Shaffers Crossing Classification Yard - Last Expansion Thereof

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Mon Nov 28 23:38:11 EST 2016

The Shaffers Crossing Classification Yard (usually called "the Retarder Yard" in local parlance) underwent its last expansion sometime around 1958. At that time, new classification tracks 50 thru 56 were constructed and the Eastbound Main Line was shifted to the south. (I believe the Eastbound Main Line between roughly 24th St and 15th St was redesignated as Classification Track 57 a year or two later, with removal of automatic block signal rules, but am not sure exactly when that was done.) 

And now to the area immediately south of the east end of the Classification Yard... 

For decades there had stood a fairly large, three story (IIRC) brick building on the knoll in the vicinity of Jackson Ave and 15th St, somewhere near the present Hurt Park Elementary School. It likely dated from the original construction of housing for railroad workers in that area, in the late 1880s. The building housed a neighborhood grocery store on the first floor. Due to its situation atop a knoll, it was prominent in some photographs of that area. The building appeared to be in bad repair from my earliest memories, and I saw but scant patronage around the place. The only name I ever heard for the building was "the Syrian store." It is possible that a family named Anter operated it. I think the building was still standing when I left Roanoke in 1979. 

Now, at the time of the late-1950s expansion of the classification yard, and for some years thereafter, there persisted a story that the railroad had wanted to extend the new classification tracks even further east, but the owner of the said building and property wanted an exorbident amount of money for his holdings, which the railroad was unwilling to pay. As the story went, plans to extend the "new yard" further east were dropped due to this emboglio. 

That story does not have a good ring to it, for railroads, having the status of "public utilities," enjoy the legal right of property condemnation under state laws, and the property could have been condemned, with the Court establishing a just compensation for the owner. And furthermore, other properties along Jackson Ave would have had to be acquired.

Did anyone else hear this story circa 1960?  Does anyone know if it is true (or partially true, or even "somewhat true") ? 

-- abram burnett 

Sent to You from my Telegraph Key 
Successor to the MAGNETIC TELEGRAPH LINE of 1844 

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