Virginian in 1910--Eyewitness account

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Mon Dec 7 14:08:45 EST 2009

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
June 24, 1910

Coal Trade Journal Says Princeton is Destined to Become Important Point
F. S. W. in Coal Trade Journal: In view of all that has been said in regard to the Virginian Railway, it must be admitted that the commencement of the line at Deepwater, W. Va., something like two hours' ride east from Charleston, the state capital, makes rather an inauspicious introduction to the important undertaking that the road admittedly is. At this little wayside point one sees no apparent signs of the great enterprise that lies beyond, and the condition of affairs indicates very plainly that for the time being the management has no thoughts of an extension to the lakes, as was so frequently referred to a year or more ago.
As a matter of fact, the road from Deepwater in about as far as Eccles is simply such a coal region branch as other companies have laid down from time to time without thought of adding 400 miles to its length or constructing any portion of a trunk line. Imagine, the Bull Hill branch of the Erie laid with heavy rails, and one has a fair idea of this portion of the road, and the old original Deepwater line, dating back to its origin to about 1898. Some side tracks are now being built, but apparently no great amount of attention is paid to this portion of the road, for some broken cars, remains of wrecks, are to be seen; the ditches through the cuts are not cleaned of the debris that has fallen down through the winter, and the stations are either very small or are non-existent, the train simply stopping at a designated point after the manner of an inter-urban trolley. There are no signs showing the names of any of the stations, and inquiry is the only means of knowing where one may be at a designated moment.
The coal and coke operations at Page present a business like appearance, and the store and office buildings at Herberton show up well--quite the most attractive place on this part of the line, it might be said.
As one rides further along and gets into the section from which coal begins to move to tidewater in larger volume an improvement in conditions is to be noted, and it is seen that considerable ballasting is in progress.
As is generally known, this part of the country is rugged, and the railroad lines twist around remarkably. The Chesapeake & Ohio has a branch into Virginian territory, which approaches the line at Eccles and continues on some three or four miles to Lester; while the Norfolk and Western has a branch in from Bluestone Junction to Matoaka and to mines beyond. This leaves a comparatively limited distance in which the Virginian Railway is the only means of communication with the outside world.
The part of the road between Eccles and Jenny Gap was somewhat hastily built, in order to secure possession in advance of the Chesapeake & Ohio of the all-important right-of-way through that section. This secured, the builders of the road could proceed more leisurely, and beyond Mullens one has evidence of the good construction upon which rests the fame of the Virginian Railway. From this point on the complimentary allusions are altogether appropriate and well-deserved, and while necessarily in the case of a new line the road-bed is a little soft and fast running is not to be indulged in, the line gives promise of a great future and is quite a different undertaking from the old original route in from Deepwater, whereon wooden trestles are quite frequent.
Notwithstanding the newness of the work on this part of the line, it is said that steps are already under consideration for certain improvements, with a view to securing still easier grades and avoiding or reducing certain curves.
We notice some little peculiarities in management, in that time-tables seem to be scarce. The road issues an attractive illustrated folder, but none of these could be had at Charleston or elsewhere, apparently. And, for another thing, the club car on the train presented a somewhat undignified appearance with one of its windows mended by attaching a block of wood on either side of a broken glass, but possibly this was only temporary.
Princeton, which is twelve miles from Bluefield, is destined to be the most important point on the mountain section of the road. Here large shops are being erected, and the size thereof is in most notable contrast to the small buildings which one sees at characteristic coal-region towns. While Princeton is a very old place, being the county seat of Mercer county, it has taken on new life and is being practically reconstructed by reason of the great increase in population and industrial activity that will follow the opening up of the large shops of the railroad company at this point. The old county roads which served as streets have been re-graded and while they are very rough at the present time, the local gossip is to the effect that macadamizing is to be put under way at once and reference is made to a water system and other modern improvements. There is already a trolley line running one car back and forth between the court house and the station, and altogether Princeton seems to be one of the coming places of that section of the state.
There are some who say that this is the best point at which to transfer for Bluefield. One is told at various places that there is an automobile stage line between the two points, but this is not altogether a certainty, depending quite properly upon whether the automobile is in running order. We had to make the trip by hack, and while the road was [a] very fair one for a mountain district, the ride is long and probably the transfer at Pearisburg, as heretofore mentioned in the Journal, is as good a way as any by which to make connections. Every one has some suggestion to make in regard to the best place for changing from one road to the other, but none of them is easy and probably the best plan is not to arrange for any such joint service excepting in case of necessity, for the railroad schedules by no means favor joint traffic arrangements.
Riding east on the Norfolk and Western the Virginian is in sight for miles at a time and some fine work can be seen. Concrete culverts and foundations are much in evidence and the two bridges crossing the New River are splendid structures. There are a few wooden trestles here, also, but in general the construction is of the most advanced type.
[I wonder why the writer left the Virginian at Princeton and took the N&W east of Bluefield instead of continuing on the Virginian.]

Gordon Hamilton
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