Lexington to Buena Vista

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Abandoned r-o-w behind some former customers in Lexington, VA. Photo by Mike Palmer, May 2004.

This Chesapeake & Ohio branch connected Lexington with the James River mainline (see also the The Valley Railroad line). Part of the branch used trackage rights on the Norfolk & Western (now Norfolk Southern). The abandoned segment, between East Lexington and Buena Vista, followed the north bank of the Maury River. Much of it has been converted to the Chessie Nature Trail.

Thanks to Mike Palmer for contributing information about this route.

This line was active untill Hurricane Camille's remnants washed out several tressels in 1969 then it was abandoned afterwards.

Clay Wiseman
Greenville, VA
12/7/2009

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The MoPac box car shown in the picture to the right has been removed and scrapped.

John Cook
Lexington, VA
2/6/2011

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Has anyone traced the former C&O line south from Buena Vista to Glasgow where it met up with the James River Line?

The Richmond & Alleghany RR built that branch in the 1880s. It went through my family's ancestral farm a few miles just south of Buena Vista. I believe it was abandoned around 1903 in favor of trackage rights on the N&W.

Today there's a Chessie Lane or Road down by the Maury River that intersects a loop road off the BV-Glasgow Hwy.

Dennis Hogan
Frisco, TX
2/1/2015

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I think flood damage caused the C&O (R&A) to go across the Maury River (then the North River) and use the N&W tracks fro Glasgow to Buena Vista. There was a bridge a mile or so south of town where the C&O came back to their own trackage.

Tony
Albrightsville, PA
6/23/2016

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When I mentioned flood damage, it wasn't the 1969 flood. It was in the early 1900's. Camille in 1969 was the death certificate for the Buena Vista - Lexington part. It became the Chessie Trail, a really beautiful hike of about 7 miles. Since it became the trail, another flood washed out a steel truss bridge, creating a detour on the trail.

Tony
Albrightsville, PA
6/23/2016

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If you look at the little "spur" on the satellite view, it was actually a "Wye" into B&O tracks from Lexington to Staunton. The C&O train from Buena Vista would turn there, and back into Lexington. The house with the shinny silver roof was in the vortex of the Wye. There are some other abandoned railroads in the area, but I haven't figured out how to present them here. Who do I call?

Tony
Albrightsville, PA
6/23/2016

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The C&O Historical Society published a softcover book just this year on this branch. It is a very valuable resource in terms of photographs, maps, history, etc.

It also includes information about the B&O line which entered Lexington.

Dennis Hogan
Frisco , TX
6/23/2016

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Yeah, I'm familiar with the book. I believe I contributed some stuff to the author some years back. Lyons? Can't remember is name, if it's the same book. There was a brick plant and several other industries on the C&O south of BV.

Tony
Albrightsville, PA
6/23/2016

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Sorry to monopolize the site today, but this is an interesting note. Some of the old RoW from Glasgow to Buena Vista, abandoned in the early 1900's, was originally the tow path for the North River Navigation, a canal built before the Civil War. The R&A bought the Right-of-Way and used it as the road bed for the railroad, known as the Lexington Branch. The old stone abutments for the little trestle across Chalk Mine run (?) in Buena Vista, across from the motel, were used to make an aqueduct across the creek for the canal that went from Glasgow up to Lexington, along the Maury River - originally the North river. There was a book on the Lexington Branch about 20 years ago, to which I contributed. I still have a home in Buena Vista, and an interest in local railroads, etc.

Tony
Albrightsville, PA
6/23/2016

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I have county record copies (circa early 1880's) of the sales agreement between the R&A and my ancestors who farmed just south of what later became Buena Vista since the 1830s. Part of the railroad cut across their property. That's how I became aware of the branch.

Yes, part of the right-of-way was along the canal tow path.

I believe the road that diverges away from Hwy 501 along the Maury River is pretty much on most of the right-of-way. Certainly near it.

Dennis Hogan
Frisco, TX
6/23/2016

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Dennis, are you referring to River Rd?

Ryan Overstreet
Bedford , VA
3/6/2017

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Yes, River Road sounds right.

Dennis Hogan
Frisco, TX
3/6/2017

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Thanks Dennis. I've gone over that area using Google earth many times and never knew that a rail line once ran through there. I plan on driving river road this weekend to check it out in person.

Ryan Overstreet
Bedford , VA
3/9/2017

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Good luck, Ryan! Let us know what you discover. I think River Road might be built on part of right-of-way. The Chessie Lane that intersects River Road possibly just honors the heritage of the branch and does not overlay the actual route.

That book on the Lexington Branch published by the C&O Historical Society is your best resource!

Ten years ago or so I rode a special train from Roanoke to Shenandoah VA on the N&W side of the Maury River. I was glued to the window when we were south of Buena Vista.

Dennis Hogan
Frisco, TX
3/9/2017

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It's funny you mention the C&O Lexington Branch book as my copy just showed up in the mail today.

Ryan Overstreet
Bedford , VA
3/9/2017

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Ryan: Other resources of value are the publications of the Virginia Canals & Navigation Society. You can find them on the internet. I have "The Maury River Atlas" and "A Guide to the Works of the James River & Kanawha Company." Loads of maps and site information in each publication!

If you follow the Glasgow Highway (Hwy 501) south out of Buena Vista and go just past the River Road (Route 663) turn off about a half mile, you should see a two-story white house on the right. Much of that land west and south of there to the river belonged to my ancestors. In fact, the tract shows up in a 1850s Lexington area map on display at the VMI Museum. It was once part of property owned by Washington College (Washington & Lee).

Back to River Road. The atlas I mentioned indicates a location called Gooch's Cut less than a mile or so from the Hwy 501 turn-off onto River Road. It's the first major bend in the road following a bend in the river. The atlas states it was a deep cut for the R&A RR below which the railroad used a trestle and ledges on the hillside.

Further south on River Road you might find remains of Goose Neck Dam which is portrayed in some of the nocturnal photography of the N&W by O. Winston Link.

By the way, Stonewall Jackson's funeral barge came by way of the canal to Lexington (pre-railroad, of course).

Dennis Hogan
Frisco , TX
3/9/2017

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I know it's been awhile but I finally made it out to River Rd. I took a few pics if anyone is interested.

One thing I've never noticed before is a stone bridge abutment right on the side of the road less than a mile from 130 on the left. Also I found what looks like an old power house on the opposite side of the river from River Rd.

Ryan Overstreet
Bedford , VA
4/15/2017

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Shortened Link: http://a-r.us/ku8

Do you have any pictures or information about Lexington to Buena Vista? Please . You will get credit for anything you contribute.