A Luxurious Past
The Birth of ...
In the beginning Rufus A. Ayers,
J.S. Wentz, John Leisenring, John K. Taggart, and W. C. Kent organized
the Interstate Railroad. The company was incorporated on February
18, 1896, and the organizers became the Board of Directors. On
April 15, 1896, the board elected J. S. Wentz as President, D. B.
Wentz as Vice-President, W. C. Kent as Secretary-Treasurer, and
John K. Taggart as General Manager.
In order to develop assets,
the Interstate Railroad created 500 shares of stock, giving one
share to each of the five organizers and 495 shares to the Virginia
Coal and Iron Company. In return, Virginia Coal and Iron Company
gave the Interstate Railroad 5.76 miles of track between Appalachia
and Stonega, Virginia, a one day coach, one used locomotive,
a baggage car, three boxcars, two flatcars, one combination coach,
and one hand operated section car in exchange for the shares
of stock. Eventually, the Interstate Railroad tracks ran in Virginia
from Appalachia to Miller's Yard near Dungannon.
The Development of ...
Part of the reasons for the
railroad's development was to haul freight for the Virginia Coal
and Iron Company and to transport their personnel to and from
the work sites. The company struggled early on to grow and expand,
but eventually grew. Their growth came from, purchasing and entering
into joint usage agreements with other railroad companies in
By the end of World War I,
the railroad had outgrown its offices and shops. Modern offices
and shops were built in Andover, Virginia and additional tracks
were laid to accommodate the expansions. The company continued
its growth reaching eastward in the early 1920's toward Coeburn
to Miller's Yard.
The Interstate Railroad operations
peaked during World War II, after a slow decade in the 1930's.
During the war, the railroad was operating as many as 18 or 19
crews a day, which led to further expansions in the late 1940;s,
and early 1950's. These areas of expansion included the Cane
Patch area, located north of Appalachia, and Critical Fork and
Dixiana, located northwest of Norton.
By the mid-1950's the company
faced rising operational costs and the loss of revenues, which
eventually led to Virginia Coal & Iron Company contacting
Norfolk and Western (N&W), Southern, and Louisville and Nashville
(L&N) to bid on an exchange of their stock for the Interstate
Railroad's stock. N&W declined to bid, however, Southern
and L&N placed bids for the stock. The Interstate Commerce
Commission approved Southern's application on October 6, 1960.
The Interstate continued to operate under Southern until October
30, 1985. In the early 1980's, N&W merged with Southern and
became the Norfolk Southern Railroad. Most of the tracks laid
by the Interstate Railroad are still in use today by the Norfolk
Southern Railroad. The only Interstate tracks that have been
removed are from Tacoma to Miller's Yard.
The Southwest Virginia Museum is a
member of the American
Association of Museums, the American Association of State and
Local History, and the Virginia Association of Museums.
THE INTERSTATE RAILROAD
The 101 Car
The 101 Car is a wooden, six
wheel car that was built around 1870 by the South Carolina and
Georgia Railroad. The car was sold to the Southern Railway in
1899, and was swapped to Virginia & Southwestern (V&SW)
in 1912 for a similar car. Later, Southern and V&SW merged.
Interstate President, H.L. Miller, purchased the car from Southern
Railway for $3,500 in January 1916. The car was given the number
100, but was changed in 1924 to 101, when a more modern car was
purchased. The company used the 101 car for inspections and off-line
Today the 101 Car is used as
the Regional Tourist Information Center and is located on Gilley
Avenue, here in Big Stone Gap. If you are interested in learning
more about the Interstate Railroad, pick up the book The Interstate
Railroad: A History of an Appalachian Coal Road by Ed Wolfe
on sale now at the 101 Car.
Special Thanks ...
The Southwest Virginia Museum
would like to thank Kenny Fannon, Robert Sanders, and The Gap
Corporation for their willingness to loan many of the artifacts
which were displayed throughout the museum's 1996 exhibit.
a special thanks to Westmoreland Coal Company for donating the
101 Car silver.