Charlottesville is at the crossroads of two railroads.
Today it's the Buckingham Branch/CSX going east/west, and the Norfolk
Southern & Amtrak running north and south. The railroads were formerly
the C&O Rwy and the N&W Rwy.
At the diamond stands a depot that was built in 1885,
and it is known as the Charlottesville Union
Station. It was built to jointly serve the
Charlottesville and Rapidan RR, the
Virginia Midland Rwy, and the
Chesapeake and Ohio Rwy. Renovations
were done in 1915 and included the addition of a baggage handling facility.
The station is located off W Main St, north of I-64,
and east of US 29.
Charlottesville is served by Amtrak's
and daily Northeast Regional passenger
trains. The station is within walking distance of the University of Virginia
(UVa). More info on the Crescent is
Aerial shots were taken from
either Google Maps or
www.bing.com/maps as noted, once
in a great while maybe MapQuest. The screen captures are made with Snagit, a
Techsmith product... a great
tool if you have never used it!
From the Washington DC or Manassas area, probably the
quickest way is to come down US 29.
From further up the eastern seaboard, it's I-95 to the
DC Beltway, and take the right exit to go around the northside of the
Beltway to I-66. Take that WB out to Manassas where you can catch US
Coming down from central NY or PA via I-81?.... take it
to Harrisburg, jump on I-83 south to Baltimore, around the Baltimore Beltway
west to I-95 down to the DC Beltway. You can go east on the Baltimore
Beltway if you don't mind paying for the toll going thru the Fort McHenry
From the west via I-80/I-90/I-76 (the PA Turnpike),
take I-76 to I-70 at Breezewood PA, take south about 50 miles to I-81 and
head south on 81. At exit 221, take I-64 east to Charlottesville.
From the southeast coming up via I-95, take I-64 west
to Charlottesville at exit 79, just north of downtown Richmond (don't take
VA-288 or I-295).
From the south, say Atlanta, head north on I-85 to I-77
(exit 39) at Charlotte NC. Take 77 north to I-81. Then head
north to I-64 at exit 122, then east on I-64.
The C&O was
the first railroad to reach Charlottesville in 1848. The original
depot was burned by General Sheridan’s troops in 1865. The replacement
for it was replaced in 1905 with a Colonial style station, which was the
first of it's kind on the C&O. Charlottesville is the western end of
the C&O's Piedmont sub and is at milepost 181.4.
Thanks to Billy Bolton for the heads up on the station
One of the few relics left around from the days of yore,
it is east of the Transportation Center.
According to the article in the C'ville newspaper, there are six coaling
towers left in Virginia, and this is one of them. The ones in
Lynchburg and Clifton Forge are still supposed to be in use.
Lot's more info and stories of the area are
where some of the info on this page also came from.
Buckingham Branch RR
Charlottesville is a division point for the Buckingham
Branch Railroad. They have a small presence here across from the CATS
This is CATS downtown transportation hub, nicely
designed. It is busy all day long, and you can see they have quite a
variety on modern equipment.
CATS bus at the KMart at Hydraulic Road and US 29.
A double tracked North/South NS line and a single track
East/West CSX line cross at the station
from the Amtrak station platform towards Lynchburg on the NS
across the diamond on the CSX
From 6/19/2013 - Note the use of LED's!
One of the reasons I'm still down on the
use of LED's in railroad signals (or for that matter, in any signal), is
that if you look at the close-up of the green aspect, you will see two of
the LED's are already "burnt-out". For what these things cost, they
should last forever (or at least get free replacements)!!!
Looking south to
the NB NS signals on a cantilever type signal bridge
The EB CSX
signal for the diamond
Looking north on
the NS from the station platform
I was trying to figure where to eat, and
decided on taking a chance at the restaurant co-located with the Amtrak
station. As luck would have it, I caught up with a CSX freight making
it's way thru town, and was able to get ahead of it just enough to find a
spot to park by the NS overpass on Main St in time to catch it at the
diamond. After that, I caught three more trains while eating dinner.
