The David R. and Susan S. Goode Railwalk
In recent years, Roanoke has shed its image as a "railroad town" as others have surpassed the railroad as the major employer. However, without the N&W, Roanoke might not have existed. For those who wish to deny the impact of the railroad on Roanoke, one only needs to look about from where you stand.
A turn to your right and you see part of the large Roanoke Shops complex, almost directly ahead, the N&W passenger station, now home to The Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, and O. Winston Link Museum, next N&W-built Hotel Roanoke and to your left, the former General Office buildings, the N&W's headquarters for over 100 years.
A single industry can rarely provide as much influence and community contribution as the N&W did in its day. The N&W was a "family" and even in its darkest days of the Great Depression, the N&W did not layoff a single worker. Rail traffic was down by vast numbers in 1930-1936 and the last thing a company wanted to do is spend money. But the N&W did, building and rebuilding new locomotives the entire time, with reduced hours in the Shops.
Roanoke's "Other" Railroad
Often overshadowed and forgotten is Roanoke's "other railroad, the Virginian Railway. Located about a mile south of this location, the Virginian was never as flashy or influential to Roanoke, but remains a vital part of today's Norfolk Southern.
The Virginian was a latecomer to the scene; one of only a handful of major railroads entirely constructed after 1900. The Virginian was financed by a single person, Henry Huttleston Rogers, who had made his fortune with the Standard Oil Company. Rogers was rebuffed by the N&W and C&O on reasonable rates to move coal from West Virginia to the coast. So he built his own railroad!
The Virginian never did anything small, buying the biggest locomotives, cars and became a "coal conveyor" to Tidewater.
The Virginian also had the benefit of easier grades east of Roanoke, and was coveted by the Norfolk and Western, on December 1, 1959, Virginian became part of the N&W.