Petersburg - Lynchburg
A self-guiding railfan
This is a portion of what will, someday, be a Norfolk Southern, primarily ex-Norfolk & Western, tour from tidewater in Norfolk, Virginia, to lakeside in Sandusky, Ohio. This segment now spans Collier (Petersburg) to Appomattox, Virginia, a distance of about 98 miles. In addition, other portions are complete, and are detailed here.
If you've not taken a Frograil tour before, you are strongly urged to visit the Frograil Tours home page, as it is packed with information and suggestions to help you enjoy your tour, maximize the effectiveness of your time, and keep you safe and comfy along the way. To navigate anywhere within Frograil, click on the navigation buttons at the top of each page.
WHAT YOU WILL FIND HERE: From a particular starting point, each segment of this coverage will allow you to follow the instructions given, drive to a railfan site, then to the next, etc. etc. Traffic levels and patterns will be given, and the photographic/ lighting considerations for each site will usually be mentioned. You'll be told about area attractions, such as tourist and historic sites, as well as hotels and restaurants which are trackside or otherwise worthy of note. In short, you'll be able to plan an entire family or railfan-only outing or even a vacation from this guide, as it is completed in the months to come.
WHAT YOU WILL NOT FIND HERE: This is a railfan guide, not a photo collection. There are already many excellent and enjoyable railroad photo sites available, and one more really wouldn't add much value to the general railfan.
You will not find fancy graphics, as this is a tour guide, not an exhibition of HTML or graphics expertise. You'll be able to load these pages quickly and print them without waiting a week for each page to print. Also, you'll conserve a lot of toner in the process.
Finally, no maps are included. Even if you cannot or will not purchase good deLorme or other such atlases, you can print maps off the Net.
Major contributors to this effort include:
Train Gif Artists. Train gifs add life and color to this page, and take almost no time to load. I stick these gifs in whenever I get the urge -- there is no rhyme or reason, I just like them. You can see hundreds and hundreds of train gifs by clicking on the Train Gifs navigation button at the top of each Frograil page.
Tony Hill, retired Webmaster and content provider, entire tour
Henry Mikus, supplemental information
If you'd like to contribute to this, or any other tour, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let me know what you'd like to do. We'll work together: You supply the data/info, and I'll do the HTML stuff and upload it. You'll get a chance to review the fruits of your efforts before the general public sees the finished product, so you can let me have your corrections, additions and changes.
The Railroad. While the eastern part of the overall tour is in the Coastal Plain, this portion of the tour is definitely in the Piedmont, which means you'll have lots of curves, but there is relatively little elevation gain or loss. The hills increase, gradually, as you travel east to west. Really, the major problem with railfanning this segment is simply that there are trees, trees, trees lining both sides of the tracks for the great majority of the distance. Therefore, we'll concentrate mostly on crossings and the few towns between Collier and Appomattox.
As you might imagine, coal for export and empties going west comprise most of the traffic. You will, however, see almost every type of train through here except Amtrak and commuter traffic. The railroad is double track all the way to Crewe, and single track beyond there. The trains are fast and relatively quiet. Indeed, it is amazing how quietly 12,000 tons of coal being lugged with 2-3 engines can sneak up on you, so don't delude yourself into thinking that you're on some dinky railroad, with coal drags groaning along at 15 miles per hour.
For timing purposes, 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 hours is normal travel time for a train to run from Suffolk to Crewe, (107 miles @ 45-50 MPH). Add another 4 to 4 1/2 hours from Crewe to Roanoke averaging 40-45 MPH (45-50 MPH average for the 60 miles to Concord, 35-40 MPH average for the 70 miles Concord to Roanoke).
Photographic Considerations: As done in several other tours, there is an attempt to rate the photo fields for all four quadrants of many crossings detailed in the tour. The following format is used: NE2, SE1, SW4, NW4, where you go clockwise around the quadrants from northeast to northwest, and numerical ratings, from 1 to 4, with a 1 being excellent, and a 4 being non-existent, are assigned. Note that this rating is only photo field availability, not the photogenic qualities of the site.
Mapwork: Much of the tour is not easy if you have no detailed map for back country roads. It is definitely recommended that you get a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer, study it before your trip, and copy pertinent pages for your field work. You can find information here about Railfan Maps that are available.
Security: This is mostly a rural tour, and you will be in almost no physical danger of being mugged or robbed. Remember, however, even if you're in a very safe, rural area, if you fall and break an ankle in a remote area, you could die out there. That's why it is always recommended you fan with at least one male friend.
