Buford's Gap

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Sat Feb 27 00:34:36 EST 2016

Google has a number of BUFORD'S GAP entries, including a Wikipedia piece 
and a paragraph in The Union Army: Cyclopedia of Battles, regarding a 20 
June 1864 minor action at Buford's Gap.

The most comprehensive Google article is "Bufords of Bedford County, 
VA," sketching the story of the four Buford brothers who would become 
prominent landowners in today's Blue Ridge-Montvale area.

The Gap straddles the line between Bedford and Botetourt Counties, VA, 
at MP 245.63 (12733+18.9) on the N&W mainline just east of Blue Ridge.  
That's a stone's throw east beyond the east end (12738 approx.) of the 
utility pusher siding running off the EB main back to opposite the Blue 
Ridge station.  Some years ago I walked the entire Blue Ridge trackage 
area; as I recall the maximum trackage elevation is at the 
"photographer's bridge east"--12721+11.7--(not the celebrated 
"photographer's bridge west" about a mile west of the Blue Ridge 
station), on a private road serving a small development. (Locations from 
the 6/16 N&W track map)  From that bridge you could spot, until 
demolition in the late '50s, the Villamont tower on the WB main.

In my V30, n1/Arrow /Blue Ridge grades article several years ago, I 
refer to Buford's Gap at several points.  The main photo, from the NWHS 
archives, has pusher Y6 2135 at Blue Ridge; the head-end power, out of 
sight, already would have passed through the center of the Gap and 
likely photographer's bridge east, too.  All:  pause and fancy a 
hooter's blast.

Frank Gibson

On 02/26/2016 11:01 AM, NW Mailing List wrote:
> I first stumbled across the term "Buford's Gap" as a teeneager, 
> burrowing through all the history books in the Virginia Room of the 
> Roanoke Library, nearly sixty years ago. The books said the Virginia & 
> Tennessee Railroad crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains at Buford's Gap, 
> but I could find no further information on "Buford's Gap." With each 
> successive stumbling over that name, the desire to figure it out has 
> become more intense.
> Recently, Mr. Charlie Long sent me some coordinates for old iron ore 
> pits at Villamont, and the satellite imagery contained an 
> identification mark for the mysterious Buford's Gap at Lat 37.3936, 
> Lon -79.7814, elevation 1242 feet. My long-smouldering curiosity was 
> relit, and I headed for Google Earth. (Don't worry, you will get a 
> nice image showing all the following information...)
> One of the nice features of Google Earth's rendition of the satellite 
> imagery is a tool which enables the viewer to exaggerate the vertical 
> scale by 300%, which really makes the geography stand out. When I 
> activated that tool, Buford's Gap literally jumped off the screen at 
> me. Here's what I found.
> 1. Very interestingly, the geospatial imaging programs place the 
> Buford's Gap marker right on the N&W main line, not on the roadway or 
> hillside.
> 2. Blue Ridge Station sits about 8345 feet west of the coordinates 
> listed for Buford's Gap, at an elevation of 1269 feet, or about 47 
> feet higher than the elevation given for Buford's Gap.
> 3. The highest point in the track is about 3100 feet east of Blue 
> Ridge depot and about 5245 feet west of Buford's Gap marker, and about 
> 42 feet higher in elevation than Blue Ridge depot, and about 69 feet 
> higher than the elevation given for Buford's Gap.
> 4. The elevations for the track are as follows:
> Buford's Gap designated location - track elev 1242 ft, coordinates 
> 37.3936 -79.7951
> Highest location in track - track elev 1311 ft, 5245 ft west of 
> Buford's Gap designated location, coordinates 37.3847 -79.7951
> Blue Ridge depot - track elev 1269 ft, 83456 ft west of Buford's Gap 
> designated location, coordinates 37.3778 -79.8012
> 5. And now comes the really dramatic part... With Google Earth's 
> vertical scale exaggerator ramped up to 300%, three towering peaks are 
> obvious at Buford's Gap, two on the north side of the track, and one 
> on the south side. (The attached image shows all this.) The two north 
> peaks are 1690 feet and 2141 feet in elevation, and the south peak is 
> 2340 feet in elevation, or about 1098 feet higher than track level. 
> The two peaks nearest the track are separated by about 4100 feet. NOW 
> the meaning of Buford's "GAP" became obvious. Thanks to Google Earth, 
> a question of almost 60 years' standing has been answered.
> In the attached image, I have marked the N&W alignment with a blue 
> line, and have placed a red double-ended arrow between the two peaks 
> which form Buford's "Gap" and through which the railroad passes. The 
> location and elevations of Buford's Gap, Blue Ridge depot, and the 
> highest point in the track are also marked on the image.
> CAVEAT: The elevation tool in Google Earth is not perfect, and GPS 
> coordinates sometimes differ by as much as 75 feet from program to 
> program, due to a number of complex factors.
> HOMEWORK: To the Sage-of-All-Sages, Mr. Aytsch Bundy: This is in your 
> own backyard. So go find out who Buford was, where he lived and when, 
> and who first associated his name with this unique geographical 
> feature. For extra credit, find out if he has posterity still living 
> in your 'hood, and go conduct an oral history interview.
> Attachment.
> -- abram burnett
> no-stone-left-unturned guy
> ===========================
> Sent to You from my Telegraph Key
> ... better than AT&T 4G LTE
> ===========================
> Moderator:
> http://nwhs.org/mailinglist/2016/20160226.NW_Bufords_Gap_Google_Earth_work_up_2-26-2016.jpg
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