Railroad Symbolizes Materialization Of Dream Of H. H. Rogers Who Financed Line Which Links The Great Lakes With The Sea
From the 1938 centennial edition of The Times-Register
To say that any one railroad was the work of one man would be untrue but the part that Col. H. H. Rogers played in the development of the Virginia Railway from Deep Water, West Virginia, to Sewalls Point on Hampton Roads, will go down in the annals of American financial history as one of the outstanding accomplishments of the early 1900’s.
As it stands now, since the Virginian links with the New York Central System at Deep Water, W. Va., this road provides a through route from the Great Lakes Region to the Atlantic Ocean. The road was put into operation July 1, 1909.
The Virginian was built out of the resources of one man, as has been pointed out on numerous occasions, who had the foresight to forsake the usual piece-meal arrangements and plan for the most economical movement of traffic on the road.
Col. Rogers In 23 Companies
During the years that Col. Rogers was building up the Virginian he was head or director of 23 enterprises of the country, in three major railroads, and yet financed the construction of the Virginian road at the cost of $50,000,000 through the money panic of 1907 without having to resort to a bond issue. However, this great capitalist died without having seen the realization of his dream.
It was in May 1923, that the company announced that it had signed a contract with the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing company for the electrification of its line from Mullens, W. Va., to Roanoke, a distance of 134 miles, which up to that time was the largest electrification contract ever awarded.
Operation of the electrification system as started between Mullens and Clark’s Gap September 21, 1925, and extended to Princeton in October 1925. The complete electrification from Mullens to Roanoke was placed in operation on September 18, 1925. Included in the electrification are a 90,000 horsepower plant in New River at Narrows, a number of transformer stations and inspection and shop facilities at Mullens and Roanoke.
The Virginian reunites two sections of a great domain which was originally a single state, Virginia, but which geographical and political conditions kept sundered for centuries. The road penetrates the heart of the coal fields in the southern part of West Virginia, pierces the Alleghany mountains (part of the great Appalachian range, extending from northern Pennsylvania to central Alabama), and traverses southern Virginia to the Atlantic Ocean.
Its terminal, Sewalls Point, is a favorably situated peninsula jutting out into Hampton Roads.
The tie-up of the Virginian with the New York Central, effected on March 15, 1931, circumscribed the territorial pattern which the farseeing builder of the road originally intended to encompass. With their lateral connections, these two great railway systems unify the relationships of producers and shippers to the great consuming and distributing of the Midwest and the southeastern states by a service that is unexcelled.
When the Deepwater bridge was opened for traffic on March 15, 1931, it gave to Virginia and West Virginia another transportation line, standing for the further development of these two states with a traffic service equal to none.
There was established a fast time freight service, giving a rapid service between Columbus, Roanoke and Norfolk, and with the connections of the Virginian with the Southern railway at Altavista, the Seaboard Air Line at Alberta, the Atlantic Coastline at Jarratt, and the Norfolk and Southern at Norfolk, it provided a fast freight service from all the central, northwestern and western territory to the entire South.
The Virginian operates and maintains its telegraph and telephone lines and has, therefore been able to make advantageous arrangements with the commercial telegraph company as to division of receipts from messages, not only in its own territory, but to and from all points in the United States.
This is one of the advantages that have accrued to this railway from the fact that it was built as a complete and self-contained road, owning all of its operating equipment, whereas other railroads are generally dependent upon the commercial telegraph companies for their wire services and its maintenance.
The traffic of the Virginian naturally divides itself into two broad classes: the through coal freight, and the diversified business from points in Virginia and West Virginia enroute.
The road also carries agricultural produce, lumber, raw material and manufactured products of the varied agricultural and mineral wealth of the two states, Virginia and West Virginia; a general freight business both long-haul and local, solidly based on the resources and opportunities of the country through which the road runs.
The Virginian Railway was the first railroad in the United States to be taken over by the federal government after the declaration of war against Germany and Austria. Shortly afterwards, however, all other rail lines in the country were taken into federal service.
Near the close of the government administration C. H. Hix was appointed Federal Manager of the Virginian and when the railroads were turned back to their owners, he became its active vice president and not long afterwards was elected president of the road. It was under his management that great work of linking up the Virginian with the New York Central System by the construction of the Deepwater Bridge, thus giving a short mileage from Columbus and all leading cities in the central states, as well as from all Lake Port-Cities to Norfolk, Richmond, Petersburg and other points south. Through his far-sighted policies the Virginian was taken from the coal-carrier classification and made part of a competing trunk line system which more than carries out the dream of Col. Rogers to construct a rail line “from the Lakes to the Sea.”
- H. Carper has been an agent of the Virginian at Salem since January first, having succeeded W. H. Hix, retired. Mr. W. P. Ayers, who succeeded the late E. H. Birchfield as General Agent at Roanoke, in 1933, has supervision of this territory.