Probably the biggest security issue comes from the security concerns of Norfolk Southern Corporation. The corporation wants you off its property, and will be aggressive in ensuring that, if you do trespass, you will be arrested, and very possibly fined and even jailed. The corporation is serious about this, and you had better be, also.
WEBMASTER'S NOTE: I do not recommend or condone walking along the tracks, as this means trespassing or exposing yourself to danger. You will have to be creative, in some instances, to avoid trespassing while getting to the detailed locations included herein, but you will either have to be creative or not visit those sites. At no point in this tour guide, or any other tour which is part of Frograil, is it recommended that you trespass or expose yourself to danger. If you are a fool and have a leg cut off (or worse), don't come crying to me: You have been warned. Trains are big, powerful, and often surprisingly quiet. Don't end up being a statistic.
Traffic Levels: When Tony first published a completed segment of this tour in 2001, traffic levels, especially export coal, were depressed. Since then, by late 2004, the dollar has weakened and that has boosted export coal shipments. The general strength of the economy, coupled with the dramatic improvement of the fluidness of the Norfolk Southern system, has yielded additional freight volumes of almost all commodity groups, especially intermodal. Expect to see just over one train per hour between Collier and Appomattox.
Jack. From the overpass on Halifax Road, backtrack to Wells Road and turn left. However, rather than continue back to I-85, take the next left onto Squirrel Level Road, which will shortly go under the NS tracks. You can turn left immediately past the underpass and go up to the tracks. While there is excellent viewing from the south side of the tracks here, this is clearly posted, and you are obviously trespassing, so this is not a railfan location. Therefore, continue on south via Squirrel Level, and turn right onto Church Road [NOTE WELL: most of these secondary roads are narrow, curvy, and fairly rough. Take your time, and do NOT try to chase a train unless you're moving west on 460].
Continue on Church to a stop sign, and go straight through on a minor, unstriped road, which will go over, via an overpass, the trax. This is not a railfan location. Turn left on Weakly (sp?), another left on Simpson, and finally, another left onto U.S. 1, Boydton Plank Road. There is life support here, as the I-85/U.S. 1 interchange is just to your north. There's not much in the way of civilization between here and Blackstone, so it might be a good time to check your drink cooler, tummy, bladder, and gas tank.
Continuing south on U.S. 1, turn right on Va. 603, Sterling Road, just before the railroad overpass, which is not a railfan location. Finally, turn left on Cox Road, VA 226. According to deLorme, as you head southwest on VA 226, the railroad from Petersburg will come in from your right, and there should be a nice, wide-open junction for you to photograph. Unfortunately, on the ground -- as opposed to the map -- the entire area north of the Old Main Line is a great huge Vulcan Materials facility. You are obviously not welcome to go wandering around in there, and all hope of seeing the junction at Jack seems to vanish. But don't be a wuss -- where there's a will, there's a legal, railfan way.
Jack, although it doesn't look like it as you come in via VA 226, is actually south and a little west of the Vulcan plant, and the way to get there is to pass the plant on VA 226, and continue until you are almost right at U.S. 460. There will be a child care center on your right. Turn into the center's parking lot, and drive to its northwest corner. You'll notice a dirt road going straight to the tracks, but it would probably be wiser to park near the highway and walk the few hundred yards to the tracks, as there really is no place to park near the tracks. Use a scanner and just pop up to the tracks for a shot when you know a train is imminent; otherwise, stay well away from the area. Jack junction itself is about 100 yards west of you, and excellent pix from the south are available at most times. Do not linger near railroad property. To help you with your scanner, there is a defect detector at MP N89.0, and the junction itself is at MP N88.3, so nothing from the west should sneak up on you.
From Jack west, the railroad closely follows U.S. 460, and is double tracked. Jack can be a pretty busy place.
Jack -- Va. 632. Here's another way to see everything through Jack, and it's completely off railroad property. Retrace your steps back to VA 226, and turn right to get to U.S. 460. Turn right and go to your first real right onto Va. 632. The tracks are just a short ways north of U.S. 460, and views from the south are wide open, and you don't have to worry about trespassing.
