The Huckleberry

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Mon May 2 11:43:23 EDT 2016

On Mon, May 2, 2016 at 8:09 AM, Ray wrote:

The Huckleberry (Christiansburg to Blacksburg branch) operated from the
> early 1900s until 1966. Passenger service was provided until 1958 (mixed
> train daily except Sunday in its later years).  The mixed train actually
> operated from Radford to Christiansburg to Blacksburg and return but, for
> reasons perhaps lost to history, was only listed in the timetables as
> Christiansburg to Blacksburg and return.

The line began its life as the Virginia Anthracite Coal & Railway Co.,
built to serve the anthracite coal mines of Price Mountain between
Blacksburg and Christiansburg. The line was extended into Blacksburg to
provide freight and passenger service. The owners were ambitious, there are
plans in the Archives that show proposed extensions to coal mines and iron
ore outcroppings along Brush Mountain, all the way to Craig County. But the
line operated largely on a wish and a promise and soon declared bankruptcy.
It was sold on the courthouse steps in Christiansburg with the Norfolk &
Western the purchaser (there was a suspected ringer in the audience to
drive up the bidding, but that didn't work out). The line became the
Blacksburg Branch in 1912.

>  Apart from the regular passenger service, the Huckleberry also hosted
> the annual movement of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets from Blacksburg to
> Roanoke by special trains for the Thanksgiving Day football game with VMI.
> I believe 1964 was the last year of this service.  There were also
> occasional special trains related to other Virginia Tech football games.

The N&W ran numerous excursions and specials to Blacksburg over the years.
There were special trains to carry visitors to view the mock battles and
commencement exercises that took place on the Blacksburg campus in the
spring. There were excursions to take farmers to attend classes and
institutes put on during the summer by the Extension Division. For several
years, the N&W operated "Farmer's Specials" that originated in Blacksburg,
carrying faculty members and agriculture department staff around the state
in special demonstration trains to show off the latest in farming equipment
and techniques. There  were also a number of Corps of Cadet movements to
special events in places such as the Jamestown Exhibition, Charleston,
South Carolina, and others.

It was a busy branch until The Powers That Be at Virginia Tech and the N&W
decided the branch needed to go away. "New runway" was the rationale for
cutting the line back (even though the runway came nowhere near the line)
and it was abandoned from downtown Blacksburg to the VA 114 road crossing
(with the spur remaining just beyond to serve the new Corning plant).

Bruce in Blacksburg
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