“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Afton in Nelson County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Claudius Crozet

The Blue Ridge Tunnel

Claudius Crozet Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), April 9, 2021
1. Claudius Crozet Marker
Claudius Crozet (1789-1864) was born in France and grew up in Paris. In June 1816, he married, and the newlyweds soon sailed to the United States. They landed in a country that matched Crozet's temperament. In France, he had studied engineering, attended artillery school, and served in Austria, Holland and Russia as an officer in Napoleon's army—all before immigrating at age twenty-six. In America, the same restless motion, at ever-increasing speeds, marked the mood of the people.

Shortly after Crozet arrived, he was appointed assistant professor of engineering at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York. Seven years later, he became chief engineer for Virginia's Board of Public Works. He used the position to campaign for railroads—not canals—as the best way for linking tidewater Virginia with the state's western border at the Ohio River. His goals met with resistance from canal investors in the General Assembly. They forced Crozet's resignation in 1831.

But by 1837, railroads were in the ascendancy. The Board of Public Works admitted that Virginia lagged behind other states and re-hired Crozet that

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same year. He set off with assistants to discern the best railroad route across the Blue Ridge Mountains. They found it at Rockfish Gap. Though state budget cuts led to termination of Crozet's position in 1842, eventually Virginia could no longer ignore citizens' demands for a railroad through the mountains. The Board of Public Works hired Crozet for the third time in 1849. His task was to design the Blue Ridge Railroad. Construction began in late 1849 and continued for a decade.

A stream of garbled petitions from local citizens calling for investigation of Crozet's management first appeared in 1853, emerged again in 1856 and erupted multiple times in 1857. An esteemed engineer, he had little reason to subject himself to further criticism and resigned in January 1858. The permanent Blue Ridge Railroad opened on April 13, 1858. It is unknown if Claudius Crozet—as a passenger—ever rode a train along those tracks or saw daylight shining at the end of the Blue Ridge Tunnel he had designed.
Erected 2020 by Nelson County Parks & Recreation.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Government & PoliticsRailroads & Streetcars. A significant historical month for this entry is January 1858.
Location. 38° 1.919′ N, 78° 50.751′ W. Marker is in Afton, Virginia, in Nelson

Claudius Crozet Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), April 9, 2021
2. Claudius Crozet Marker
County. Marker is on Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail, 0.2 miles west of Afton Depot Lane, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Afton VA 22920, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Blue Ridge Railroad (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); Virginia's Nineteenth-Century Transportation Challenges (about 700 feet away); East Trailhead (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Laborers (approx. ¼ mile away); Blue Ridge Tunnel (approx. ¼ mile away); Flight of Richard C. duPont (approx. 0.3 miles away); Rockfish Gap Meeting (approx. 0.3 miles away); Greenwood-Afton Rural Historic District (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Afton.
Credits. This page was last revised on April 11, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 11, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 203 times since then and 29 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on April 11, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.

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Jun. 16, 2024