Sutherland. Continue west on U.S. 460. Va. 743 has a nondescript crossing, and Va. 708 has a so-so overpass for photos, but the road paralleling the tracks (shown on the deLorme Atlas and Gazetteer as being between Va. 708 and Va. 623) no longer exists. Cross the tracks, and bear left on Va. 708, and you'll come to Va. 623, where you'll turn left. Va. 623 is Station Road. North of the at-grade crossing is parking and good viewing. South of the crossing the area is open to the southwest, but you'll need to get permission to shoot pix from the field. [Note that this location is slightly west of "Sutherland", but giving it the name here will allow you to find the general area via the DeLorme's index.]
Church Road. Continue south on Va. 623 to U.S. 460 (which is marked as Cox Road here), and continue west. Pass up both Va. 751 and Va. 754, as they aren't worth the time or gas. As you come into the area of Church Road, turn right on Va. 627, Courthouse Road. The crossing is about 20 feet east of MP N96. Viewing is fair to good, and parking is available. Ratings: NE2, SE2, SW3, NW3.
Poole Siding. Traveling further north on Va. 627, turn left on Va. 751, and travel towards Poole Siding. With a name like that, you'll expect to see some railroady things ahead, but such will not be the case, alas. As you come into the area, you'll see the railroad come in and hug you to the left, but there is a constant line of trees, which not only eliminates the possibility of any photography, it's so bad you can barely see the trains! There is what appears to be a defect detector immediately to the east of Poole Siding, but it is not on my station list. Listen for "Poole", I suspect. You can wriggle closer to the tracks by taking Poole Siding Road, Va. 714, but those trees will frustrate you. Poole Siding Road will take you back out to Va. 751 again, and you should turn left, go under the tracks, and then right on U.S. 460, which is called "New Cox Road" here.
Walkers. When you went under the tracks at Poole Siding, just before U.S. 460, you could have gone west on Va. 751. Either way, you'll reach the intersection of U.S. 460 and Va. 751. Turn right (from U.S. 460) onto Va. 751, but go straight north onto Va. 624, as Va. 751 veers sharply off to the east. Va. 624 is very narrow, and takes you shortly to the tracks @MP N100. NE4, SE2, SW2, NW3.
Ford. Continue west on U.S. 460 to the crossroads of Ford. Turn right on Va. 622, which is Baltimore Road. You'll shortly come to the tracks. Park at the Post Office to the southeast, or near the now-closed lumber facility in the southwest quadrant of the crossing. There is excellent viewing all along the south side of the tracks, but nothing from the north. Just before Va. 622 reaches the tracks, Zion Road goes off to the left (west). Take Zion Road back to U.S. 460 and continue west.
Wilsons. From the Zion Road/U.S. 460 intersection, continue west on U.S. 460 and you'll be quite close to the tracks, but the rather dense trees will screen them from you. If you know you've got a train coming, Va. 625 (Wells Road) will give you some fair access, and is only about 30 yards from the highway. There is a convenience store and parking available. Further west on U.S. 460, Va. 620 (White Oak Church Road) has a nondescript crossing. Between Va. 625 and Va. 620, you've gone over the tracks via a high overpass, and they are now on your left (south).
Look for Va. 724 (which is Springston Road, but ther may not be a street sign), and turn left onto it. Springston will take you into the Wilsons area. When you get to Va. 639, Wilsons Road, turn left, and park on the right before crossing the tracks. Excellent viewing from 3 of the four quadrants -- but Tony's notes are goofed up, and that may not be accurate. This is a pretty good location.
Retrace your way back to Springston Road, turn left, and follow it west to U.S. 460. Turn left and follow U.S. 460 west. As you approach Fort Pickett and the town of Blackstone, you can exit U.S. 460 via Va. 634, and follow the tracks to the U.S. 460 Business overpass northeast of Blackstone. However, to get south of the tracks on Va. 634, you must go under a 9' 11" underpass, and for many vehicles, you don't want to do this. If you do leave U.S. 460 via Va. 634, go under the tracks and follow them southwest. Va. 634 will go straight south shortly, but you'll continue southwest along the tracks, on Reservation Road. When you cross the tracks leading into Fort Pickett, you'll rejoin the tour.
Blackstone -- Lipco Junction. From U.S. 460, take U.S. 460 Business towards downtown Blackstone. Cross over the railroad via a high overpass, and at the bottom of the overpass's hill, turn left onto Reservation Road, which is a gravel road. This road skirts the boundary of Fort Pickett, which is a training area for National Guard, Reservists, ROTC, and some Regular Army units. Just a short way from U.S. 460 Business, you'll cross a single set of tracks. This place is "Lipco", but I don't know what the term refers to. Here, for many years, there was a wye which in-coming units used to ship their tanks and other heavy equipment in and out of the post. Today, the spur is inactive, but could be made active very quickly.
