Letter designations for Southern

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Tue Dec 27 07:22:55 EST 2016

Nathan and others:

Remember I said this was a quiz? The Southern's way is actually kind of
simple and once you know, then it becomes E Z. And you pretty well had
their plan figured out already but now for a few specifics.

Shortly after Southern's creation in 1894 from the old Richmond & Danville,
they decided to number their BRANCH lines starting from north to south.

The most northerly of Southern's branches was its Round Hill Branch as it
had yet to extend it to Bluemont. This was the "A" line. In 1912, SR leased
the Bluemont Branch to the Great Falls & Old Dominion Railway and it became
the Washington & Old Dominion.

Next up was the line branching off at Manassas and it became the "B" line.

Not too many miles south of Manassas was and still is, the Warrenton Branch
although it not longer goes all the way to Warrenton. This became and still
is NS's "CW" line.

As you have already noted, the mainline did not have a letter designation
and I sure don't know many other branch designations Southern used but we
can get the picture and they went from north to south. The old Franklin &
Pittsylvania RR which branched off at Gretna, formerly Franklin Jct. and
about 20 miles north of Danville was the "E" line, that I know. I have
wondered what D was and suspect either it was never used or was out of the
Richmond area. I don't think that SR had any branches south of Warrenton
off their mainline when they were created in 1894. Maybe the old Lynchburg
& Durham line between those cities?

The old line into Lynchburg didn't become the old line until 1911 when
their beltline which we essentially see today was created, as they were
slowly double-tracking their mainline all the way to Atlanta.

I have often wondered if any of these designations clashed with lines they
absorbed as they grew? Doesn't sound like any clashed between the N&W and
SR as they were far enough away from each other and the designations didn't
include just a connecting track or yards like Kinney in Lynchburg or

Anyway, that is the lesson for today. School is now out as we are on our
Christmas break now, right?

Happy Holidays.

Bob Cohen

The Southern did things differently. I never have quite figured out how
they came up with the letters for the lines. The main trunk line from
Alexandria south to Atlanta doesn't have a letter. It is just called the
'Mainline' but they have several lines that 'branch' off the mainline
that have letters. There is the B line (Manassas-Harrisonburg) then in
NC there is the H-Line from Greensboro to Raleigh. I know they had an
S-line, a K-line, and a CV line. But again no clue as to how they came
up with the designations. I sometimes suspect that if we were to look up
how the southern was built and how many 'branches' it had that we may
find that the southern simply, when building a new branch on the
mainline started with A for the first branch build and then B then C
etc. All this is conjecture. That said I do not have an factual answer
for what the B-line is the B-line.

Back on the N&W there are a couple oddity's to the standard system. they
handful that there is follows.

The Pulaski District begins at Walton however it continues with the
mileage being counted from Norfolk, however it has the NB prefix. My
educated guess is NB would mean Norfolk-Bristol

The Clinch Valley District begins at Bluefield and again just like the
Pulaski continues with the milepost being number from Norfolk but they
have a CV prefix for Clinch Valley.

The Dismal Creek branch begins at Dismal on the Buchanan Branch, but
since the Buchanan Branch was numbered from Devon using the prefix D,
the Dismal Creek branch couldn't and was therefore assigned DC for
Dismal creek.

Lastly if one looks at the current alignment from Naugatuck to Kenova
the new alignment is numbered from Naugatuck with a NA prefix.

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