The Interstate Railroad
Southwest Virginia Museum

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 the area.

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 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 trips.

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.

Also, a special thanks to Westmoreland Coal Company for donating the 101 Car silver.