Shenandoah Valley, where it is and is NOT and which RR came when and where for a start

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Sat Oct 12 22:35:32 EDT 2019

So many items to be corrected here I almost don't know where to start.

1) The Manassas Gap RR began construction in 1851 near Manassas Junction,
reached Strasburg in 1854 and Mt. Jackson in 1859 before running out of
money and time. The Civil War intervened and it was not completed until
some serious corporate changes occurring after the war and arrived in
Harrisonburg on December 11, 1868. Later the B&O got financial control of
the former company which now owned this line and the B&O leased the west
end of the Harrisonburg Branch as part of its planned main thrust south
using the under construction VRR as part of that.

2) The Valley RR of Virginia is a whole different animal and started
construction (as planned) from Harrisonburg to Staunton in late 1871,
arriving in Staunton on March 19, 1874. Construction between Staunton and
Salem began in the summer of 1873 under totally different contracts and its
construction ceased for all time in November 1874. The Staunton to
Lexington piece was built under a totally different contract between 1881
and October 19, 1883 as a direct response to the Richmond & Allegheny RR
building over the James R & Kannawha Canal charter. The Lexington to Salem
segment had about $600,000 worth of construction done, or about a third to
a quarter necessary for completion when it was halted. Even today, you can
find remnants IF you know where to look. They aren't that easy to find
without a knowledgeable guidebook. I know, I've tried.

This does not include the quite visible remnants of the VRR between
Staunton and Raphine, where much of the r-o-w is visible from I-81, most
notably the stone bridge at milemarker 219, which in fact was completed in
1874 and had to wait 9 years before it first felt the breath of the iron
horse in the late summer of 1883. This segment was also the first and only
section thus far to be abandoned, that becoming effective with the c.o.b
November 1, 1942. It last felt the breath of the iron horse across its
flanks in July 1943 as the Chesapeake Western scrap trains pulled up the
rails. The rails had been removed between the East Lexington wye and Mint
Spring as reported, by June 28, 1943. It is these pieces which people still
can see from I-81 and often confuse with the never completed line south of

3) The SVRR came about as the PRR was trying to invade the deep south after
the Civil War and construction started after charter were obtained in the 3
states it would be built in: WV, Va., and MD. Mason Cooper's fine book
about the SVRR pretty well tells this story but basically after the Panic
of 1873 hit in September 1873 construction halted and restarted under a new
contract in 1879 and the line was built between Hagerstown & Big Lick
opening to that latter point in June 1882. The SVRR reached from near
Shenandoah Junction to Front Royal in January 1880 and Waynesboro in 1881.

Mason's book delves into the politics and financial stuff better than we
can here but by this time, the PRR was no longer at the forefront of this
project but other Philadelphia interests were.

These are two entirely different railroad companies, built many years apart
and under different political schemes.

This is the "Cliff-notes" abbreviated version. Feel free to interrogate me
off-line about specifics of the Manassas Gap and Valley RR line for more
specific clarification or better yet, purchase my book which pretty well
explains the B&O/Southern line from Harpers Ferry to Lexington, 162 miles
long and 51.23 miles short of reaching Salem.

Bob Cohen

Massanutten Mountain, located in Shenandoah and Rockingham Counties,
Virginia, is a mountain of approximately 47 miles in length and
somethinglike 11 miles wide in places, and curiously lies smack-
dab in the floor of the Shenandoah Valley, running on the same
longitudinal axis as
the valley.
Its north end is at Strasburg, Va, and its south end is near
Harrisonburg and Elkton.

The Shenandoah Valley RR located itself on the east side of
Massanutten Mountain, passing through Front Royal, Bentonville,
Rileyville, Luray,Stanley, Shenandoah and Elkton.

The B&O's Valley Railroad, and Interstate Highway 81, lie on the west
side of Massanutten Mountain, passing through Woodstock, Mount
Jackson, New Market and Harrisonburg.

Of the two floors of the Shenandoah Valley, the one on the west side
of Massanutten Mountain affords the most favorable location for a
railroad, grade- wise.
All you need to do to see this graphically is look at the satellite
imagery in Google Maps, and turn on the Terrain feature.
Ingham Hill, the pusher grade north out of Shenandoah, could have been
avoided had the railroad located on the west side of the mountain.

So the question is, why did the Shenandoah Valley RR choose to locate
on the least favorable of the two routes around Massanutten Mountain?

If one answers that the SV chose the eastern location due to the iron
ore deposits around present-
day Shenandoah, Va, I would suggest that there were iron ore deposits
on the west side of the mountain, as well.
(Check any early book or map dealing with Virginia minerals.)

My guess is that "prominent people," and their wealth and influence,
were already located on the east side of the mountain, and advocated
for the construction of thew new railroad through their own area, so
as to enhance their own interests.
Is this correct? Was that prominent person William Milnes?
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