Actually, the work of building the Virginian was started in West Virginia in the name of the Deepwater Railway company. The Loup Creek estate, owning 25,000 acres of coal land, in 1896 had built a four-mile extension from Deepwater up Loup Creek to Robson, where a large timber operation was set up, and in 1898 a charter had been granted to “The Deepwater Railway Company,” which had for its object further lateral extensions to local mining properties and the eventual construction of a line to connect with the Norfolk and Western at Matoaka.
Prior to 1902 the Loup Creek estate passed into the hand of the Loup Creek Colliery company, in which H. H. Rogers is said to have held a half interest, and which, in turn, was controlled through stock ownership by the Gauley Mountain Coal company, of which William N. Page was president.
When Mr. Rogers took a directing hand in the affairs of the Deepwater railway, his first act was to have its charter amended to provide for its extension to the West Virginia-Virginia boundary line. The company’s charter was so revised in September 1902. It was about a year and five months later that the Tidewater railway was chartered in Virginia to build to the boundary line of the two Virginias to connect with the Deepwater railway.
Construction work was carried on continuously on this line from March, 1903, to March, 1907, when 59 miles were in operation and the remaining 52 miles extending to the Virginia boundary line were under construction.
Right-Of-Way Finished In 1906
On the Tidewater line the work of establishing the right-of-way was begin in February 1904, reaching a completion in the same month in 1906. The first grading contract, covering 95 miles starting from Sewalls Point, was let May 15, 1905, and by February 3, 1906, the entire length of the line was under contract. The first track was put down in October 1905, near Algren, and one of the first tracks laid was between Brookneal and Roanoke.
Deepwater railway timetables dating back to the years of construction show that complete sections of the road were placed in operation from a few months to several years before the Virginian was completed as a whole. Train service was inaugurated between Deepwater and Mullens in November 1906, and extended from Mullens to Matoaka on June 30, 1907; thence to Princeton on November 22, 1908.
Tidewater timetables show the inauguration of train service between Roanoke and Big Stoney on September 28, 1908, and extended to Rich’s Creek on December 7, 1908; thence to Princeton on February 2, 1909.
The railroad’s timetable No. 1 shows that passenger service was instituted between Deepwater and Roanoke at 12 o’clock a.m. on May 23, 1909, by the installation of trains Nos. 13 and 14, and through passenger train service for the entire line, from Deepwater to Norfolk, was inaugurated July 1, 1909.
When the Virginian started construction out of the West Virginia coal fields there was not a single mine development on what is now its main line. Nearly a hundred mines have been directly developed by the railroad since that time, and the company has shared in the development of about half as many on connecting branch lines.
The road’s shop and terminal facilities are constituent features of this intensely mechanized and massive railway plant. Its Sewall Point piers, also electronically operated, are among the most modernly equipped on the Atlantic Coast. Its general shops are the last word in equipment.
The initial expenditure made in the solid and scientific construction entailed by the substantial character of the roadbed and the investment of its equipment make the Virginian’s per-mile capitalization (approximately $250,000) exceptionally high, but the justification of this outlay is reflected in the fact that the upkeep of the road is proportionately minimized and that the road hauls from 628 to 794 tons per train mile more than any other road at a relatively lower cost of operation.
Through its able financing and planning the Virginian has aided measurably through the years in distributing the many rich products of this section throughout the state, and has served as one of the important outlets for products at the busy port of Norfolk.
- Bucholtz, succeeded the late C. H. Hix as president of the Virginian Railway. He has offices at Terminal Building, Norfolk. Other officers are as follows:
Adrian H. Larkin, chairman, board of directors, New York, N.Y.; C. Bucholtz, president, Norfolk; W. R. Coe, vice president; W. H. T. Loyall, vice president; William White, general manager; W. D. Baker, asst. general manager; L. A. Markham, assistant to president; Ivins A. Brown, secretary-treasurer; H. Clement, assistant treasurer; A. M. Traugott, chief engineer; A. H. Chapman, asst. chief engineer; H. W. Walker, engineer coal development; E. W. Knight, consulting counsel; Williams, Loyall and Taylor, general solicitors; D. C. King, purchasing agent; M. B. Goldblatt, comptroller; C. E. Sears, Auditor; E. E. Arnold, tax and insurance agent; M. A. Hartigan, Jr., general claim agent; C. E. Reynolds, car accountant; J. W. Sasser, superintendent motive power; A. R. Kyle, superintendent; J. W. White, superintendent; Berkeley Mills, general agent.
Traffic: S. M. Adsit, manager; H. C. Mitchell, Richard M. Egan, E. D. Hanes, A. F. Schafhirt, J. S. Branch, J. F. Smith and L. W. Woody.
-Prepared by Lisa King