked apart in several months what it took Racehorse Smith decades to
build. The track around Pepper became single track, I believe, in the

One of the short segments of single track on the otherwise double track
mainline was the one mile or so segment from Bluff to Cowan. This was
never double track because of the tunnel and bridge.

Ray Smoot

One main track between Walton and Bluff was removed about 1962-63. The New
River Bridge and Pepper (now known as "Cowan") Tunnel have always been
single track.

Louis Newton


All facts, rumors, and speculation welcome. :-)

Bruce in Blacksburg
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