US 460

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Tue Mar 24 09:27:35 EDT 2020

On Mon, Mar 23, 2020 at 11:06 PM Mike wrote:

> My understanding is the 460 is essentially the Virginian Right of Way.
> Going to and from Roanoke, at Narrows, there are tracks on both sides of
> the New River. Are both of those N&W, is this one of the areas where N&W
> and Virginian competed?  Do I have it all wrong?
> Thank you.

The Virginian came from Kellysville, W. Va. high on the ridge, crossed the
East River valley on a high trestle, rolled across the bluff above the APCO
plant at Glen Lyn, then crossed the N&W and New River on another trestle.
It gradually dropped closer to the river, which it followed through Rich
Creek, past its power plant at Narrows, then continued along the river
toward the Celenese plant and on east.

After the merger, the N&W used the Virginian to move eastbound coal from
West Virginia east. There was a crossover in Kellysville that allowed
eastbound trains from Bluefield to cross over to the Virginian. Connections
in Roanoke allowed trains to move into the N&W yard or continue east on the

In the 1960s, the Virginia Department of Highways determined that the
narrow, winding, two-lane two-way road on the bluffs between Narrows and
Rich Creek was inadequate. Engineers cast their eyes on the wide flat right
of way along the river and struck a deal with the N&W. If the railroad
abandoned the line between Glen Lyn (and actually beyond) and Narrows, the
VDH would build two new bridges. One would allow traffic to move from the
VGN line at Kellysville to the N&W for the trip up the river, with the
second just east of Narrows to allow trains to regain the VGN tracks for
the easier trip east (Whitethorne grade was easier than the climb from
Walton to Christiansburg). The deal was done, the railroad became the
eastbound lanes of U.S. 460 and the VGN trestle over the East River came
down, along with the approach bridging to the New River trestle (the
disconnected bridge over the river remained into the '70s).

West Virginia got into the act and snapped up the Virginian right of way
through Hale's Gap as part of its project to build a new four-lane U.S. 460
from Glen Lyn to Princeton. This project included filling/removing
(research needs to be done here) the Hale's Gap Tunnel that carried the VGN
under the top of the gap.

See for
info about how things changed from U.S. 460 road construction in Virginia
and West Virginia.

Bruce in Blacksburg
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