||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (October 2011)|
|Norfolk and Western Railway|
|Locale||Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Mississippi, Florida, and West Virginia|
|Dates of operation||1838–1997|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)|
The Norfolk and Western Railway (reporting mark NW), a US class I railroad, was formed by more than 200 railroad mergers between 1838 and 1982. It was headquartered in Roanoke, Virginia for most of its 150-year existence.
NW was famous for manufacturing steam locomotives in-house at the Roanoke Shops as well as their own hopper cars. Around 1960, NW was the last major American railroad to convert from steam to diesel motive power.
In December 1959 NW merged with long-time rival Virginian Railway (reporting mark VGN) in the Pocahontas coal region. Later it grew larger by merging with other railroads including Nickel Plate Road and Wabash to form a system serving 14 US states and the Canadian province of Ontario. It extended from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River and Great Lakes. At the end of 1970 N&W operated 7,595 miles (12,223 km) of road on 14,881 miles (23,949 km) of track, including the Pittsburgh & West Virginia Railroad (P&WV) but not including the Akron, Canton and Youngstown Railroad (AC&Y), Chesapeake Western Railway (CHW), the Dereco railroads, Lorain & West Virginia Railroad (L&WV), New Jersey, Indiana and Illinois Railroad (NJI&I) and Norfolk, Franklin and Danville Railway (NF&D). In 1965, the Nickel Plate Road merged with the Wheeling and Lake Erie which in 1966 then merged into Norfolk and Western lines. Norfolk and Western by 1970, controlled rail lines from North Carolina North to New York and Virginia West to Illinois.
In 1982 NW merged with the Southern Railway, another profitable carrier, to form the Norfolk Southern Corporation (NS), but it continued paper operations until it was merged into the Norfolk Southern Railway in 1997.
NW's earliest predecessor was the City Point Railroad (CPRR), a 9-mile (14 km) short line railroad formed in 1838 to extend from City Point, a port on the tidal James River to Petersburg, Virginia, which was located on the fall line of the shallower Appomattox River. City Point is now part of the independent city of Hopewell, Virginia. In 1854, CPRR became part of the South Side Railroad, which connected Petersburg with Lynchburg, where it interchanged through traffic with both the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad (V&T) and the James River and Kanawha Canal.
William Mahone (1826–1895), an 1847 engineering graduate of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), was employed by Francis Mallory to build the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad (N&P) and eventually became its president in the pre-Civil War era. Construction of N&P commenced in 1853. Mahone's innovative corduroy roadbed through the Great Dismal Swamp near Norfolk, Virginia, employed a log foundation laid at right angles beneath the surface of the swamp. It is still in use 150 years later and it withstands immense tonnages of coal traffic.
Mahone married Otelia Butler, from Smithfield in Isle of Wight County, Virginia. She was said to be a "cultured lady". Her father Robert Butler (1784–1853) had been Treasurer of the State of Virginia. Popular legend has it that Otelia and William Mahone traveled along the newly completed N&P naming stations along the 52-mile (84 km) tangent between Suffolk and Petersburg from Ivanhoe, a book she was reading by Walter Scott. From Scott's historical Scottish novels, Otelia chose the place names of Windsor, Waverly and Wakefield. She tapped the Scottish Clan "McIvor" for the name of Ivor, a small Southampton County town. When they could not agree, it is said that the young couple invented a new word in honor of their "dispute", which is how the tiny community of Disputanta was named. The N&P was completed in 1858.
Of small stature, dynamic "Little Billy" Mahone became a Major General in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. He was widely regarded as the hero of the Battle of the Crater during the Siege of Petersburg in 1864–1865. Otelia Mahone served as a nurse in the Confederate capital of Richmond.
The N&P was severed by the war. The portion east of the Blackwater River at Zuni, Virginia was possessed by the Union for most of the war. The eastern portion of the City Point Railroad played a crucial role for Union General Ulysses S. Grant during the Siege of Petersburg, and was operated by the United States Military Railroad. The South Side Railroad was also heavily damaged.
William and Otelia Mahone were each illustrious characters in Virginia in the post-bellum period as Virginia began to rebuild. After the war, "Little Billy" Mahone got quickly to work restoring "his" N&P, and resumed his dream of linking the three trunk lines across the southern tier of Virginia to reach points to the west. He became president of all three, and was the driving force in the 1870 corporate merger of N&P, South Side Railroad and the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad to form the Atlantic, Mississippi and Ohio Railroad (AM&O). The AM&O extended 408 miles (657 km) from Norfolk to Bristol, Virginia. William and Otelia Mahone moved to the headquarters city of Lynchburg, which was the midpoint of the AM&O. The acronym AM&O was said to stand for "All Mine and Otelia's."
