Richmond and Danville Railroad

The Richmond and Danville Railroad (R&D) Company was a railroad that operated independently from 1847 until 1894, first in the U.S. state of Virginia and later on 3,300 miles (5,300 km) of track in nine states.

Richmond and Danville Railroad
R&d map 1882.jpg
1882 map of the Richmond and Danville Railroad and connections
HeadquartersRichmond, Virginia
Leased lines in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia
Dates of operation1847–1894
SuccessorSouthern Railway
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Previous gauge5 ft (1,524 mm)
American Civil War era
4 ft 9 in (1,448 mm)[1]

Chartered on March 9, 1847, the railroad completed its 140-mile (230 km) line between Richmond and Danville in 1856.[2] During the American Civil War, the railroad was a vital link between Richmond, the Confederate capital, and the rest of the Confederacy.[3] After the Civil War, the railroad grew to become the 3,300-mile Richmond and Danville Railroad Company System.

Placed in receivership in 1892, the Richmond and Danville Railroad Company was sold in 1894 and conveyed into the new Southern Railway Company in 1896 and 1897.


Beginnings (1847-61)Edit

The new Richmond and Danville Railroad was championed by Whitmell P. Tunstall, a lawyer in Chatham, Virginia, who was also a member of the Virginia General Assembly. After many years, Tunstall secured a charter for the new railroad on March 9, 1847. In the same year, the state of Virginia took a 60% interest in the capital stock of the company, which it would hold until 1871.[4]

Construction on the 144.7-mile (232.9 km) line began on January 31, 1848 under the supervision of Col. Andrew Talcott, who was later to become the Richmond and Danville's general manager.[5] By 1850, the new railroad had reached Coalfield Station, near the coal mines in an area known today as Midlothian in western Chesterfield County. There, it competed with the mule-powered Chesterfield Railroad. Lawsuits followed, but the older railroad, the first in Virginia, was quickly supplanted by the competition. The Virginia General Assembly allowed the Richmond and Danville Railroad to buy the Chesterfield Railroad for as much as two hundred thousand dollars in 1848.[6]

By the end of 1851, the new line had reached Jetersville in Amelia County. Two years later, it was completed to a point near Drakes Branch, and had been graded to South Boston in Halifax County. On May 16, 1856, the railroad had finished construction of the main line.[5]

Richmond and Danville Railroad Stations 1856Edit

The Richmond and Danville Railroad was a hundred and forty and a half miles long by 1856. The rails had a bridge over the James River, the Staunton River and the Dan River.


US Civil War (1861–1865)Edit

Known as the "first railroad war," the American Civil War left the South's railroads and economy devastated. In 1862, the Richmond and York River Railroad played a crucial role in George McClellan's Peninsula Campaign. After the war, it was to be acquired by the Richmond and Danville (R&D) Railroad.

The Richmond and Danville Railroad was an essential transportation link for the Confederacy throughout the war. It provided the production of south-central Virginia to Richmond. When the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad was cut in 1864, the R&D's connection with the Piedmont Railroad was the only remaining connection from Richmond to the rest of the South.

During the Civil War, the Confederate Army was handicapped by a lack of supplies when there often were plenty of supplies in the depots, but the quartermaster corps of the southern army was unable to deliver the goods efficiently. In one case, however, the war finally forced the Confederate government to over-rule objections by North Carolina. That state had blocked construction of a rail connection from Greensboro to Danville, fearing that after the war trade from North Carolina's Piedmont would continue to flow to Richmond via the R&D.

Following successful Union attacks on April 1, 1865, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee decided to abandon Petersburg and head west and south in an attempt to join Gen. Joseph Johnston's army in North Carolina.

After evacuating Richmond the next day, on April 2, 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet left Richmond on the R&D. The departing Confederates set fire to the bridge across the James River between Richmond and Manchester. They traveled to Danville, where they attempted to set up a temporary government.

