CSX Railroad in Virginia

the modern CSX rairoad operates major rail yards at Clifton Forge, Petersburg, Newport News, and Richmond, plus terminals to transfer cargo (including ethanol) at Fredericksburg, Richmond, and Portsmouth
the modern CSX rairoad operates major rail yards at Clifton Forge, Petersburg, Newport News, and Richmond, plus terminals to transfer cargo (including ethanol) at Fredericksburg, Richmond, and Portsmouth
Source: CSX Railroad, Virginia

The oldest Virginia-based component of the CSX is the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac (RF&P) Railroad, chartered in 1834.

The second-oldest component is the Louisa Railroad. That line began in 1836, with its main business being the transport of farm products from farms in the Piedmont to Richmond. Starting in 1849, it became the Virginia Central. During the Civil War, the rail line was heavily damaged. In 1869, Collis P. Huntington acquired the Virginia Central, and it was renamed the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Railway Company in 1878.

It remained the Chesapeake and Ohio until 1973. A merger with the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad resulted in a name change to Chessie System Railroads. The Seaboard System was added in 1980, and that expansion led to the final name of CSX Corporation.1

Before the Civil War, there were plans to extend the Virginia Central west to the coal fields of West Virginia via Harrisonburg. The railroad would cross the Blue Ridge at Thornton Gap, where Route 211 today connects Sperryville with Luray in the Shenandoah Valley. The same gap was the target for the Royal Land Company's plans in 1876 to extend the Potomac, Fredericksburg & Piedmont (PF&P) across the Blue Ridge.2

In the end, the Virginia Central crossed the Blue Ridge at Afton Gap, where Claudius Crozet built the only tunnel in Virginia to cross the mountains.

The Chesapeake and Ohio's Lewis Tunnel, finished in 1873, is one candidate for the location where the legendary "steel drivin' man" John Henry used his sledge hammer to race a steam drill. According to historian Scott Reynolds Nelson, Henry was a prisoner rented by the Virginia Penitentiary to the railroad.

The lungs of the workers building that tunnel were damaged by silica dust inhaled during construction. That dust facilitated tuberculosis and pneumonia, or directly caused death within several years through silicosis. The prisoners were unable to go on strike to obtain better working conditions, and:3

The use of steam drills on the sandstone in the Lewis Tunnel... probably killed every worker in the tunnel in the space of a few years.

the Lewis Tunnel was constructed in Alleghany County to help the C&O Railroad cross the watershed divide between the headwaters of the James River in Virginia and the Greenbrier River in West Virginia
the Lewis Tunnel was constructed in Alleghany County to help the C&O Railroad cross the watershed divide between the headwaters of the James River in Virginia and the Greenbrier River in West Virginia
Source: ESRI, ArcGIS Online

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