The Valley Railroad

The Valley Railroad (HM9TQ)

Location: Salem, VA 24153
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Country: United States of America
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N 37° 18.702', W 80° 2.005'

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Hanging Rock Battlefield Trail

The Valley Railroad, chartered February 23, 1866 and developed between 1867 and 1870, is of significance to the nation's railroad industry. In the mid-1800's the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad planned a railroad line to span the length of the Shenandoah Valley and tap the region's valuable resources - agricultural products, iron, and manganese - as well as to access the new coal fields in Southern West Virginia and Kentucky. The new railroad was designed to link Salem, Lexington, and Harrisonburg, connecting with additional lines at Salem and Staunton. This transportation system would effectively haul the valley's goods northward.

The first president and organizer of the Valley Railroad was Colonel Michael G. Harman, commanding officer of the 52nd Virginia Infantry. Robert E. Lee, who was serving at that time as president of Washington College in Lexington, became the second president of the Valley Railroad, but died before work had begun on the line. Lee was succeeded by Robert Garrett.

The rail line was built as far south as Lexington in 1883. Construction had begun on the Salem stretch - most of the roadbed was graded, cuts were made in the hillsides, abutments erected for bridges, culverts built. But no rails were ever laid. The economic "Panic of 1873" and competition with the Shenandoah Valley Railroad, which extended from Hagerstown, Maryland, to Roanoke, Virginia had stymied the Valley Railroad's completion. All work on the rail line ceased in 1879.

One of the most famous railroad contractors, Clairborne Rice Mason, helped to build the Valley Railroad. It was said that "where Mason went, the railroad followed." He is also known for his work as a bridge builder for Stonewall Jackson during the 1862 Valley Campaign.

The Hanging Rock trail traces 0.3 miles of the Valley Railroad corridor. Substantial earthwork for the roadbed is still visible. At one point along North Mill Road, west of here toward Thompson Memorial Drive, the view southward through the wooded lots reveals the larger of two stone viaducts, built circa 1870 for the never-completed Valley Railroad. Today these viaducts are in excellent condition, and serve as a confirmation of the engineering capabilities of the railroad builders before the age of dynamite and mechanized earth-moving equipment.

The Valley Railroad captured the public's attention during the post-Civil War era and was greatly favored locally. Its story remains an important chapter in transportation history.
HM NumberHM9TQ
Year Placed1999
Placed ByCounty of Roanoke, the City of Salem, and the Hanging Rock Battlefield and Railway Preservation Foundation
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 at 11:02am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)17S E 585651 N 4129889
Decimal Degrees37.31170000, -80.03341667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 37° 18.702', W 80° 2.005'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds37° 18' 42.12" N, 80° 2' 0.30" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)540
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 1504-1508 Hanging Rock Battlefield Trail, Salem VA 24153, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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