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Salem, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
The Catawba Branch
Hanging Rock Battlefield Trail
 
The Catawba Branch Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Kevin W., December 28, 2008
1. The Catawba Branch Marker
 
Inscription. The rail line later referred to as the Catawba Branch of the Norfolk and Western Railway had its beginnings on March 25, 1902, when the Catawba Valley Railway and Mining Company was approved by the General Assembly of Virginia. This line was typical of the numerous small, single purpose railroads begun in the period from 1880 to 1910. The line was constructed to haul a fine grade of silica sand for glass container manufacturing from the base of Catawba Mountain to a plant located just east of Salemís Norfolk and Western Passenger station. Construction began in Salem in 1906 at the juncture with the Norfolk and Westernís main line, and was completed in October 1907. The road measured 9.39 miles in length and operated independently until it was conveyed to the Norfolk and Western by deed on July 30, 1909.

In November 1908, the Commonwealth of Virginia purchased the Roanoke Red Sulphur Springs property in Catawba to establish a sanatorium for the care of tuberculosis patients. The Catawba Sanatorium opened on July 30, 1909. Because of the poor condition of the roads in the area, the railroad became a crucial link to the hospital as transportation for both patients and supplies. The train with its two passenger cars made two round trips per day.

As continued improvements to local roads allowed for faster and more economical
 
The Catawba Branch Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Kevin W., December 28, 2008
2. The Catawba Branch Marker
 
Jitney transport, passenger service on the rail line was discontinued in 1936. The overall construction of the sanatorium was complete by 1939, and supplies moving by rail decreased. In 1943, the approximately four-mile line from Hanging Rock to the end of track in Catawba was abandoned. An additional factor in the closing of the railroad was the critical need of steel for war materials. On the last date of service, July 28, 1943, a work train finished removing the remaining steel track.

At the time the tracks were dismantled, the sanatorium received coal by rail for its power plant. In order to fulfill this need, the railroad constructed a coal unloading facility at Hanging Rock on property owned by the sanatorium. With its small wooden station, the Hanging Rock site became the end of the line until the mid-1990ís. The station was removed in the early 1970s, and in late 1993, Norfolk Southern officially abandoned nearly a mile of track to the end of the branch. The track was removed from this portion in the summer of 1995, clearing the way for development of the Hanging Rock walking and biking trail.
 
Erected 1999 by County of Roanoke, the City of Salem, and the Hanging Rock Battlefield and Railway Preservation Foundation.
 
Location. 37° 19.181′ N, 80° 2.292′ W. Marker is in Salem, Virginia. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Keesler Mill Drive. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Salem VA 24153, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Two Future Presidents In Wartime Retreat (approx. 0.4 miles away); Hanging Rock (approx. 0.4 miles away); 100th Anniversary of Hanging Rock (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Hanging Rock Coal Trestle (approx. half a mile away); McCausland Attacks (approx. half a mile away); Garst/Kesler Mill (approx. 0.6 miles away); The Battle of Hanging Rock (approx. 0.6 miles away); George Morgan Jones (approx. 0.6 miles away).
 
More about this marker. Marker is one of several interpretive signs along the cinder-surfaced, 1.7-mile long Hanging Rock Battlefield Trail that winds along Mason Creek and Kessler Mill Road in Salem, Virginia.

The photo on the marker is of a, "typical scene on the Catawba Branch in the mid-1950s." The photograph was taken by William P. Cecil and provided for use on the marker the Roanoke Chapter National Railway Historical Society Collection.
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on January 9, 2009, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia. This page has been viewed 716 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on January 9, 2009, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia.
 
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