Rail Transportation Transportation

The Virginian Railway

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By Rick Steelhammer      The Charleston Gazette      May 2015

“. . .The Virginian Railway traces its roots to 1898 in Fayette County, where Ansted civil engineer and coal operator William Nelson Page began developing a rail route extending southward from Deepwater on the Kanawha River into the then-untapped coalfields of Southern West Virginia. When the Chesapeake & Ohio and Norfolk & Western railroads charged prohibitive rates to transship coal on their lines to reach the nearest seaport at Norfolk, Virginia, Page joined forces with a silent partner, Henry Huttleston Rogers, then one of the richest men in America, after having helped John D. Rockefeller develop his Standard Oil Trust.

“After extending the Deepwater Railroad through his namesake Fayette County town of Page to Glen Jean, Mullens and Princeton and on to the Virginia border near Glen Lyn, Page, with Rogers’ secret backing, quietly purchased the assets of the Tidewater Railway, an all-Virginia line that stretched from Giles County, which borders West Virginia at Glen Lyn, to Norfolk. In 1907, the Deepwater Railroad and the Tidewater Railway were merged to form the Virginian Railway, with Page serving as president. New track, rolling stock, trestles and maintenance facilities were bought with Rogers’ cash. Building out the railroad without accruing public debt allowed Page and Rogers to temporarily hide their expansion plans from their competitors and begin turning a profit sooner, since there were no financing costs to repay.

“Rogers spared no expense in buying rolling stock and upgrading and expanding the new rail line, which when complete, stretched from Deepwater to the Norfolk area, with spurs extending into Beckley and the Winding Gulf coalfield along the Raleigh- Wyoming County line and then on to Gilbert in Mingo County.  While executives at competing railroads “planned to starve Page out” by denying affordable access to their lines, Page and Rogers “had their rights of way bought and all ready to go before the C&O and N&W knew what hit them.”  The last spike for the Virginian Railway was driven in January of 1909, on the West Virginia side of the New River at Glen Lyn, where a new trestle had been built. A celebration dinner was held in April in Norfolk to celebrate completion of the “Mountains to the Sea” railroad, during which Rogers’ author friend Samuel Clements, better known by his pen name of Mark Twain, gave the keynote speech. Rogers left the next day on his first and only tour of his completed railroad, but died of a stroke one month later. The railroad merged with the N&W in 1959.”

Also:  Explore American-Rails.com’s “The Virginian Railway” Website – multiple advertisements

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