The AM&O operated profitably in the early 1870s but like many railroads encountered financial problems as a result of the Panic of 1873. A fourth road of the AM&O family was planned to extend west through the Cumberland Gap to Kentucky, but was never built. Mahone retained control of AM&O for several more years before his relationship with English and Scottish bondholders deteriorated in 1876. As a result, receivers were appointed to oversee his work. After several more years of operating under receiverships, Mahone's role as a railroad builder ended in 1881 when northern financial interests took control.
At the foreclosure auction, the AM&O was purchased by E.W. Clark & Co., a private banking firm in Philadelphia with ties to the large Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) which controlled the Shenandoah Valley Railroad (SVRR) then under construction up the valley from the Potomac River and seeking a southern connection. The AM&O was renamed Norfolk and Western, perhaps taken from a 1850s charter application filed by citizens of Norfolk, Virginia. Mahone no longer led the erstwhile AM&O but was active in Virginia politics as a leader of the Readjuster Party. As a result he was able to arrange for a portion of the state's proceeds of the AM&O sale to go for community purposes near his home at Petersburg, including the funds to begin what is now Virginia State University (VSU), as well as a nearby mental health facility which is now Central State Hospital. Mahone helped arrange the election of William E. Cameron of Petersburg as governor of Virginia, and was later elected himself to a term as a Senator in the U.S. Congress. He suffered a massive stroke in Washington, D.C. in 1895 and died shortly thereafter. Otelia lived on in Petersburg until her death in 1911.
George Frederick Tyler became President of the new NW when it was organized in May, 1881. Frederick J. Kimball, a civil engineer and partner in E.W. Clark & Co., became First Vice President. Henry Fink, who Mahone had hired in 1855, became Second Vice President and General Superintendent. Kimball and his board of directors selected a small Virginia village called Big Lick, on the Roanoke River to be the junction of SVRR and NW. Big Lick was later renamed Roanoke, Virginia.
Although NW primarily transported agricultural products in when it was formed from the AM&O in 1881, Kimball, who had a strong interest in geology, led the railroad's efforts to open the Pocahontas coalfields in western Virginia and southern West Virginia. In mid-1881, NW acquired the franchises to four other lines: the New River Railroad, the New River Railroad, Mining and Manufacturing Company, the Bluestone Railroad, and the East River Railroad. Consolidated into the New River Railroad Company, with Kimball as President, these railroads became the basis for NW's New River Division, which was soon built from New Kanawha (near East Radford) up the west bank of the New River through Pulaski County and into Giles County to the mouth of the East River near Glen Lyn, Virginia. From there, the new line ran up the East River, crossing the Virginia-West Virginia border several times to reach the coalfields to the west near the Great Flat Top Mountain. Coal transported initially to Norfolk soon became NW's primary commodity, and led to great wealth and profitability.
Kimball was President of the NW system for the first time during 1883–1895, and oversaw continued expansion of the railroad. Under his leadership, NW continued expansion westward with its lines through the wilderness of West Virginia with the Ohio Extension, eventually extending north across the Ohio River to Columbus, Ohio by the Scioto Valley Railroad. Acquisition of other lines, including the Cincinnati, Portsmouth and Virginia Railroad (CP&V) (which it had long supported and leased) extended the NW system west along the Ohio River to Cincinnati, Ohio, south from Lynchburg to Durham, North Carolina and south from Roanoke to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This gave the railroad the basic route structure it was to use for more than 60 years by the time of Kimball's death in 1903.
Author Nelson Blake noted in his biography of William Mahone that, while the former General had lost control of "his" (and wife Otelia's) railroad and its future by 1881, he retained personal ownership of considerable land in the new coal regions. By his death in 1895, the NW's expansion and coal traffic had helped him become one of the wealthiest men in Virginia.
In 1885, several small mining companies representing about 400,000 acres (1,600 km2) of bituminous coal reserves grouped together to form the coalfields' largest landowner, the Philadelphia-based Flat-Top Coal Land Association. NW bought the association and reorganized it as the Pocahontas Coal and Coke Company (PCCC). The PCCC was later renamed the Pocahontas Land Corporation (PLC) and is now a subsidiary of NS.
