Expedition to Pigg River

Franklin and Pittsyvlania RR - the old F&P, Gretna, Virginia
We began near Darby Road at the first point and traveled to the river (the 2nd point). Also shown is part of the route west of the Pigg River that we could see. (Click to enlarge.)

Earlier this month, Tex Carter, Wayland Moore, and Nathan White set off west on Virginia 40 from Gretna towards the Darby Road area to pick up the old railroad and walk to the site of the Pigg River Bridge.

Our goal? To figure out exactly where the railroad ran in this area.

Google Earth has helped us virtually explore the line, yet there remains parts, such as this section, that are still tricky to nail down.

However, with “boots on the ground”, the path of the old Franklin & Pittsylvania Railroad was unmistakable. At times the line was built up and at other times we walked through large cuts.

Additionally, we crossed three creeks, all with varying degrees of difficulty (Potter Creek was the most difficult!). Too bad the old bridges weren’t there to help us across!

The Pigg River bridge back during railroad days. Note the supports as well as the covered bridge.
The Pigg River bridge back during railroad days. Note the supports as well as the covered bridge.

Hugging the at-times 30+ foot tall cliffs, the railroad paralleled the Pigg River for a good stretch. It was along these cliffs where we came upon the site of the old water tank. Lem Carter, Tex’s grandfather, was struck when the train passed under the water hose on the tank and was knocked off the train. He later died from his injuries.

The rocks were stained from years of moisture from the natural spring which fed the water tank. Coal and cinders were scattered about.

Part of the metal band that once wrapped around the tank was still on the ground. Standing there, trying to imagine the old trains passing through, was a little breath-taking.

Franklin & Pittsylvania Railroad
Some of the coal found along the line.

We continued on towards the Pigg River and could see the bridge supports still standing. The fact that they were over 100 years old and in still great condition is impressive.

We hope our next expedition is to the west side of the Pigg River. Stay tuned for more reports and pictures!

Click the pictures below for a larger version:

Franklin and Pittsylvania Railroad (F&P - the old Fast & Perfect)
Tex takes a look at the cut of the old F&P Railroad.
Franklin and Pittsylvania Railroad (F&P - the old Fast & Perfect)
Wayland Moore stands next to the stone work of a culvert underneath the roadbed , which can be seen up above.
Franklin and Pittsylvania Railroad (F&P - the old Fast & Perfect)
Close-up of the stone work for the culvert.
Franklin and Pittsylvania Railroad (F&P - the old Fast & Perfect)
Tex stands with Potter Creek on the left and the roadbed of the old F&P on the right.
Franklin and Pittsylvania Railroad (F&P - the old Fast & Perfect)
Tex and Wayland looking down the cut.
Franklin and Pittsylvania Railroad (F&P - the old Fast & Perfect)
Admiring some of the rock that had to be cut through.
Franklin and Pittsylvania Railroad (F&P - the old Fast & Perfect)
The other side of Potter Creek where the Franklin & Pittsylvania Railroad crossed, which proved to be rather difficult to cross.
Franklin and Pittsylvania Railroad (F&P - the old Fast & Perfect)
Walking down the cut of the old F&P Railroad.
Franklin and Pittsylvania Railroad (F&P - the old Fast & Perfect)
Walking further down the cut.
Franklin and Pittsylvania Railroad (F&P - the old Fast & Perfect)
Looking at the site of the water tank near the Pigg River. Note the discolored rocks at the bottom left, indicating years of moisture from the spring. The water tank collected from this spring.
20140117-IMG_9361
Part of the metal band that was around the water tank.
Franklin and Pittsylvania Railroad (F&P - the old Fast & Perfect)
The east bridge support at the Franklin & Pittsylvania Railroad’s crossing of the Pigg River.
Franklin and Pittsylvania Railroad (F&P - the old Fast & Perfect)
A closer look.
Franklin and Pittsylvania Railroad (F&P - the old Fast & Perfect)
The west support of the Pigg River Bridge is in the background.
Franklin and Pittsylvania Railroad (F&P - the old Fast & Perfect)
Another angle of the bridge support.

 

Meet John S. Barbour, Jr

john-s-barbour

The Franklin & Pittsylvania RR would probably never have been built had it not been for its connection with the Washington City, Virginia Midland and Great Southern Railroad (WC, VM & GSRR). It was the agreement between its president, John S. Barbour and Franklin Co. officials that made the building of the F&P possible.

John Barbour was the driving force behind the Orange & Alexandria Railroad; being elected its president in 1851 at the young age of thirty. By 1873 that road had joined forces with the Lynchburg & Danville RR that was still under construction. It was at this time the name changed to the WC, VM & GSRR and John Barbour was elected president of the entire line.

Barbour’s agreement to lease the F&P, after its construction was financed by Franklin Co., sealed the deal that made the building of the F&P possible.

John S. Barbour, Jr. was born 29 December, 1820 near Culpeper, Virginia. He later graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in law and began practice in 1841.He was elected as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1847 to 1851.

In 1867, after the Civil War was over, he took control of the stock and equipment of the Manassas Gap Railroad and merged it to make the Orange, Alexandria and Manassas Gap Railroad. Under his leadership expansion continued south toward Lynchburg where the agreement to join his line with the Lynchburg & Danville Railroad was made. As a result of the merger Barbour became president of the entire line from Alexandria to Danville.

By 1876 that line was in receivership and under control of the court. They appointed Barbour as the receiver of the line. Less than a year later he made plans to extend a branch line to Pittsville that resulted in a much needed boost for the rail line. This seven mile branch joined the main line where present day Gretna is located.

Barbour seems to have taken the job as railroad president almost as a hobby although he ran it with great zeal. He took every opportunity to expand and grow and add to the business.

He was independently wealthy, as was his immediate family. In the 1860 census we find the following entry for him:

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1860 federal census Culpepper Co. Va P.857 Romeland P.O.

John S. Barbour age 39 male President Orange & Alexandria RR

Real Estate $30,000 Personal $15,000

Eliza age 60 (mother) lady $26,000

Sallie age 41 (wife)

Edward age 26 male real estate $8,000 personal $6,000

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Barbour ran the Virginia Midland until it was finally taken over by the Richmond and Danville Railroad in 1886. After that he served in the United States Senate from 1888 until his death in 1892.

Barbour lived during times of opportunity for men with drive and ambition and he had both. It could be argued he never reached his goal of building a railroad that prospered financially as it remained in receivership for many years. However,  one must remember he took the controls of a fledgling business and built it into a transportation system that crossed the entire state of Virginia bringing with it transportation, jobs and economic opportunity for the entire area.