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Virginia Air Line

Lindsay to Strathmore


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The Virginia Air Line (VAL) connected the C&O’s Piedmont Sub to the Rivanna Sub of the James River Line. The connection with the Piedmont Sub was at Lindsay and the connection with the James River Line was at Strathmore. The VAL was the brain child of George Stevens, president of the C&O from 1900 to 1920 and was incorporated on April 10, 1906. Construction stated in Lindsay in October, 1906 and was completed in October, 1908. The line was operated independently from its completion until July 1, 1909, when the C&O took over operations. This arrangement lasted until the VAL was purchased by the C&O in July of 1912. The C&O used the VAL to move loads that were too high or too wide to pass through the tunnels of the Mountain Subdivision west of Charlottesville. In addition, coal for Washington and northern Virginia came down the James River Line, then up the VAL and on through Gordonsville and then to Washington over the Washington Subdivision. In the 1950’s, a young girl named Ethel Mae Robinson lived along the VAL tracks. She waved at the passing trains so consistently that the trainmen began to look for her as they passed. She so brightened their days that they began buying her presents, a gesture that continued into her teenage years. Mae Robinson DeLong recently emailed me with information about her family. Her father and both of her grandfathers worked for the C&O, as did her husband (see the People of the Piedmont page). The VAL was removed in the 1970’s. Below is a brief summary of the VAL’s history.
This photo shows where the VAL branched off from the Piedmont Sub. The mainline is to the right. (Photo June, 2008 by Lindsay M. Harrington. Used with permission.)
Date Event
April 10, 1906 The Virginia Air Line Railway was chartered by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
October, 1906 Construction began.
October, 1908 Construction was completed. Operation began under VAL control.
July 2, 1909 The C&O began operating the VAL.
July 12, 1912 The VAL was sold to the C&O.
February 21, 1927 Passenger service reduced to one daily train in each direction.
June 1, 1932 Passenger service replaced by mixed train service.
June 23, 1954 Mixed train service ended.
1971 The C&O announced that it would abandon the VAL.
October 26, 1971 Fluvanna Board of Supervisors begins a suit to keep the VAL open.
March, 1972 The ICC allows the abandonment to proceed.
August 1, 1973 Last round trip train from Lindsay to Strathmore.
1974 Environmental Protection Agency placed a one-year delay on the abandonment.
January 30, 1975 ICC formally approves the abandonment plans.
November 3, 1975 The VAL was officially abandoned.
August 25, 1978 Track removal was completed.

Photos


This undated postcard image shows the Fork Union depot when the railroad was still the Virginia Air Line. That suggests a date prior to 1912. (From the collection of Larry Z. Daily)

Map


This map was prepared from a copy of a Side Track Record provided by Wendell McChord.

This map was prepared from C&O valuation drawings.

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