As the availability and fame of high-quality Pocahontas bituminous coal increased, economic forces took over. Coal operators and their employees settled dozens of towns in southern West Virginia, and in the next few years, as coal demand swelled, some of them amassed fortunes. The countryside was soon sprinkled with tipples, coke ovens, houses for workers, company stores and churches. In the four decades before the Crash of 1929 and subsequent Depression, these coal towns flourished. One example was the small community of Bramwell, West Virginia, which in its heyday boasted the highest per capita concentration of millionaires in the country.
In 1886, the NW tracks were extended directly to coal piers at Lambert's Point, which was located in Norfolk County just north of the City of Norfolk on the Elizabeth River, where one of the busiest coal export facilities in the world was built to reach Hampton Roads shipping. A residential section was also developed to house the families of the workers. Many early residents of Lambert's Point were involved in the coal industry.
The opening of the coalfields made NW prosperous and Pocahontas coal world-famous. By 1900, Norfolk was the leading coal exporting port on the East Coast. Transported by NW, and later the neighboring VGN, it fueled half the world's navies and today stokes steel mills and power plants all over the globe.
The company was famous for manufacturing steam locomotives in-house in its extensive facilities at Roanoke, known as the Roanoke Shops. This practice was very uncommon in the US and much of the world, although British railways mostly built their own locomotives, or had outside contractors build locomotives to their designs rather than have the manufacturers design the locomotives.
The NW's Roanoke Shops employed thousands of craftsmen, and did extensive work on other types of rolling stock in addition to manufacturing locomotives. Over the years, the NW refined its products. The later famed classes A, J, and Y6 locomotives were the result. Designed, built and maintained by NW personnel, these three types made the company known industry-wide for its excellence in steam power. NW's commitment to steam power was due in part to its investment in the manufacturing capacity and human resources to build and operate steam locomotives, and partially due to the major commodity it hauled, coal. In 1960, shortly after it acquired VGN by merger, NW was the last major railroad in the United States to convert from steam to diesel-electric motive power. Even after manufacturing of steam locomotives ended, the Roanoke Shops continued to build and repair other form of rolling stock, work which continued under NS in the early 21st century.
NW operated profitably through World War I and World War II and paid regular dividends throughout the Depression. During World War I, NW was jointly operated with VGN under the USRA's wartime takeover of the Pocahontas Roads. The operating efficiencies were significant, and after the war, when the railroads were returned to their respective owners and competitive status, NW never lost sight of the VGN and its low-gradient routing through Virginia. However, the US Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) turned down attempts at combining the roads until the late 1950s, when a proposed NW-VGN merger was finally approved.
NW also operated safely in this time, being the recipient of the Gold E. H. Harriman Award for 1938. In a promotional booklet published in 1939, NW wrote "For the second time in 12 years, the American Museum of Safety has awarded the Harriman Memorial Gold Medal to the Norfolk & Western Railway for the outstanding safety record during 1938 among class I railroads of the United States." It is further noted that the railway carried one million passengers more than 86,000,000 miles (138,000,000 km) without incident in the period from 1924 to 1938.
At the end of 1925 NW operated 2,241 miles (3,607 km) of route on 4,429 miles (7,128 km) track; at the end of 1956 NW operated 2,132 miles (3,431 km) of route on 4,759 miles (7,659 km) of track.
VGN was conceived and built by William Nelson Page and Henry Huttleston Rogers. Page had helped engineer and build the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O) through the mountains of West Virginia and Rogers had already become a millionaire and a principal of Standard Oil before their partnership was formed early in the 20th century.
Initially, their project was an 80-mile (130 km)-long short line railroad. After failing to establish favorable rates to interchange coal traffic with the big railroads (who shut them out through collusion), the project expanded. Rogers was apparently a silent partner in the early stages, and the bigger railroads did not take Page seriously. However, the partners planned and then built a "Mountains to Sea" railroad from the coal fields of southern West Virginia to port near Norfolk at Sewell's Point in the harbor of Hampton Roads. They accomplished this right under the noses of the pre-existing and much bigger C&O and NW railroads and their leaders by forming two small intrastate railroads, Deepwater Railway, in West Virginia, and Tidewater Railway in Virginia. Once right-of-way and land acquisitions had been secured, the two small railroads were merged in 1907 to form the Virginian Railway.
Engineered by Page and financed almost entirely from Rogers' personal resources, VGN was built following a policy of investing in the best route and equipment on initial selection and purchase to save operating expenses.