Warning: The trains do not blow their horns within city limits! So
the trains sneak up on you. This happened to the three subsequent
trains while eating dinner. My only warning a WB CSX freight was
coming were the signals, as the CSX signals are normally dark. The
pictures are in sequence of taking them.
Being a New York City Transit fan, I was pleasantly
surprised by this adornment on the wall, way down here!
1 Charlottesville Fire
203 Ridge St
Engine Co 7,
Ladder Co 1, Ladder Co 2
along the CSX railroad tracks! Charlottesville is in the process of
building a new headquarters building on the south side of town (as of 5/13),
and the training facility will also be moved there.
3 Charlottesville Fire
Station #1 - 2502 Ivy Rd
Traffic light signal for traffic on US 250 (L), and
for the fire engines coming out of the station onto 250 (R).
4 Albemarle County
Fire Department -
460 Stagecoach Rd
The Louisa Railroad was started in
1836, its tracks laid westward from the town of
Doswell, hitting Louisa in 1838 and reaching
Gordonsville in 1840. The route was supposed
to proceed northwest to Harrisonburg and then across
the Blue Ridge Mountains at Swift Run Gap, but that
plan was deemed too expensive. So the tracks
were re-routed through Charlottesville, crossing the
mountains near Afton via Claudius Crozet’s famed
Blue Ridge Tunnel, built by Irish workers who earned
$1.25 a day to dig through a mile of solid granite
using only picks, hand drills, and black powder.
By the time the tracks reached
Charlottesville in 1850, the line’s name had changed
to the Virginia Central Railroad. Huddled on
the banks of the mighty James, the town of
Scottsville had long been Albemarle County’s
transportation hub. The James River and
Kanawha Canal, begun in 1785, was Scottsville’s big
bid for transportation supremacy, but it was only
half finished by 1851, and the railroad was in
ascension. After the Civil War, Scottsville
and the canal sunk into obscurity. It was suddenly a
brand new, steam-and-coal-powered,
Prior to 1850, traveling from
Richmond to Charlottesville took all day and
involved hopping off the train in Taylorsville to
hitch a ride the rest of the way on a stagecoach.
The first train pulled into Charlottesville on June
27, 1850, arriving at the newly built station at the
east end of town. After 1850, you could take
the train the whole way and make it to C’ville in
time for lunch. The population of
Charlottesville subsequently jumped from 1,890 in
1850 to 2,600 in 1853, and the University of
Virginia, which in 1855 got its own train station,
saw its enrollment increase by almost 300 students
over the next few years.
In 1864, Union General Philip
H. Sheridan was sent into Virginia with orders to
“[do] all the damage to railroads and crops that you
can.…we want the Shenandoah Valley to remain a
barren waste.” Sheridan’s campaign through the
valley was called “The Burning,” and although
Charlottesville was basically left alone, Sheridan
did drop in and burn down the train station.
When the war ended, the station
was rebuilt, and by 1870, Charlottesville was the
busiest stop on what was now called The Chesapeake &
Ohio line. In 1905, the wooden station was
replaced by a grand, colonial mansion, brick with
white columns, signifying the importance of the
railroad in a newly powerful America. Thirteen
trains a day were running through town by the 1920s.
The Charlottesville freight yard was crowded, busy
and big, covering the entire area between East
Market Street, Carlton Road, and the end of the
Downtown Mall. There was a semi-circular
building called a roundhouse where the trains were
serviced, a sand tower, a water tank, several wooden
tool houses, an inspection pit, and a 115′ wooden
turntable where engines could be turned around and
sent back down one of the many tracks reaching out
The first steam locomotives ran
on wood, a few on oil, but after the Civil War, coal
became the railroad’s dominant energy source.
So you needed coal and you needed a way to get it
into the trains. At first, stations relied on
a pile of coal and men with shovels, but by the end
of the 19th century, most train depots had elaborate
towers to house and dispense coal to the waiting
trains. Early towers were made of wood, later
towers steel or concrete. By the 1940s, some
stations had towers that stood hundreds of feet high
and spanned multiple tracks. The
Charlottesville station had a wooden coaling tower
originally, until in 1942 the Ogle Construction
Company built a 91′-tall, concrete bullet capable of
holding 300 tons of coal.
