Although leased & operated by other railroads for most of its existence it was always owned by Franklin Co. until 1922 when it was purchased by Nathaniel Angle, a prominent Rocky Mount citizen and business man.
The F&P was a relatively late arrival as far as railroads go, being finished in 1880. The county had attempted to build a railroad as early as 1872, only seven years after the end of the Civil War. Another effort was made a year later in 1873, the same year Rocky Mount was incorporated. In both cases investment money was not available and the dream of a railroad sat dormant.
The events that made the F&P possible were brought about by the president of the Orange, Alexandria and Manassas Gap Railroad, John S. Barbour. In 1871 Barbour entered into an agreement with the Lynchburg & Danville Railroad, then in the planning stages, to join their lines.
The Lynchburg & Danville was built between 1872 and 1874. While in the middle of construction, in 1873, the stockholders of both lines met in Lynchburg and joined their two lines into the Washington City, Virginia Midland and Great Southern Railroad with John S. Barbour as its president. By 1877-8 Barbour had built a branch from present day Gretna to the mines at Pittsville, about seven miles to the North West.
That branch gave hope to the people of Rocky Mount they could finally have a railroad. The county entered into an agreement with John Barbour and the WC, VM and GSRR in which Franklin Co. would build a line from Rocky Mount to Pittsville if Barbour would lease the finished line for thirty four years. Barbour’s lease started 1 May, 1880 beginning a long and troubled history for the F&P.
In the coming months we will continue the history of the line and some of the events that so endeared the F&P to the citizens of Franklin and Pittsylvania Counties even to this day.