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Abandoned Rails


Virginian Railway - Sewells Point to Victoria

Most railfans and historians recall the Virginian (VGN) as one of the major Appalachian coal haulers.  Two of my favorite segments of this railroad are the Sewells Point and Jarratt Districts of the old Norfolk Division.  As a result of the 1959 takeover by the Norfolk & Western (N&W), the Jarratt District quickly became a redundant, parallel route with little business along the way.  In time the line from Algren to Abilene was abandoned and the track removed with some of the rail not being dismantled until the early 1990's. 

Between 2002 and 2008 I was able to document various segments of the remaining trackage and right-of-way that once comprised the Sewells Point and Jarratt Districts. 

Appreciation is also extended to the other like-minded railfans and history buffs who have contributed photos to this page.  If you have images that you'd like to contribute, please e-mail me.




Sewell's Point

Sewell's Point was the eastern terminus of the Virginian Railway and named after Henry Sewell.  There were two coal piers used to load the colliers.  On the left is Coal Pier No. 1 that was built in 1909 and completed for a cost of $2.5 million.  On the right is Coal Pierce No. 2, completed in 1925 and later upgraded in late 1950's.  Both served the VGN faithfully until it's 1959 merger with the N&W at which time coal loading operations were transferred to the N&W's Lambert's Point facility.  The piers physically survived until 1966 when they were sold to the U.S. Navy.  Naval Station Norfolk currently occupies all of the land that once comprised the piers, ground storage facility, engine terminal and yard at Sewell's Point. 

Photo by Evan Siler - June 1961


Quartermaster Junction - A5.8

This view is looking railroad east from Granby Street in Norfolk towards Sewell's Point.  Underneath the I-564 bridge in the distance is Quartermaster Junction.  Here the track branches off and continues compass west one mile to the Norfolk International Terminals.  To continue straight will take you on to West Junction and right onto the property of Naval Station Norfolk where the Sewell's Point facility was located.  It was abandoned in the early 1970's when the US Navy wanted to expand the runways on the airfield.  Sewell's Point was also becoming more of a storage yard as most activity occurred at nearby Lambert's Point.  I doubt if I will ever attempt any photos on base due to post 9/11 security issues.  This line was double-tracked during the Virginian era from Sewell's Point to Carolina Junction.

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - March 15, 2003

Coleman Place - A1.4

This "tower" is of typical Virginian architecture and materials.  It once guarded the diamond at Coleman Place where the Norfolk Southern Railway crossed the Virginian in Norfolk.

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - February 15, 2003

Carolina Junction - V4.5

The Norfolk Southern Railway and the Virginian crossed at grade again at Carolina Junction in the City of Chesapeake.  The diamond has long been removed and connection tracks now allow movements through the immediate area. 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - August 3, 2002

South Norfolk - V5.1

One of the major diamonds in the Tidewater area was at South Norfolk.  Here the Virginian crossed over the N&W's mainline leading to Lambert's Point.  During the Virginian era, this was a busy location with the two rival companies  shuttling coal to the awaiting Colliers in Hampton Roads.  The Virginian mainline ran along the right edge of the photo between the two poles in the right side of the photo.  The track in the foreground is the connection track to the N&W's Portlock Yard and existed as far back as the steam era.  The diamond was eventually removed and two new connection tracks were installed in the northeast and northwest quadrants.

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - August 2, 2003

South Norfolk Tower - V5.1

The tower at South Norfolk controlled train movements across the diamond with the N&W at the north end of Portlock Yard.  The Virginian mainline once ran just to the left of the structure in this photo. 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - February 1, 2002


Here we are looking west towards Suffolk from the City of Chesapeake.  This photo was taken at the Ramp Shop Road grade crossing which is approximately one mile west of the South Branch Bridge over the Elizabeth River.  There is a cement plant just behind me and I believe it's the westernmost business on the existing Jarratt District trackage in Tidewater.  I have not investigated the line any further to the west through Chesapeake, but plan to do so in the future.

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - August 2, 2003

Sunray - Homestead Road

This view is looking south on Homestead Road near Sunray toward it's intersection with Sondej Road.  The former VGN mainline is still easily identifiable.

Photo by Sam Holben - March 2010


This small concrete bridge is located about 2/3 of a mile west of the former crossing at Algren along Sondej Avenue.  If you look closely you'll see exposed rail above the center of the structure.  

Photo by Sam Holben - March 2010

Algren - V15.4

About halfway between Norfolk and Suffolk, the Virginian crossed the Seaboard Air Line (SAL) at grade.  This location was known as Algren and is easily accessible from US 460.  This photo is just east of Algren looking south down Snowden Road where it intersects with Sondej Avenue.  This old grade crossing is about 1,000 ft. east of where the diamond was once located.  One can only guess at what purpose the concrete base to the left of the road served.  It's on the wrong side of the road for a crossing gate.  Perhaps it served as the base for the distant signal to the diamond? 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - August 2, 2003

Algren - V15.4

Steve Hammer submitted this excellent view looking east at Algren where the Virginian and the SAL crossed at grade.  The last remnants of the Virginian track are still visible in this 1992 photograph.  The exact location of the former crossing is about 400' east of where Bisco Street crossed both mainlines. 