Bring your lawn chairs, coolers, and enjoy this nice location. The tracks are somewhat NE-SW here, and you'll want to plan your lighting carefully.
Blackstone -- Broad Street. As you come into Blackstone proper, the road and railroad will both become almost dead southerly. The tracks will be just to your west, but hidden by trees. You'll be tempted, as you come into town, to go over to the tracks, but you can't practically get to them. Therefore, head right into town, pass the McDonalds on the right, and then turn right at the traffic signal onto Broad Street, which will dead end at the tracks. At this point, the railroad swings, via a pretty sharp curve, back westbound, and less than a mile to the west, swings rather sharply up to a north-northwest orientation on its way to Crewe.
Viewing from the south is pretty good here, and there is life support along U.S. 460 Business. Be advised that the "alley" along the tracks is heavily traveled, so park out of the way, and don't stand in the street. There is no viewing from the north.
Blackstone -- Simmons Lane. There are roads and alleys close to the tracks west and south of the Broad Street area, but for better viewing, get back down Broad, and turn right to go south on U.S. 460 Business. You'll have to turn right after about 4-5 blocks, and you'll then be heading almost due west. There are a few roads leading to the area of the tracks, and a few overpasses, but none are railfan locations. As you leave Blackstone, the road will swing to become almost northerly, and you'll be close to the tracks, but the ever-present trees are here in full force, and viewing is 0%. Don't get your dauber down, however, as we're coming up to a pretty good location.
You'll see a sign indicating an intersection with Va. 699 going off to the right, and you should take this turn onto what is also known as Simmons Lane. Park to the north just before the tracks. Viewing is as follows: NE3, SE3, SW1, NW1, so this is obviously an afternoon location. Defect detector "Nottoway" is just to the north at MP 121.6.
Nottoway -- Wright's Road. The next decent location is about 1-1/3 mile northwest of Simmons Lane, and is in the vicinity of the Nottoway Middle and Nottoway High schools. As you approach the school complex, which is on your left, there will be an unremarked road going off to your right. This is Wright's Road, and goes straight for about 100', and then takes a 90° turn to the left, and then another to go under a wicked underpass (11' 3"). The only photo location in the area is just before the first 90° turn. Rather than taking the turn, go straight, and there is a very large area in which you can park. Viewing is poor from the south/west, and non-existent from the north/east, but if you know a train's coming, this will get you trackside very, very fast.
Crewe -- Eleven Oaks Road. As you continue northwest on U.S. 460 Business, you'll see a road sign to Nottoway, and then you'll shortly see the village to the west of your road. By this time, the road is rising up to go over the tracks and then U.S. 460 itself. Here you'll rejoin the highway you left when you went to Lipco Junction and Blackstone. The village looks rather interesting, with some distinctive architecture, and a side trip is advised. In "flying" over it on the overpass, Tony saw no railfan locations, but he didn't go into the village itself. If you discover an interesting location, please let me know.
You're now approaching the yard at Crewe, but there are two stops before we get there. Going northwest on U.S. 460, you'll pass a crossroads at Jennings Town Road, but the crossing is not a railfan location. Shortly thereafter, you'll see CCC Road going off to the left. Take it, and continue to the left as Eleven Oaks Road bears left and goes over the tracks. There is a pocket-sized parking spot just southwest of the crossing.
Here are the photo ratings, but remember that the railroad is almost east-west here, and the road crosses it at a northeast-southwest pronounced diagonal bias: NE3, SE2, SW1, NW1.
Crewe -- Oaks. Continue northwest on Eleven Oaks Road. As you come into Crewe, there is a large wood products/lumber mill on your left. Eleven Oaks and the railroad have swung pretty much northbound here. Eleven Oaks will cross the tracks, swinging from north-northwest to northeast in doing so. Just north of the crossing, there is a third track coming down from the yard. This is the most westerly track, and it sends two spurs into the wood products plant area. Just to the north of the crossing is a double crossover, and a station sign for "Oaks".
The area of the crossing is pretty wide open, and you can get excellent pix in the area. Trespassing can be avoided by the use of some common sense, and you'll get everything in and out of the yard in pretty good light for the majority of the day, with the exception of early morning westbounds. NE3, SE2, SW1, NW1. Be alert, as this is a busy, noisy location, and a train can be in your lap in a hurry. Stay well away from the road, tracks and lumber mill.
