B&O Railroad south of Staunton, Va

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Mon Oct 1 19:42:18 EDT 2007

A friend of mine sent me copies of the recent
inquiries of the remnants of the former Valley
Railroad of Virginia south of Staunton so I'll chime
in on some of what I know.

With regards to the historic bridge near MP 219 on
I-81, just outside Staunton, this bridge was built in
the aborted first attempt by the B&O to get south of
Staunton in the 1873-1874 period and after spending
about $1.25 million, the B&O pulled the plug rather
abruptly and permanently effective November 25,1874.
Claiborne Mason's group of contractors were the ones I
believe at work in the section where the bridge over
Folly Mills Creek has been preserved with the date
"1874" emblazoned it, hopefully in perpetuity for all
to see and remind themselves of what once was in this
section of the Valley.

Due to the B&O's stubbornness and inability to get
along amicably with ole Billy Mahone of the AM&O, (the
B&O wasn't alone on this issue as we all know our AM&O
history), even before they started committing funds to
the project of connecting up at Salem, Mahone was none
too hospitable toward any Northern corporation
especially one which he felt was going to be removing
Virginia's wealth to a northern carpetbagging
capitalistic monopoly. These were HIS thoughts, not my
opinions. In addition, the Financial Panic of 1873
made money really short, especially for railroad
mortgages as something like 1/3 of the railroads in
the south went into receivership in this period.

The B&O was there and before the Shenandoah Valley
could really get its act together when Tom Scott and
the PRR pulled their money out in a stockholders fight
around 1874 when the Southern Railway Securities Co.
was broken up as a result as well as removing excess
funds from everything including their initial backing
of the Shenandoah Valley RR.

HOWEVER, and here is something which very few have
been aware of until now, the SV leased the Valley RR
of Virginia between Harrisonburg & Staunton from July
10,1876 to January 10,1877 when the B&O RR and City of
Baltimore split over some questioned payments or was
it non-payments regarding the VRR. These 2 together
formed an impenetrable voting bloc on the remaining
Valley RR stockholders, and in this ONE instance, the
locals prevailed.

The VRR, all 25 miles of it was managed/operated by
our good friend Milnes of early SV history and then
when the facade of the B&O for continuing the line
south of Staunton and onto Lexington showed what B&O's
motives truly were, they let the lease expire, having
paid all their bills as per the requirements of the
lease. That is why that the only photos of a Valley
engine with the name "Valley" on it apparently
occurred during this one brief period. Now, you ask,
where did Milnes get his equipment? He leased it from
the Western Maryland RR. I can't tell you what engine
# it was from the WM but I can tell you that when the
engine first appeared at Harrisonburg in early July
1876, a youngster replied something along the likes to
a chum "See, didn't I tell you Mr. Milnes was
important? He has an engine with his name on it; W.M.
RR." True story.

There is more to this 6-month tale but the long and
the short of it was that once the SV concluded that
the B&O was NOT interested in either building it
themselves or permitting his group to do so, he wisely
pulled out. Then 2 years later, under the exact same
financial constraints as the B&O had, the SV built the
line which we all know and love today, did it in 3
years and while they were over-extended financially in
it which caused the receivership, it was the right
move at the right time.

Had the B&O been wiser and more aggressive, they could
have been there first and we would have no line which
we know today.

The B&O's Valley RR picked up the scaps and pieces in
the Summer of 1881 as the Richmond & Allegheny built
into Lexington, but even then it took them 2 years to
start anew on the line which was about 25-50%
completed 7 years earlier. Limping, the B&O made it to
Lexington and that was as far as they would ever get.

Nearly 60 years later, the B&O wanted OUT of the
valley and it was apparently no secret. The Chesapeake
Western stepped up to the plate and agreed to purchase
the 62 miles of completed line plus the 51.23 of never
completed right-of-way to Salem on one condition; that
the B&O must have prior approval of abandonment of the
line south of Staunton before they would take title to
the 25-miles which was worth keeping. That abandonment
was approved for November 1,1942 and the sale was
approved effective midnight, December 31,1942/January

I have been told that it took Chesapeake Western until
July or August, 1943 to complete the scrapping
operations south of Staunton which means that the
Folly Mills Bridge last felt the breath of the iron
horse perhaps in July as that is only 5 or 6 miles
south of Staunton.

Today, that is the most visible remnant of this failed
effort. Much of I-81 between there and Salem used the
old B&O right-of-way but as has already been noted on
these pages, pieces of the old stonework are still
visible here and there if one knows where to look.

I look forward to further discussions regrading this
whole topic, especially, the SV's operations of the
Valley RR for 6 months.

Bob Cohen
ORL96782 at yahoo.com

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