N&W in 1911--Portsmouth

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Sun Mar 6 12:17:15 EST 2011

Dear Gordon,

This is very interesting information. I have been studying the history of
the Portsmouth station for awhile with the possibility of writing a book on
it sometime if everything comes together (interest in the subject, finances,
my ability (or lack of) to do such a project, etc.). Anyway, this is the
earliest reference that I am aware of the N&W wanting to construct a new
station in Portsmouth. The earliest reference that I had was a letter dated
1914, so this information is very useful and many thanks!

Interesting to note probably why the station was not built at this location
and at this particular time. In 1911, the N&W station was at Tenth & Waller
Streets in Portsmouth (the former CP&V station that the N&W had acquired in
1901) and was in a rather cramped and highly congested area of the City.
Added to that situation was the B&O also operated an important line in the
same immediate area- even running parallel in several spots. Many
confrontations between both roads occurred over the years in regard to
crossover tracks (so one railroad or the other could reach a business siding
they served), signal operations, track maintenance, highway grade crossings,
which railroad would pay for what, all in all a giant and drawn out mess
that lasted for years. Plus, let's not even consider the fact that
Portsmouth also operated a streetcar line in the same area in question- more
operational headaches!

Although there is no written evidence to back this, there is no doubt that
the B&O would have done everything in its power to stop such a station
project, especially since their station in Portsmouth was an outdated wooden
structure on the City's south-western edge at Market Street- several blocks
away. It would have been a slap in the face for the rival N&W to construct
an elegant station in the center of town and right next to their own B&O
line. The B&O had been in Portsmouth several years longer than the N&W, and
while the B&O was willing to work with them on many projects, they were not
going to take a back seat and let the N&W win the public relations war. It
was a tug-of-war between both roads to win over the citizens (and more
importantly the businesses) of Portsmouth. Of course, the N&W would
eventually win but it took awhile.

Without written proof, I cannot say the B&O put a stop to this project by
themselves. More likely it was a combination of traffic congestion (both
rail and highway), bad location, bad timing, and the probability of more
headaches with a worthy railroad rival that was always ready for a good

The fact the N&W did not do this particular project was a blessing. As
Gordon mentioned and most of you know, twenty years later one of the finest
passenger depots ever built (yes, I am biased!) opened about six blocks
away, and the rest is history.

Jim Detty
Lucasville, Ohio

-----Original Message-----
From: nw-mailing-list-bounces at nwhs.org
[mailto:nw-mailing-list-bounces at nwhs.org] On Behalf Of NW Mailing List
Sent: Saturday, March 05, 2011 9:00 PM
To: 3N&W Mailing List
Subject: N&W in 1911--Portsmouth

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
July 15, 1911

Portsmouth Hears That It Is to have $125,000 Station

It is stated in Norfolk and Western circles that the officials of the
road have decided to build a magnificent passenger station in Portsmouth,
says the Times of that city. Just how soon the work will begin is not
known, but it is an established fact that the city is to get an elegant new
depot within the next few month. This much is assured.
President L. E. Johnson, it is understood, has had the place and
specifications ready for some time. He appreciates the fact that the city
has not kept after the officials of the road and now their patience is to be
rewarded by the erection of a $125,000 depot, which will easily be the
finest along the entire Norfolk and Western system. This is no roundhouse
yarn, but real facts as will be forcibly demonstrated in the near future.
It is said the new structure will be built on the site of the present depot.
[Regardless of the reporter's conviction, N&W Annual Reports do not mention
any new stations in Portsmouth until a handsome new station was built in

Gordon Hamilton

More information about the NW-Mailing-List mailing list