Below is a very brief and introductory timeline of the Franklin & Pittsylvania Railroad. While some nuance is contained, this timeline represents a very broad brush of the history of the line.
Research of the F&P is still ongoing. As new items are collected and found, this timeline will be updated.
1874: The railroad line between Danville and Lynchburg is completed.
1877-8: Under the leadership of President John S. Barbour, an eight mile narrow-gauge spur from the Washington City, Virginia Midland, and Great Southern Railroad is built to Pittsville to tap the extensive iron ore deposits in that area.
March 12, 1878: The F&P charter was approved by the Virginia General Assembly with the purpose of building a railroad from Rocky Mount to the WC, VM, and GS RR line at Pittsville.
1879: The junction of the railroad is named Franklin Junction. A post office is established, yet named Elba to avoid confusion with another Franklin post office.
March 7, 1879: Ground breaking for the F&P at Gentry’s field outside Rocky Mount.
April 16, 1880: First run of the F&P from Pittsville to Rocky Mount.
May 1, 1880: The F&P leased to the Washington City, Virginia Midland, & Great Southern Railroad for 34 years.
1881: The WC, VM, & GS RR was renamed the Virginia Midland Railroad. The Virginia Midland would run the railroad until 1886.
1886: The F&P and Virginia Midland Railroad were taken over by the Richmond & Danville Railroad and became part of the Great Richmond Terminal System.
1888: The F&P was converted from narrow-gauge to standard-gauge.
1890: Turntable built at Franklin Junction.
1892: The R&D went into receivership.
1892: The Roanoke and Southern Railroad was built through Rocky Mount, providing another connection (and competition) to the F&P.
1894: J.P. Morgan reorganized and the Southern RR was formed. The Southern took over running the F&P.
1897: Citing significant cost overruns, the Southern RR tried to give the F&P back to the county. Franklin County receives an injunction blocking the abandonment.
1899: The Virginia Supreme Court ruled that Southern had to honor the lease. Instructed the Franklin County Circuit Court to keep the case on its docket to ensure compliance.
1900-1910: Southern built the depots used by the F&P. They were located at Pittsville, Toshes, Sandy Level, Pen Hook, Union Hall, Glade Hill, and Redwood, in addition to the depots at Franklin Junction and Rocky Mount.
March 1907: After years of bitter complaints against Southern, a grand jury of the Franklin County Circuit Court issued 73 indictments against Southern, including failure to provide enough room for passengers on overcrowded trains.
January 1913: The town of Elba began the process to rename itself and the train depot to Gretna. For reasons currently unknown, the process is not officially completed for some time.
May 1, 1914: The lease to the Southern expired and the F&P was leased to a private company run by N.P. Angle. The lease was for five years with an option for ten more years.
1921: The F&P went into receivership and was sold to a company run by Nat Angle in 1922.
April 1932: Last run of the F&P.
1933: Line ordered closed by the Virginia State Corporation Commission.