Photo by Steve Hammer - July 1992

Algren - V17.0

The four proceeding photographs show the remnants of the eastbound distant signal to the diamond at Algren.  As noted by the number plates in the above photo, the signal was located at mile 17.0.  In the third photo you can see the former SAL mainline (now the CSX Portsmouth Subdivision) which ran parallel to the Virginian between Algren and Suffolk.  Many thanks to Bill Whitbeck for braving the elements to capture these images. 


Kilby - V26.0

In this 2008 photo we are looking west at Kilby, where the N&W's Norfolk to Roanoke mainline crossed over both the Seaboard Air Line (SAL) and the Virginian.  The red line to the right represents where the VGN tracks once laid.   The single track in the left of the photo was the ex-SAL main between Norlina, NC and Portsmouth, VA.  This track is now CSX's Portsmouth Subdivision with the line being abandoned from Garysburg, NC to Norlina.  The N&W's bridge is visible in the distance while the large concrete bridge carries US 13/58 around Suffolk on what is called the Northern Bypass.

Kenyon - V27.7

We are on the west side of Suffolk in this view looking west from the old Kenyon Road grade crossing which is in the process of being removed. 

Sedley - V46.0

Looking east near Sedley.

Photo by Steve Hammer - December 1991

Sedley - V46.0

Another view from Sedley, this time looking west towards Victoria. 

Photo by Steve Hammer - December 1991


An eastward view from Sebrell.  

Photo by Steve Hammer - December 1991


Looking west from Sebrell. 

Photo by Steve Hammer - December 1991

Jarratt - V73.3

In a view looking towards the east, we see what is left of the Virginian in Jarratt.  This short stretch of track remains active as it is used by CSX to serve the Georgia Pacific wood chip plant on the west end of town.  Just east of this spot there was once a diamond where the Virginian crossed the Atlantic Coast Line's Richmond-Jacksonville double-track main at grade.  Today the route is CSX's North End Subdivision and sees on average 30+ trains per day.  The rise in the distance is Interstate 95.

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - September 2002

Jarratt Tower - V73.3

The tower at Jarratt was a modern structure by Virginian standards.  It is my understanding that after the structure was built, it was never occupied.  Just behind where I'm standing is the CSX mainline.  Note the old Virginian pole to the right of the building still sporting three cross arms.  Can you only picture this scene in the late 1950's with a pair of Fairbanks-Morse Train Masters waiting to cross the diamond while the ACL's Champion blows past with a purple and silver E unit on the point?    

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - July 2, 2001

Alberta - V98.0

Not much to be seen here.  This view is looking east towards Norfolk from Church St. in Alberta.

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - January 4, 2002

Alberta - V98.0

In this unique view, we are once again looking east down the old roadbed.  This is where the Virginian crossed over the Seaboard Air Line (SAL) on a bridge.  Both lines were abandoned in the mid-1980's.  It's hard to believe such high drama took place in a location that looks like this.  The Virginian and Seaboard Air Line had a joint station located in the northwestern quadrant of the crossing.  In the early days, there was an elevator to aide passengers in reaching the platform for Virginian trains.  That station was later replaced by a smaller, more humble structure which still stands, albeit buried in a thicket of pine trees.  You can learn more about the abandoned Seaboard Air Line through Alberta here

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - April 2002

Alberta - V98.0

Here we are standing in "downtown" Alberta on Main St. looking west and can get a true sense of where the tracks once ran.  The electrical box and code line pole are long forgotten infrastructure from a truly magnificent operation. 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - January 4, 2002

Alberta Water Tower - V98.0

The old water tower that served the Virginian in Alberta. 

Photo by Steve Hammer - July 1992

Danieltown - V104.0

While driving down Route 137 I happened upon this old underpass near Danieltown.  The old roadbed can easily be made out thanks to the recent snowfall.  The concrete abutments still sported faded chevrons which were painted for the safety of approaching motorists.

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - January 4, 2002

Victoria - V123.0

One of the more recognized locations on the Virginian was Victoria.  Fifty years ago I would have been standing in the middle of the yard next to the passenger station.  The silver water tank to the right was once utilized by the railroad.  The Route 49 overpass is referred to by locals simply as "the bridge".  This view is looking west towards Roanoke.

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - January 4, 2002

Victoria - V123.0

An eastward view from "the bridge" offers this overview of the site that the yard and shop complex once occupied.  The roundhouse was located in the wooded area on the right side of photo.  Much of this area is now a rail heritage park dedicated to the Virginian Railway.  The centerpiece of the park is Virginian C-10 caboose No. 342 which was placed on-site December 22, 2004. 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins - May 17, 2003



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