Crewe -- East End Yard. Continue north on Eleven Oaks Road as it enters town (and becomes 4th Street), and comes to an intersection with U.S. 460, Virginia Avenue. Turn left and head to the traffic light, which is The Falls Road going to the left (southwest). Take Falls over the yard and then take the first right onto Robertson's Siding Road. From the latter, again take the first right and go ever to the right, until you're close to the trees and the overpass on the east end of the area. This is probably on railroad property, but if you sit well back and stay in your car, you'll probably be OK. This is a good place to eat a lunch, and you can use that as an excuse to be there. Other than that, I'd not stay more than a few minutes. Crewe is a fairly large and quite busy yard, and security is a serious issue.
At this location, there are several tracks, as the yard throat itself is a little to the east. You cannot see anything east of where you're sitting because of the hill and overpass. Viewing to the west is excellent, and a moderate telephoto will get you good shots of light engines, switching and run-through's.
NOTE WELL: The Falls Road is the only overpass over the entire yard, so the traffic is quite constant. The overpass has no sidewalks, and is far too dangerous to use as a railfan location.
Crewe -- City Park. Go back over the overpass and into Crewe, and turn left on Virginia Avenue. You'll see the yard unfold to your left and signs to various offices/functions. You'll then see a sign to a "Museum", and will notice a park between the yard and Virginia Avenue. Turn left on the street just before the park (Meade Street?), and follow it around to the area of the tracks. In front of you is the main line around the yard. Run-through's will be seen here, although as in all yards, parked railroad cars can sometimes be a bother. Behind you is a nice park with picnic tables, shelters, BBQ grills, kiddie play area and a walking path. Continuing west on Lipscome Street is a ballpark.
As a northeast location, summer early morning shots of eastbounds would be pretty good, but most of the day this is not a good photo location. It is, however, a nice place to bring the family, have some fun, and see some yard and main line action in the process.
Crewe -- West End Yard. While leaving Crewe via U.S. 460, the only road near the western end of the yard is Rocky Ford Road, which has a nasty 10' 6" underpass. It is recommended that those with campers or high top vans not use the underpass. However, it's only a short walk from the highway to the underpass. For those on foot or in the family sedan, go under the tracks and take an immediate left to go up to the tracks. Confession: This was a good spot in the early 1990's, but for some reason Tony completely forgot about it during research for this tour in late 2001. Therefore, you must take this location with a grain of salt, as there may no longer be access to it.
Burkeville -- Station Area. Therefore, continue on towards Burkeville. When getting close to town, Lewiston Plank Road goes over the railroad on a narrow, close overpass, and is not a railfan location. Burkeville itself, however, is quite a railfan location. To understand how to fan the area, it's necessary to first get an understanding of what's happening in the town.
There are three railroad lines converging downtown. First, the N&W main line (the one we're touring, goes through town on an almost dead east - west bias. It's double track all the way, as it has been since Norfolk. The ex-Southern main comes from Richmond in the northeast, joins the N&W, and then continues south to Clarksville. Finally, the ex-N&W has a line which diverges from the main west of the Southern/N&W crossing downtown. This secondary line went up to Farmville, and then on to Lynchburg. This was the original N&W main line to Roanoke, but it was taken out of service. It is now a rails-to-trails bike path; one of the highlights is the crossing on High Bridge. It is a state park, more info is available on the High Bridge Trail site.
Today, the ex-Southern line comes down from Richmond and splits to go west on the N&W main, or across the main and head south towards Clarksville. However, when it crosses the main, it becomes the Virginia Southern Division (VSRR), a part of the RailAmerica short line empire. So, here's how to fan Burkeville, or at least the ex-N&W main line we're following.
As soon as you pass the Lewiston Plank Road, U.S. 360 down from Richmond will come in from the northeast. The combined U.S. 360/U.S. 460 highway will swing south and then back up to the northwest to go over the ex-Southern via an overpass. Take the first left, which is U.S. 360 Business, and head along the Southern into town. After just a few blocks, you'll see the N&W coming in from the east, and you'll also see signals all over the place. There is a park area/ball field area to the north of the street, and the station has recently been moved there. Park there and explore the railroad area on foot. Be alert, as there is a lot of vehicle traffic, and a train can appear on any track at any time.
The best photos here are of westbounds off the ex-Southern. For the best overall photo spot in Burkeville, go to the next location -- the crossing itself.
