Downtown Roanoke in Roanoke, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Roanoke - A Railroad Town
The David R. and Susan S. Goode Railwalk
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.
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.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Railroads & Streetcars.
Location. 37° 16.387′ N, 79° 56.339′ W. Marker is in Downtown Roanoke in Roanoke, Virginia. Marker is at the intersection of Norfolk Avenue SE and Market Street SE, on the right when traveling west on Norfolk Avenue SE. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Roanoke VA 24011, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Operation Fast Freight (here, next to this marker); The Finest Steam Passenger Locomotive (here, next to this marker); Power Behind the Nation (here, next to this marker); Norfolk and Western Railway (here, next to this marker); Roanoke Shops (a few steps from this marker); Today's Rail Traffic (within shouting distance of this marker); Norfolk and Western Passenger Station (within shouting distance of this marker); The Market Square Walkway (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Downtown Roanoke.
More about this marker. The David R. and Susan S. Goode Railwalk is a 1/3-mile linear park along the railroad tracks in Roanoke, Virginia.
All pictures are Norfolk and Western Railway photos provided for the marker from the collection of Kenneth L. Miller. Their captions follow:
[top photo]: Class J with the Powhatan Arrow departing Roanoke, February 1955.
[top left photo]: The N&W’s “Army” marched on downtown Roanoke daily as employees leave for lunch.
The picture immediately below is about the former General Office buildings. The General Offices consisted mainly of two major structures, the “old” building, located closest to the tracks built in 1896, and the “new” building, completed in 1931.
Below the former General Office buildings picture is one of the passenger station. The remodeled N&W passenger station is based on a 1905 structure, extensively remodeled and opened on April 1, 1949, featured a large open lobby with ticket counter, and huge system map. Today the lobby has been restored and is used as a visitor center.
On the bottom center of the marker is a picture about the Virginian Railway. Virginian used huge electric locomotives between Elmore, West Virginia and Roanoke. An eastbound coal train is seen here at Castle Rock in an official company photo
On the bottom right is, One of the “largest locomotive in the world” pulling a record length coal train on the Virginian.
Also at the bottom right are, Postcard views of Virginian’s two Roanoke depots. Only the passenger station survives.
The pictures were provided for the marker are Norfolk and Western Railway photos, provided from the collection of Kenneth L. Miller.
Credits. This page was last revised on April 17, 2020. It was originally submitted on January 15, 2009, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,181 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on January 15, 2009, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia.