Image of the C&O for Progress monogram A graphic image of the words C&O Piedmont Subdivision

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Richmond

C&O Milepost 85


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Overview

The eastern end of the Piedmont Sub was in the Virginia state capital of Richmond. To the south and east of the city, the Peninsula Sub terminated in Fulton Yard, the largest railroad yard in Richmond. From Fulton, trains traversed the James River Viaduct. From the Viaduct they could either continue west to Clifton Forge via the James River Line or turn north to the C&O’s Main Street Station. Main Street Station served both C&O and Seaboard Air Line trains. After leaving the station, trains returned to ground level and entered the C&O’s 17th Street Yard. The Piedmont Sub originated here.

Main Street Station in February of 1974.
The SAL was to the left, the C&O to the
right. (LaVerne Brummel photo, used with
permission)
The train sheds at Main Street
Station, January, 1973. (LaVerne
Brummel photo, used with
permission)

The C&O (then the Virginia Central) reached Richmond 1851. Its first station in the city was located on Broad Street, between 16th and 17th Streets. In the 1870’s, an outlet was needed on the James River for West Virginia coal. A site on the James River was selected and construction of a facility (called James River) was begun near the current site of Fulton Yard. Access to the site required a tunnel under Church Hill. The line to Church Hill Tunnel was just to the east of 17th Street Yard. Construction was begun on February 1, 1872 and completed on December 11, 1873. The tunnel was closed in 1901 when the Viaduct was completed, but was reopened in 1925. That same year, Church Hill Tunnel collapsed on a work train, killing the engineer and at least two others. The tunnel was sealed shut in 1926 but the tracks remained in place until 1989.

This is the east portal of the Church Hill
tunnel. Fulton Yard was about ½ mile east
of here. (Photo November, 2008 by Gleb
Taran. Used with permission.)
This is the west portal of the Church Hill
tunnel. Faintly visible in the concrete is
“1926”, the date the portal was sealed.
(Photo November, 2008 by Gleb Taran.
Used with permission.)

For a large part of its existence, the C&O’s main offices were located in Richmond. They burned in January of 1900 as a result of faulty flues. During the Civil War, the Virginia Central moved its offices to Charlottesville to avoid Federal raids.

Fulton Yard

The C&O’s Fulton Yard was built sometime after 1896. The original plans were for a much larger facility than was actually built, though Fulton was still the largest rail yard in Richmond. Fulton was a long curved yard with approximately 35 tracks and served the Peninsula Subdivision and the James River Line.

The engine facilities included a 26 stall roundhouse that was built in 3 stages. The first stage was built in 1900 and had 8 stalls that were 120' deep. The second 8 stalls were built in 1920 and were also 120' deep. The final stage was built in 1930 and consisted of 10 130' stalls. The roundhouse was demolished in 1970.

The original 100' turntable was replaced by a 115' one in April of 1927. Other facilities included an Fairbanks Morse elevator type coaling station with an 800 ton capacity and a machine shop.

In the mid-1970’s, Fulton had 16 tracks on its east-bound side, with capacities ranging from 8 cars to 160 cars. The west-bound side had 10 tracks (the smallest held 40 cars, the largest, 160 cars). The caboose track was located between the east- and west-bound tracks. The C&O’s interchange with the Southern Railway, located on Park Siding, was reached from Fulton Yard over a long trestle over Gillins Creek.

Main Street Station

Main Street Station, built on the site of the old St. Charles Hotel, was a union station built to serve the C&O and the SAL. It opened on November 27, 1901. The SAL, however, moved to Broad Street Station in 1959. The French Renaissance-style station was the transportation focal point of Richmond for 50 years. It was closed by Amtrak October 15, 1975 after being badly damaged in the James River floods of 1969 and 1972. From then until the Newport News to Charlottesville trains were discontinued in June of 1976, passengers for those trains were bused to Ellerson from Broad Street Station. A developer bought the station in 1983 with plans to turn it into a mall. Disaster struck shortly thereafter when a fire destroyed the roof. It was restored and the mall opened in 1985. The mall was not successful, however, and closed in 1985. In 1990, the Virginia Department of Health opened offices in the station. Recently, the city of Richmond reached an agreement with the state to purchase Main Street Station and restore it to use as a commuter train station and transportation hub.

In this 1936 photo we see Train Number 1, The George Washington, just pulling away from Main Street Station. If she’s on time, it’s 5:30 in the afternoon. By 8:17 she’ll be in Charlottesville on the other end of the Piedmont Sub. (Wiley Bryan photo. From the collection of Wayne Kendrick. Used with permission) This image of Main Street Station is from a postcard that was post marked December 31, 1915. (From the collection of Larry Z. Daily)
These two photos by Gleb Taran show Main Street Station in June of 1984 amd show the results of the devastating fire in 1983. (Photos by Gleb Taran. Used with permission.)
This image of Main Street Station is from a postcard. The card is undated,
but was used. I could not, however, read the postmark. I can tell you that
the sender used a 2¢ stamp. (From the collection of Larry Z. Daily.)

17th Street Yard

17th Street Yard ran roughly north-south between 17th Street and Shockoe Creek. The north end of the yard was near the ALCO plant along Potter and Mill Streets and the south end was near Washington Street. Yard facilities included a passenger car repair facility (closed in the 1960’s), a paint shop, a 70' turntable and 12-stall roundhouse, and a stock pen (closed in 1959). In the mid-1970’s, the C&O’s interchange traffic with the Seaboard Coast Line was handled through 17th Street Yard.

The Triple Crossing

Perhaps one of the most famous places in Richmond is the Triple Crossing. At that point, near the banks of the James River, three different railroads crossed one over the other. The Southern was at ground level, the Seaboard Airline crossed on one bridge, and the C&O, on its James River Viaduct, was on top. The photo above dates to the 1950’s. The images to the right are both from a vintage postcards. I don't know the date of the top one, but the style of the cars and the American type locomotive argues for late 1800’s or early 1900’s. As for the bottom picture, Consolidation 433 was built in 1903 and was renumbered in 1924, so this image is from sometime between those dates. (All images from postcards in the collection of Larry Z. Daily)
In the photos to the left, the top one shows the Triple Crossing in 1966. The bottom one shows the Triple Crossing from an angle I’ve never seen it from before. The trains were staged there in honor of the opening of the Richmond floodwall in 1994. (Top: September 1, 1966 by Charles Houser, Sr. From a slide in the collection of Larry Z. Daily. Bottom: 1994 photo by Mark Herrmann, used with permission.)

Map


This map was prepared from U.S.G.S. topological maps, C&O track charts dated 1963, C&O Side Track Records dated 1937, a copy of the Side Track Records updated through the 1990’s, and C&O Valuation maps, also updated through the 1990’s.

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Copyright © 1997-2014 Larry Z. Daily. All rights reserved.

All materials on this Web site are protected by United States copyright law. This includes, but is not limited to, articles and graphics. Unless otherwise indicated, these materials are the property of Larry Z. Daily and may not be used without prior written permission of Larry Z. Daily

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