The Huckleberry

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Mon May 2 16:07:45 EDT 2016

I can’t begin to thank the members of this group enough for your help on questions of local railroad history. You are a treasure and I trust that you will continue to provide knowledge and guidance as we build our museum. In addition to artifacts we envision a number of individual kiosks/terminals where attendees can punch up any one of a number of topics and read/view/hear about it. We plan to cover all things V&TRR, AM&O, N&W as they relate to the founding and history of Mt. Airy/Rural Retreat. 


Frank Akers


From: NW-Mailing-List [mailto:nw-mailing-list-bounces at] On Behalf Of NW Mailing List
Sent: Monday, May 02, 2016 11:43 AM
To: NW Mailing List
Subject: Re: The Huckleberry


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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