Even as they hit their peak, the writing was on the
wall for steam-powered trains. As early as 1910 they began to be
replaced by cleaner, easier to use diesel trains; by the ’50s the demise of
the steam locomotive was basically a fait accompli. Railroad traffic
declined through the 1960s and ’70s. In 1979, Amtrak moved its operations to
Union Station on Main Street, and three years later, commercial trains
ceased stopping at the Charlottesville C&O station altogether. In 1986,
after 136 years of service, the station was shut down despite protests from
local members of the National Railway Historical Society, who’d been running
nostalgia trips through the station since 1964. The turntable and most
of the yard were destroyed the following year, leaving the tower standing
alone beside a significantly smaller number of tracks, while the station,
converted into offices, sits across from the Transit Center, facing its
The C&O freight yard closed in 1986, and Fred Compston
was the last trainmaster to run the yard.
On Thursday evening, May 15th, 2014, the
CBS Evening News ran a story about the bad state of America's bridges, and
in it, they highlighted one particular bridge that had been built in the
early 1900's out of railroad ties. The bridge is in the process of
being replaced with a modern structure costing 4 million dollars. The
bridge is located about 7mi east of Charlottesville.
Interesting note: it looks like the
Buckingham Branch is leasing KCS power!
Roll sign from the New York City Subway System, from
either an E or F Train. Seen inside the unknown depot.
Another subway sign from NYC at the restaurant at the
University of Virginia (UVa)
was conceived and designed by U.S. President
Thomas Jefferson, and established in 1819.
Courtesy of the University of Texas Library, click
their index page.
The map below is a composite of two maps, as indicated
on the map, the blue line separates the two sections.
I love trains, and I love signals. I am not an
expert. My webpages reflect what I find on the topic of the page.
This is something I have fun with while trying to help others. My
webpages are an attempt at putting everything I can find of the subject in
one convenient place. There are plenty of other good websites to help
me in this effort, and they are listed in the links section on my indexa
page, or as needed on individual pages. Please do not write to me
about something that may be incorrect, and then hound the heck out of me if
I do not respond to you in the manner you would like. I operate on the
"Golden Rule Principle", and if you are not familiar with it, please
acquaint yourself with how to treat people by reading Mathew 7:12 (among
others, the principle exists in almost every religion). If you contact
me (like some do, hi Paul) and try to make it a "non-fun" thing and start
with the name calling, your name will go into my spambox list! :-)
Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides
are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them. For those
of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my
indexa page has a list of
almost everything railroad oriented I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to
help you detail your pike.
If this is a railfan page, every effort has
been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this
railfan guide is correct. Once in a while, an error may creep in,
especially if restaurants or gas stations open, close, or change names.
Most of my maps are a result of personal observation after visiting these
locations. I have always felt that a picture is worth a thousand words",
and I feel annotated maps such as the ones I work up do the same justice for the
railfan over a simple text description of the area. Since the main focus
of my website is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the
signal fan being able to locate them. Since most of us railheads don't have just
trains as a hobby, I have also tried to point out where other interesting sites
of the area are.... things like fire stations, neat bridges, or other
significant historical or geographical feature. While some may feel they
shouldn't be included, these other things tend to make MY trips a lot more
interesting.... stuff like where the C&O Canal has a bridge going over a river (the Monocacy Aqueduct) between Point of Rocks and Gaithersburg MD, it's way cool to
realize this bridge to support a water "road" over a river was built in the
My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a
thousand words, especially for railfanning. Text descriptions only
get you so far, especially if you get lost or disoriented. Take
along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still
better if you get lost! I belong to AAA, which allows you to get
local maps for free when you visit the local branches. ADC puts
out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their
state maps do not have the railroads on them. If you can find em,
I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and
concise graphics, and they do a really good job of showing you where
tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads.
Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.
Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels
inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have
something to add or correct.... credit is always given! BE NICE!!! Contact info
Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as
being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.