Potts Valley Branch Question

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Tue Oct 10 21:41:53 EDT 2017

Today’s highway (WV Route 17) departs the RR right of way just south (or west) of Waiteville and rejoins the RR at the top of the divide which is just north (or east) of Kire. The RR used two switchbacks (in the form of horseshoe curves) to climb the 600 feet necessary to get over the divide. The highway obviously takes a more direct route to the divide.


Again the highway (VA County Rd 635) briefly departs from the grade at Kire in order to bypass both approaches to the trestle that no longer exist.


There is what appears to be an old section foreman’s house (private residence) still standing on the south side across Big Stoney Creek below Interior.


Water tanks foundations remain as well as the trestle piers of stone for the two high trestles over Shepard’s Branch and Crozer’s Branch (accessed via the rails-to-trails path).


The shelter/shed at Laurel Branch stood into the 1980’s until consumed by fire.


John Garner

Newport, VA


From: NW Mailing List [mailto:nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org] 
Sent: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 3:47 PM
To: NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org>
Subject: Re: Potts Valley Branch Question



You are probably aware of the well-annotated, 10-page article on the Potts Valley branch in Vol. 18, No. 4 issue of The Arrow.  The article states that the charter for the Virginia and Potts Creek RR portion of the line extended from MP 34.18 to end of track at MP 38.33.  Your ETT shows the Paint Bank MP to be 38.2.  The short mileage difference between Paint Bank and the end of track is consistent with my understanding that the only track beyond the station was the wye track.  Incidentally, the cited article has a couple of paragraphs with the author's description of the relation of today's highway to the former branch road bed.

Gordon Hamilton


On 10/10/2017 12:58 PM, NW Mailing List wrote:

QUESTION:  The N&W held charter rights to extend (what became) the Potts Valley Branch all the way to Potts Creek, Va,  five or so miles north of Paint Bank, Va.  Did they ever exercise this privilege, and actually build to Potts Creek ?

I have just spent two days with Google Earth, mapping and scaling off distances given in Radford Division T.T. No. 35,  dated April 20, 1930.  (Google Earth is a powerful tool, and enables one to scale off and measure distances on the satellite imagery to tenths of a foot.)  I was looking for places which no longer appear on maps, e.g. Crafts, Foley and Petit listed in the T.T. (none of which had sidings in 1930.)

One thing for which I was looking was the highest elevation on the Branch, and I found it to be about a mile south (Time Table "east") of Kire, Va., at 2700 feet.  This was the watershed between the Big Stony Creek which flowed southward to New River, and the Potts Creek which flowed northward to the James River at Covington.

I was unable to locate Petit and Foley with any reasonable accuracy.  The T.T. gives a distance of 7.5 miles between Ray Siding and Kire, which are known points.  (Ray Siding at 15.6 miles south of Paint Bank, Petit at 19.2,  Foley at 21.9, and Kire at 23.1.)  The Time Table overstates the distance between Ray Siding and Kire by better than a mile, so measuring along the right-of-way  from either known point (southward from Ray Siding, and northward from Kire) gave conflicting locations for Petit and Foley.  And there is  virtually no possibility that the present highway in the area uses an alignment different from the railroad's alignment.   The T.T. is simply wrong... it is not that far from Ray's Switch to Kire.  Only an examination of the Valuation Maps would resolve the issue.

As someone who spent 20 years as "keeper of the Time Table" for one-forth of a certain major Eastern railroad (about 3,000  miles of it,) I am well aware of the subjectivities and vagueries of Time Table mileages.  First of all, they are (usually) given to only one decimal place, which introduces a potential measuring error of 1/10th of a mile,  520 feet.  Second, almost never were they subjected to scrutiny or the attempt to correct them... whatever had been printed in the T.T.  forever was just perpetuated in following Time Tables.   Third, in the absence of a depot or station name sign, mileages were usually stated by referring to the first switch of the passing siding, calculating from MP 0.0 on a branch, and those things often changed, or even went away entirely, and I am unaware of the N&W's practice of assigning T.T. mileages with respect to siding switches.

Here is a little story to show you how such things go...  Some years ago I was involved in a six month project to install a big interlocking where three main lines and one branch line came together.  One problem was that the new interlocking was over a mile long.  What mile post + decimal would I use to show it in the T.T. ?   Some investigation and conversations with the oldest heads in the System Signal Department Office (guys who had been around forever and knew everything) revealed that the protocol had always been (but unknown to me) to use the location of the "instrument house" as the decimal location for an interlocking.  But this new, big interlocking was over a mile long and had THREE "instrument houses," with express cable extending between them, and they were not close together.  We finally decided the right thing to do was to base the Time Table mileage on the location of the PRINCIPAL "instrument house," that is, the one with the most relays in it.  And that is what we did, and the Time Table mileage I used for that interlocking two decades ago still stand in the present N.S. Time Table for that territory, although I am sure no one left today understands why that number was chosen !

The USGS Topo maps have been of little help in my investigations, as maps were only published for this area in 1923 and 1945 (after the branch was abandoned.)  The 1923 topo does not show the Potts Valley Branch extending north of the wye at Paint Bank depot.  And the 1945 topo does not indicate abandoned railroad grades.


Your reward for having read through all the above blathering is the attached PDF, which shows the Potts Valley Branch  station pages from the 1930 T.T. 

-- abram burnett
                  Sent to You from my Telegraph Key
Successor to the MAGNETIC TELEGRAPH LINE of 1844

http://www.nwhs.org/mailinglist/2017/20171010.N <http://www.nwhs.org/mailinglist/2017/20171010.N&W_Radford%20Div_TT%20No%2035_4-20-1930_Narrows%20&%20Potts%20Valley%20Branches%20+%20Cover.pdf> &W_Radford%20Div_TT%20No%2035_4-20-1930_Narrows%20&%20Potts%20Valley%20Branches%20+%20Cover.pdf

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