Burkeville -- Crossing. Continue a little further west on U.S. 360 Business, and turn very hard left onto First Street. This will take you over the Southern lead to the N&W main, then the Southern main, which joins (about 50' west of First) and then leaves the N&W main (about 200' further on) to go south to Clarksville. After crossing the two N&W tracks, take the first left onto Oak Street and park in a non-private area. North and east of the N&W crossing, the area is pretty much wide open (having recently been cleaned up). The two quadrants west of the crossing are not recommended, as they involve trespassing on railroad property and a logger's property. Between Oak Street and the N&W main, the rating is a 3, as it's pretty tight, and there is brush and clutter to the east.
Just to the west of this location is where the original "Old Main Line" went up to Farmville, and the line to Abilene diverges. This is MP N133.4/B00.0. Note that as we go further to the west, the Bxx.x numbers will increase. MP N133.4 through N168.1 were mile points on the original ex-N&W line through Farmville.
Green Bay -- Va. 623. Make sure you're on U.S. 360 Business, and not U.S. 460 as you head southwest, under the N&W secondary main up to Farmville, and on towards Abilene. The road will become U.S. 360, and you'll be treated to the sight of parallel tracks on the east side of the highway. The far track is now the VSRR and the near one is the N&W main we're following west. Note that the main is now single track. As you come into Green Bay, turn left onto Va. 623 and go up and over the first set of tracks. This is within the Green Bay passing siding. The next overpass is over the ex-Southern. The latter overpass is rather tight, and isn't much of a photo site.
The first overpass offers very nice photo access to the southwest, and once past the early morning shadows, should give excellent mid-morning to mid-afternoon shots of eastbounds.
Green Bay. Both MapQuest and deLorme show that you can turn right past the second overpass, and then follow the VSRR tracks southwest to a double set of tracks. This is no longer correct. The road to the right, immediately past the second overpass on Va. 623 no longer exists. So just go back to U.S. 360, turn left and continue for a very short distance, and take the first left. This vestigial road goes over the NS main, and there is then a large parking area on the right. Straight ahead is the crossing with the VSRR, and then the road ends in private property. The two railroads are all of about 100' apart.
At the NS crossing, the photo ratings are NE3, SE2, SW1, NW3. However, there is a small bluff on the southeast quadrant, and it furnishes an excellent place to zip around with a weed whacker for about 10-15 minutes. Then, get out the lawn chairs and cooler, listen to your scanner, and thoroughly enjoy a very nice railfan location. The bluff is an excellent photo vantage point.
Green Bay -- Campbell Crossing. Go back to U.S. 360 and turn left to continue southwest. At Va. 622, take Levi Road to an overpass of both tracks. The overpass is tight and there are no sidewalks, so it is not a railfan location. The road will bear 90° to the right and meander through the country. Take your first right, which is Campbell Crossing Road, and go to the crossing. The viewing at the VSRR tracks is rather poor, but the NS crossing is pretty good: NE3, SE1, SW1, NW2. There will be shadows in early AM and late PM. This is a good summer location, especially.
Virso. South of the Green Bay area, U.S. 360 goes over the NS main, and will therefore be between the NS and VSRR. This is the Meherrin area. Slow down, if possible, and note that the next set of "tracks" you go over has no rails or ties. Has the VSRR ended? No, this is the remnant of the Virginian Railway coming in from Abilene and going east to Suffolk and the Tidewater area. Some time after the N&W bought the Virginian, this track was redundant, and was taken out of service. This must have been many years ago, but the roadbed is obvious, and the ballast is still providing an excellent, likewise obvious, trail for locals -- especially 4-wheelers and hunters. It would make a fantastic rail trail. We'll see this roadbed often between here and Abilene.
Continue southwest on U.S. 360, and the VSRR will hug you to the south. When you get to Virso, take Va. 633 north to the crossing. The crossing isn't much, at NE3, SE1, SW3, NW3, but that southeast quadrant really is very good for afternoon westbounds. You cross the abandoned Virginian roadbed to get to the NS main, which is single track here. Do not attempt to continue the tour cross-country via Va. 737, because the road is cut and no longer goes through to Va. 635 and Briery. Get back to U.S. 360 and head west.
Briery. Just southwest of Virso on U.S. 360, the VSRR tracks will swing southerly towards Clarksville, and you'll not see them again on this tour. The NS and highway will swing from a southwest to a northwest orientation, and you'll shortly come to the Briery area. Turn right onto Va. 654, Cabbage Patch Road and drive through pretty countryside to Va. 635, Old Briery Station Road. Turn right and drive the short distance to the tracks. Cross the Virginian right-of-way and park up the hill past the NS single track main line.
