Walton Cutoff

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Fri May 4 12:06:10 EDT 2012

After the Kellysville crossover was built in 1960, most eastbound coal trains
used the Virginian from there to Roanoke. Thus the second track was less
necessary and was removed between Kellysville and Walton (presumably for tax
purposes). This short stretch west of Walton was not the only one removed, but
was short because of the single track through Pepper Tunnel. The irony is that
when the ex-Vgn right of way from Glen Lyn to Narrows was later given to the
state for a wider 460, the second track was restored from Kellysville to just
east of Narrows, where the new bridge took the eastbounds over to the ex-Vgn.

Jim Nichols

From: NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org>
To: NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org>
Sent: Fri, May 4, 2012 10:55:23 AM
Subject: Walton Cutoff

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 1960’s.

>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

 Louis Newton


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

Bruce in Blacksburg
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