Virginia & Tennessee Railroad

The Virginia & Tennessee Railroad (V&T) was chartered in 1849 to build a rail line from Lynchburg, Virginia to the Tennessee state line at Bristol. The idea of a railroad through Southwestern Virginia had been around for some years previous, but had meet with little success. In 1835, the citizens of Lynchburg petitioned the Virginia Legislature to incorporate the Lynchburg & Tennessee Railroad, which was to follow basically the same route as the V&T.

Construction of the V&T route began in January of 1850, and by the end of 1852, the railroad had established Union Station in Lynchburg and the line had been completed as far west as Big Lick (present-day Roanoke/Salem area). By the end of 1854, the V&T had completed its line as far west as Wytheville. On October 1, 1856, the V&T line was completed to Bristol, VA, a distance of 204 miles from Lynchburg. That same year, a branch line of about 9.5 miles was completed from the mainline, at Glade Spring Depot, to the salt works at Saltville, VA.

The completion of the V&T line had a profound effect on the economy of the region of Southwestern Virginia. Rather than raising crops primarily for local consumption, the farmers of the region began selling their products to the cities in Virginia's Tidewater Region. Tobacco production increased by 2020 percent in Southwestern Virginia between 1850 and 1860. Various manufacturing and extractive industries soon opened online the route the railroad's route and the tourism business flourished throughout the region.

During the American Civil War (1861-1865) the V&T served as a vital transportation link for the Confederacy, hauling troops, weapons and supplies. Food, livestock, salt, lead, iron ore, copper and coal were among the products shipped in support of the Southern cause. Efforts by Federals troops to destroy the Confederate's rail line through Southwestern Virginia were unsuccessful until late in the war.

The railroad's annual report for the year ending June 30, 1865, noted that six different raids had been conducted on the rail line by Union forces, each of which had resulted in the destruction of the road for considerable distances. Of its original structures the V&T had only three bridges and three depots left untouched. Despite the destruction, the V&T line was reopened following the end of the war. In 1870, the V&T, along with the City Point Railroad and Norfolk & Petersburg Railroad were consolidated into the Atlantic, Mississippi & Ohio Railroad (AM&O). In 1882, the AM&O was renamed the Norfolk & Western Railroad (N&W).


One Hundred Years' Progress of the United States ..., published 1870 (Google Books)

Southwest Virginia's Railroad: Modernization and the Sectional Crisis (Google Books)

The Arrow

City of Lynchburg - Time Line

Salem history

Bristol history

NWHS Timeline

The Merchants' Magazine and Commercial Review

The Family of Early ...