There is a defect detector just to the east of the crossing at MP B16.8. The photo ratings are NE3, SE1, SW1, NW2, so it's pretty good. It's hard to imagine two main line railroads going through here, and it's even harder to image a passenger station was out here in the virtual wilderness. Wow.
Abilene -- Connection Junction. Go back down Old Briery Station Road to Cabbage Patch Road and turn right. You'll come to a stop sign, and even though it's not indicated, this is U.S. 15. Turn right and go north to an overpass (not a railfan location), and take the first left onto Va. 671 immediately after the overpass. You'll closely parallel the tracks (with lots and lots of trees between you and them) as you head steadily northwest. At the point where the road veers off to the north, you'll see a tall signal mast. Turn left into the dirt driveway and park well back from the tracks.
There are two tracks -- the first is a siding track, and the far track is the NS main line. To your right, you can see the two tracks become one, extend for about 200', and then separate again into 2 tracks. This latter point of separation is the junction for the Abilene Connection. The track going to the northwest is the ex-N&W to Pamplin City and Lynchburg, and the track heading more southwesterly is the ex-Virginian to Altavista. Shortly after buying the Virginian, the N&W decided to route loaded coal trains over the Virginian via Altavista, and MT's via the N&W to Lynchburg. The reason was simply that the Virginian's line had less elevation gain and loss, and it was therefore easier to move the loads over it. That pattern has held true right through today's operations. The point where these two "routes" connected with each other was near the crossroads of Abilene. That's the genesis of the term "Abilene Connection."
There is no off-property railfan location at the Connection junction itself, so just stay in the area of the driveway. The area north of the driveway gives a wide open photo field, and you can stay well back from the tracks. Avoid the area south of the driveway and signals, as that is close to the tracks and is obviously on railroad property.
Abilene -- Crossing #1. We'll now head west through a very rural area, and there are no convenient towns or communities to identify on our Site Listing, so we'll stick with "Abilene", and just number the crossings until we can precisely identify another area. Note that, as we go west, we will get quite some distance from the Abilene Connection. Continue west on Va. 671/County Line Road to the crossroads of County Line Cross Roads. You can turn left and go south on Va. 604, but the crossing is NAG/NARL, so continue on via Va. 671.
You'll shortly reach the actual location of Abilene, and note Va. 707 going to the southwest, but that road is also NAG/NARL, so continue on. You'll go due north for awhile, and then veer to the west, and then cross the tracks on a NAG/NARL. You're now south of the tracks. You'll then swing from south to west to northwest, and as you do so, you'll be looking over farm fields in some areas that offer very photogenic views of the railroad. Definitely not roster shots, but certainly views that are worthy of your patience and skill. The major problems along here are leaves (shoot these locations in the winter), parking (it's really, really tough to get off this very narrow road), and the lack of shoulders. Heck, there are no shoulders, period. Scout ahead, however, and you'll be rewarded. Just be careful out there, folks.
Finally, you'll come to our first real crossing, and at this point, the railroad is somewhat on a southeast - northwest bias, so keep that in mind as you view the photo fields ratings for the crossing: NE1, SE3, SW2, NW1. Just to the west is an intermediate signal, at MP B26.5.
Abilene -- Crossing #2. Heading further west on Va. 671, you'll do a 180° bell-curve, until you go back over the tracks to the south. Tony does not have ratings for this crossing, for some odd reason. You'll skirt the tracks to the southwest, but they continue to be treed in. You'll come to a right turn where Va. 670 goes north, and you should find a place to park. The crossing is ostensibly an afternoon one, but remember the southeast - northwest bias to the tracks: NE3, SE3, SW1, NW1. There is a pole line, so choose your location carefully.
Abilene -- Crossing #3. Stay on Va. 671/County Line Road to the west, until the next crossing. Note that after Va. 659 has veered off to the southwest, Va. 671 has become a gravel road. The crossing is rated at NE1, SE1, SW2, NW3, although (full disclosure -- Tony may have had a senior moment here, and gotten them backwards!!) the southeast - northwest bias of the tracks is becoming increasingly northerly. MP B28 is just east of the crossing. A weed whacker would definitely be of value for you summer time fans.
Abilene -- Crossing #4. Go north over the tracks and follow them until Va. 671/County Line Road goes back over them. Incidentally, the real county line is the railroad itself, with Prince Edward County to the north/east, and Charlotte County to the south/west. With that breathless piece of geography behind us, here are the photo ratings for the crossing: NE2, SE3, SW2, NW2. Onward to a completely different railfan location...
