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                   Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - 5:12PM

Virginian Railway bridges

By DAN ROBINSON
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Completed in 1909 and mainly financed by the wealthy oil tycoon Henry Huddleston Rogers, the Virginian Railway bypassed its two 'big-gun' competitors much to their chagrin (the C&O and the N&W) and built its own coal shipping line from the mountain mines of southern West Virginia to the Atlantic coast at Newport News, Virginia. This has always been one of my favorite 'old' railroads due to the fact that it was built as straight and efficient as possible (thanks to Rogers' deep pockets), rather than as cheaply as possible, as most railroads are. While most railroads stay confined to meandering, flat valleys, where construction is easier and cheaper, the Virginian (VGN) charged through the Appalachians with little regard for the terrain. As a result, tunnels and numerous long, high bridges are one of the trademarks of the original VGN line, and many are still in use today by Norfolk Southern.

Unfortunately, portions of the original Virginian are abandoned today, namely large stretches from Glen Lyn, VA (including what was the largest and most impressive bridge on the old line) to the Atlantic coast. The most interesting part of the line - the route from Deepwater, WV to Kellysville, WV - thankfully is not only still intact, but still in use by regular NS coal trains.

On my recent trip to Raleigh, I took some back roads off of I-77 to get a few shots of a couple of these structures, still impressive even by today's standards. There are at least a dozen of these large bridges on the route, but documenting all of them would take a day-long expedition in remote terrain (which I may do sometime in the future). The largest ones (on Clark's Gap grade) require some long drives and strenuous hiking to get decent views of.

This is the bridge at Sweeneyburg, WV, probably the most easily-accessable one on the line. Perfect timing! I had no sooner got out of the car when a northbound train went over the bridge. There are only 2 to 4 trains per day on this line, so not having to wait a long time for one is very unusual.


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Another bridge at Harper, WV peeking above the trees:


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The bridge at Ingleside, WV (over Interstate 77):


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