May 2015 Article

This Month's Article - May 2015
A side excursion to the Clover Hill Railway, Bright Hope Railway, Farmville & Powhatan Railroad, and Tidewater & Western Railroad

We deviate this month from the Nelson & Albemarle Railway to give a short history of a rail line also running through Virginia.  But why have we made this excursion away from the N&A?  Being from the Richmond, Virginia area (though my parents were from Howardsville and Buckingham) I've always had an interest in the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway because my grandfather and great-grandfather were both Section Gang foremen on the line (at Howardsville and at Scottsville).  My brothers also have this embedded interest in the C&O and railroading in general and near one brother is an old roadbed running through a portion of the Pocahontas State Forest in Chesterfield, Virginia.  The history of that line is quite interesting and there are many challenging parts of the story to determine it's origins.  ##  Before the US Civil War, coal was discovered in the Winterpock area of Chesterfield County.  The Clover Hill Railway was founded to bring coal from the mines to a connection with the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad in Chester.  By 1867 an extension had been built to the James River at Osborne Landing (though on the opposite shore from the small community).  Business being difficult, the line was placed in receivership during 1875 and reorganized as the Bright Hope Railway & Coal Company.  Apparently, the Bright Hope Railway having converted to a 3' narrow gauge line in 1881, purchased a 2-6-0 locomotive from the George W. Snyder Machine Works of Pottsville, Pennsylvania (which company was later purchased by Philadelphia & Reading Coal and Iron Company).  George W. Snyder was listed as a 'car builder' in the 1877 edition of Poor's Directory of Railway Officials, but his primary efforts in locomotives were a small number of narrow gauge engines plus some mining/industrial locomotives, though the company would end it's independent existence by the late 1880's.  Since the machine works in Pottsville focused primarily on coal-mining efforts for it's business, it was logical that they would be selected to also provide motive power.  The Bright Hope Railway extended to Bermuda Hundred, Virginia where deep water allowed ships to take coal directly along the east coast and the branch to Osborne Landing was torn up by Fall of 1882.  ##  Separately in early 1884, some businessmen from Cumberland County, Virginia formed the Farmville & Powhatan Railroad from the Norfolk & Western Railroad's main line in Farmville to the towns of Cumberland and Powhatan in adjacent counties, however grading and track laying did not begin until late-Spring 1889.  Within 2 more months, the principal owner of the F&P bought out and merged the Bright Hope Railway into the rail line by October.  Within the next two months, 39 miles of track would be in place and in another 3 months the lines would connect at with the original Bright Hope Railway tracks at the mine in Coalboro, Virginia (about 3 miles south, southwest of WInterpock).  ##  As with many endeavors, the railroad line was not consistent in profitability and by the Fall of 1899 the F&P Ry. was in receivership.  By the Summer of 1905, the property was foreclosed and sold.  What remained of the Franklin & Powhatan Railroad was reorganized as the Tidewater & Western Railroad and while there were considerations for rail extensions to other Virginia southwest cities, none were ever undertaken.  According to information from the book, "American Narrow Gauge Railroads" by George W. Hilton (Stanford University Press, 1994), the Tidewater & Western Railroad operated a daily passenger train and had a roster of 7 or 8 locomotives (3' gauge).  ##  Much like the Richmond & Rappahannock River Railway which was chartered to operate from Richmond to Tappahannock though never getting past the Pamunkey River at a town called Pamunkey Station (which had previously been known as New Castle, Virginia), the Tidewater & Western Railroad would end it's days and sell off it's rails and equipment to the French war effort of the Great War (World War I).  The receiver appointed in late May of 1917 arranged for the dismantling of the T&W so that be June of 1918, the equipment was ready to ship overseas.  With the war ending by armistice in November of that year, there could have been little if any use of the railroad to support the French efforts.  ##  Much of the world suffered through recession during the period of the Great War and many small railroads failed (though many narrow gauge railroads were notable for short lifespans).  A roster is available for the Tidewater & Western Railroad in Volume 79-81 of Railroad Magazine from 1966 (see pg. 52). 

For this article I've referenced the following:  American Narrow Gauge Railroads by George Woodman Hilton, Stanford University Press, 1994, ISBN 978-0804723695; Railway & Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin, no. 114, "Tidewater and Western Railroad" by C. F. H. Allen,  pp. 48-52 (49/67), 1966; Railroad Magazine, Volume 79-81, pg. 52, 1966; Photograph of Bright Hope Railway #1 as enhanced by the artist, Susan E. Bock, at hope/bright-hope-railroad/ (can be viewed and also are available for purchase, matted and in various sizes). 

Note:  There are no photographs for this article though two exist that are of interest.  We've not printed them here, because they are both Copyrighted and permission to use could not be obtained prior to publication.  The first of those is an enhanced image from Susan Bock found at the web URL noted in above reference section.  It is a photo of Bright Hope Railway #1, a 2-6-0 narrow-gauge locomotive built by George W. Snyder Machine Works of Pottsville, Pennsylvania around 1880-81.  The other photo is from the book by George W. Hilton, American Narrow Gauge Railroads which shows Tidewater & Western Railroad #1 which looks to be the same locomotive with an expanded smoke-box and removal of spark arrester.  All of the remaining parts are exact matches for these two locomotives leading to the conclusion that one is the rebuild of the other.

We've enjoyed this side trip to central Virginia and the beginnings of coal railroading near Midlothian, Virginia area. Send email to if you have any comments or questions or wish to contribute to future articles. Copyright 2015 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.