VIRGINIA BLUE RIDGE RAILWAY
© Steven P. Hepler 2012
Remnants Of The VBR...
|After the VBR ceased operations and the rails were ripped up, the former locomotive shop and maintenance buildings at Piney River remained standing, although converted for other uses.||
VBR Piney River Shop facilities, May 1957
|VBR Piney River Enginehouse, Oct. 1960||With the passing of time there have been many changes along the VBR. In the mid-2000's the old corrugated sheet-metal and wood-framed enginehouse (dating from the 1930's) caught fire and was destroyed. A modern replacement of similar dimensions now stands nearby, albeit for non-railroad use.
VBR Piney River Depot, August 1941
Southern Railway Tye River, VA Depot
Photo: Earle H. Gil, Sr.
Virginia Blue Ridge Railway Trail...Yesterday & Today
|The trail came about in 1997 when The Virginia Blue Ridge Railway Trail Foundation, Inc. was founded by a group of citizens from Virginia's Nelson and Amherst Counties for the purpose of converting the VBR's abandoned right-of-way into a hiking trail. Trail foundation members gained support from county governments, local businesses and private individuals. A portion of the former right-of-way of the VBR was held by an adjacent property owner, attorney Stephen C. Martin of Amherst, VA, along with his wife Popie, who was more than willing to donate the roadbed to the Foundation's cause. In 1999, the first of seven “Transportation Enhancement Grants”, as well as a number of other grants enabled the vision of the trail become a reality.||
March 31, 2011
Click to Enlarge
|After six years of planning, fundraising and actual construction, the first portion of the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway Trail (Link takes some time to load) opened to the public on June 7, 2003. At that time, the walkway consisted of two trail heads (Piney River and Roses Mill), nearly 2 miles of trail surface, and a renovated 200-foot long bridge. A few years later, additional grants enabled 4 additional bridges to be rebuilt for pedestrian use, as well as clearing the edges of the path and laying down surfacing material to extend the trail from Roses Mill to Tye River.
March 25, 1961
|The hiking trail begins at the old Piney River depot in Nelson County and follows the Piney River itself East 1.8 miles to Roses Mill in Amherst County. Continuing Eastward the trail crosses back into Nelson County 3.5 miles down river just below the confluence of the Piney and Tye Rivers and then passes under Route 29. The pathway wanders through the countryside and presents views of the rolling hills, farms and the waterways. To this day, the route of the VBR offers little evidence of civilization, and retains its bucolic ambiance. Wildlife and flowers are everywhere and the trail is a safe and pleasing experience for all who come to enjoy everything it has to offer.||
No. 6 leads a freight East out of Piney River, 1953
April 3, 2012
|A February 4, 2012 article in The Daily Progress of Charlottesville, VA noted that a new phase of the VBR Trail Project had commenced. Plans include obtaining, restoring and displaying a caboose at Piney River; putting up 50 signs about the history of the area and the railroad along the trail; preserving one of the VBR's old dump cars and a handcar; and renovating the Tye River weigh station at the end of the trail and re-installing its scales. The VBR depot at Piney River on Route 151 will be restored and provide a home for exhibits on the history of the railroad and Hurricane Camille. Additional plans include the completion of the last segment of the trail and building a traditional railroad cover for the Naked Creek Bridge.
No. 12 pulls its train past the
Tye River Scale House in 1978
|Although the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway is now long-gone from the rural Dixie scene, there are still many citizens of the peaceful Nelson County area who fondly cast their minds back through the mists of time to another era. It was a time when one could witness the steam locomotives of “Th' Blue Ridge” throwing their smokey exhausts high into the air as they struggled to pull heavily-laden freight cars along the banks of the Piney River. A time when the call of the steam whistle could be heard floating and echoing among the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and all was right with the world.|
A Sincere Thanks to the following individuals who assisted with information, documents and photographs related to the history and operations of the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway:
Kurt R. Bell, Railroad Archivist II; PA State Archives, Harrisburg, PA
Kermit Geary, Sr.
Earle H. Gil, Sr., Collection of Steve Hepler
Theodore F. Gleichmann, Jr.
William T. Greenberg
John Krause - VBR Black & White Negative Files, Collection of Steve Hepler
Alan W. Maples, President; Everett Railroad, Duncansville, PA
J.C. McHugh, President; McHugh Locomotive & Crane, Fairless Hills, PA
Paul M. Saunders, President; Saunders Brothers, Inc., Piney River, VA
|Heartbeats of Nelson|
|by Paul M. Saunders|
|March 2007 - Saunders Publishing, LLC, Piney River, VA|
|Sentimental Journey – Being a History of the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway|
|by Carl M. Lathrop|
|1979 - Carl M. Lathrop, Madison, NJ|
|Steam Days on the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway|
|by John J. Hilton & Randolph Kean|
|1975 National Capitol Historical Museum of Transportation, Inc., Arlington, VA|