Maloney. Va. 671/County Line Road is almost due north here, and will shortly bring you to another crossing. In olden days, there was a siding in this area, probably between here and the previous railfan location, but no trace of that exists today. However, there is a defect detector, "Maloney" at MP B29.3, in the area, so we'll call this point Maloney rather than Crossing #5. Indeed, since the crossing is NAG, it couldn't be Crossing #5, anyway. However, as much as Tony doesn't like NAG locations, this is a pretty nice one, at E3/W1. There is plenty of room, fairly minor traffic levels, and the southeast/northwest track bias yields some interesting photographic opportunities.
Pamplin City -- Llama Road. Keep northward on Va. 671/County Line Road, and it will veer to the west, cross the tracks on a NAG/NARL, and eventually T at VA 47, a major state highway. Va. 671/County Line Road has been our pal all the way since east of Abilene at U.S. 15. VA 47 is much busier than County Line Road, so we need to re-focus our attention. Turn right and head up towards Pamplin City. You'll be right next to the tracks for most of this drive, but they are hopelessly treed in. Ignore Va. 663, which is not only a NAG/NARL, it is a nasty, low underpass. When you get to the vicinity of Va. 719, park on VA 47 and walk to the crossing.
Photo ops are pretty good at NE2, SE1, SW2, NW3. Note that the tracks are virtually north - south here.
Pamplin City. Continue north on VA 47, pass up Va. 702, which is a NAG/NARL, and head into Pamplin City. Just before veering to the right and going under the tracks, turn right and drive down to the station. On the other side of the station, you'll see some interesting trackwork. For generations, this was the connector between the original N&W coming via Farmville, and the more modern N&W via Abilene. Finally, the plug has been pulled on the Farmville route, and there is no longer an active junction in Pamplin City. However, you can still see the trackage south of the station.
The area of the station itself is schlecht for photos, but south of it, there are some very nice possibilities. "Possibilities" is the word, because there is often stuff in the way -- trailers, MOW junk, etc. If such stuff is absent, you can get very nice afternoon photos. Otherwise, you can get skunked.
Bowler. Go under the railroad via VA 47, go up to U.S. 460, and turn left to head west towards Lynchburg. Turn left onto Va. 628 and park at the crossing. This is the end of the long siding through the Pamplin City area, at MP N170.6. Photo ratings are NE3, SE3, SW2, NW1.
Flood -- Old Bethany Road. Keep going west on U.S. 460, until you see Va. 622 (not recommended) on your left; pass that, and look for Va. 620 to the left. Take this left and go down to the crossing. Keeping in mind that the bias is mildly southeast - northwest, the photo field ratings are NE1, SE3, SW4, NW1. There is a small road, Railroad Lane, immediately south of the crossing; turn left, but it won't really improve your photo ops.
Evergreen. Instead of going back out to U.S. 460 from the crossing at Flood, go northwest on Va. 622 all the way to an intersection with Va. 633, turn left and go to the crossing. Photo field ratings cover the whole gamut here: NE1, SE4, SW2, NW3, and the N175 mile marker is just to the east of the crossing. Expect to hear the "Evergreen" defect detector here, at MP N176.5.
Appomattox -- Church Street. You have several options to get north from Evergreen, but most involve driving by/to NAG/NARL locations. Therefore, I suggest you drive back out to U.S. 460, go west into Appomattox, and go into town on U.S. 460 Business. At Church Street, turn left and drive across the tracks, and there is plenty of parking off to the left one block past the tracks. Appomattox is not level, and you'll have to do some walking to get to enjoy the railfan ops in town. One note of caution: You do NOT want to be in the vicinity of Church Street and the railroad crossing when school is getting out -- you'll think you're in New York City!
Photo ratings are as follows, but require some explanation: NE1, SE3, SW3, NW1. The problem with the southern quads is that there is a significant drop off from the tracks as you go south on Church Street. If you can park close to the tracks and stand in the back of a pickup, or on top of an SUV, you can get dynamite pix.
The station is gorgeous, and is in daily use as a group of artsy shops. Appomattox is an historic city, and one worth a visit anytime.
This temporarily ends our tour of the Norfolk Southern across Virginia, but look forward to additional segments being completed. Indeed, if you're impatient for more of the tour to be completed, why not submit a segment to me? e-Mail me here, and we'll work together.