Mark Twain spoke at VGN's dedication in Norfolk, Virginia only 6 weeks before Rogers died in May, 1909 following his only inspection trip on the newly completed railroad. That June, Booker T. Washington made a whistle-stop speaking tour on VGN, traveling in Rogers' private car, Dixie, and later revealing that Rogers had been instrumental in funding many small country schools and institutions of higher education in the South for the betterment of Negroes.
VGN operated over more modern alignments than C&O and NW, and its track was built to the highest standards. It provided major competition for coal traffic to C&O and NW. The 600-mile (970 km) VGN followed Rogers' philosophy throughout its profitable history, earning the nickname "Richest Little Railroad in the World." It operated some of the largest and most powerful steam, electric, and diesel locomotives.
The VGN electrified 134 miles (216 km) of its route between 1922 and 1926 at a cost of $15 million, and had its own power plant at Narrows, Virginia. It shared electrical resources with N&W from 1925 to 1950, when NW discontinued its own, shorter, electrified section through the Elkhorn Tunnel and Great Flat Top Mountain region. The VGN track was de-electrified in 1962, after the NW-VGN merger.
When VGN was finally merged into NW in 1959, it is widely believed that the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) approval began a merger movement and a modernization of the entire US railroad industry. In 1964, the former Wabash; Nickel Plate; Pittsburgh and West Virginia Railway; and Akron, Canton and Youngstown Railroad were brought into the system in one of the most complex mergers of the era. This consolidation, enhanced by the addition of a more direct route to Chicago, Illinois in 1976, positioned NW as an important Midwestern railroad, providing direct single-line service between the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Great Lakes and Mississippi River on the other.
In the late 1960s, NW acquired Dereco, a holding company that owned the Delaware & Hudson (D&H) and Erie Lackawanna (EL) railroads. However, Dereco's troubled railroads were not merged into NW. EL eventually joined Conrail and D&H was sold to Guilford Transportation Industries.
North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio
North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Illinois
By 1996, N&W ran most of the Midwest and Eastern states. Many N&W lines by 1998 were abandoned and some of them were never used again. However, the Norfolk to Bluefield line still exists but traffic has slowed because of its 12 mile 1.2% grade.
In the 1950s, Canadian National Railway (CN) introduced a group of innovative bi-level autorack railcars. These autoracks had end doors and were very large by the standards of the time; at 75 feet (23 m) long, each autorack could carry 8 completed automobiles. These autoracks were a big success and helped lead to the development of today's fully enclosed autoracks. Tri-level autoracks were developed in the 1970s.
During the 1960s, autoracks took over rail transportation of newly completed automobiles in North America. They carried more cars in the same space and were easier to load and unload than the boxcars formerly used. Ever-larger auto carriers and specialized terminals were developed by NW and other railroads.
The railroads were able to provide lower costs and greater protection from in-transit damage, such as that which may occur due to vandalism or weather and traffic conditions on unenclosed truck trailers. Using the autoracks, the railroads became the primary long-distance transporter of completed automobiles, one of few commodities where the industry has been able to overcome trucking in competition.
In the early 1980s, the profitable NW combined forces with Southern Railway, another profitable company, to form today's Norfolk Southern and compete more effectively with CSX Transportation, itself a combination of smaller railroads in the eastern half of the United States.
Today, much of the former NW is a vital portion of Norfolk Southern Corporation, a Fortune 500 company which has its headquarters in Norfolk, only a short distance from the coal piers at Lambert's Point.
While the Powhatan Arrow was NW's flagship passenger train, sporting a regal maroon livery with gold trim and hauled by a J Class 4-8-4 Northern Type steam locomotive, the railroad also operated a number of other passenger trains. These include:
The NW also participated in four inter-line passenger trains:
The last three were unusual in that the Southern Railway operated the trains, either side of the NW stretch between Lynchburg and Bristol.
Several of NW's famous steam locomotives, including J class #611 and A class #1218 were used in steam excursion trip services into the 1990s under the leadership of Norfolk Southern's first president, Robert B. Claytor. They are now on static display at the Virginia Museum of Transportation (VMT) in Roanoke. N&W class Y6a #2156 resides at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, Missouri. Class M #475 continues to operate at the Strasburg Railroad in Strasburg, Pennsylvania.
Of the thousands of men and women who made the AM&O and NW work and grow after the American Civil War, the following people were the railroad's top leaders.
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