On reaching Amelia Courthouse during the morning of April 4, 1865, Lee's first thought was for the commissary stores. He found ordnance supplies in abundance, but no food. Lee waited 24 hours in vain there for R&D trains to arrive with badly needed supplies. Union cavalry, meanwhile, sped forward and cut the Richmond & Danville at Jetersville. Lee had to abandon the railroad, and his army stumbled across rolling country towards Lynchburg. On the morning of April 9, 1865, Palm Sunday, Lee met Grant in the front parlor of Wilmer McLean's home near Appomattox Court House to surrender.

Reconstruction (1865–94)Edit

1891 map of Richmond and Danville Railroad and connections
Piedmont Air Line System advertisement 1882
1893 map (also showing the Florida Central and Peninsular Railroad and connections)

With the support of Virginia Governor Francis H. Pierpont, Algernon S. Buford became president of the 140-mile (230 km) R&D on September 13, 1865. Repair work began on war-damaged tracks, including the bridge across the James River between Manchester and Richmond.

Over the next 20 years, Buford, Richmonder James H. Dooley, and other leaders extended the railroad's trackage to 3,000 miles through construction and acquisition.[8] Early acquisitions included the Piedmont Railroad in 1866 and a 25-year lease of the North Carolina Railroad in 1871.

In 1871, the Southern Railway Security Company acquired the 60 percent stake in the railroad held by the state of Virginia. Another large shareholder was the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.[9]

In 1877, Buford joined with Andrew Talcott, Thomas Mann Talcott, and others to form the Bon Air Land and Improvement Company, a land investment that added a resort train stop in Bon Air six miles east of Richmond.

In 1880, control of the R&D was acquired by the Clyde interests that controlled the Richmond, York River and Chesapeake Rail Road Company.[8][9]

In 1881, the Richmond and West Point Terminal Railway and Warehouse Company was organized to develop and expand the R&D, whose charter limited its control of connecting railroads.[9]

In 1882, the R&D, along with the North Carolina Railroad, Northwestern North Carolina Railroad, Charlotte, Columbia and Augusta Railroad, Atlanta and Charlotte Air-Line Railway and the Columbia and Greenville Railroad lines were being operated as the Piedmont Air-Line System advertised as the shortest line between New York, New Orleans and Texas.[10] One improvement that year was the installation of two steam powered Nutter car hoists in north Danville, Virginia in order to allow truck exchange to allow cars to be exchanged across the break of gauge with the Virginia Midland Railway.[11][12]

In or about 1886, the Richmond and West Point Terminal Railway and Warehouse Company acquired a majority of R&D Company stock, and thus control of the railroad.[2][13][14]

By 1890, the R&D System covered 3,300 miles (5,300 km) of track in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas. However, the R&D System had become financially unstable during all the growth. After the Richmond and West Point Terminal Railway and Warehouse Company, declared bankruptcy, the R&D Company was pulled down with it. Receivers were appointed to take possession of its property, including its subsidiaries, on June 15, 1892.[13]

Southern Railway System (1894-1982)Edit

On June 18, 1894, the R&D was sold in foreclosure. Its property was surrendered to Southern Railway Company for operation on July 1, 1894, even though the deeds of conveyance were not completed and filed until later.[13] Reorganized by J.P. Morgan and his New York banking firm of Drexel, Morgan and Company, the R&D was merged with five other railroads to form the new Southern Railway.

The R&D property was formally conveyed to Southern Railway Company by deeds dated January 9, 1896, and August 30, 1897.[15] The Southern Railway Company, incorporated in Virginia on the same date, June 18, 1894,[15] controlled over 4,000 miles (6,400 km) of line at its inception. Samuel Spencer became Southern's first president.

Norfolk Southern (1982-present)Edit

Norfolk Southern Corporation, a holding corporation, acquired control of Norfolk and Western Railway Company and Southern Railway Company and their affiliates and subsidiaries on June 1, 1982, after approval by the Interstate Commerce Commission. Effective December 31, 1990, Southern Railway Company changed its name to Norfolk Southern Railway Company. Norfolk and Western Railway Company became a wholly owned subsidiary of Norfolk Southern Railway Company rather than a subsidiary of Norfolk Southern Corporation. In 1999, the system grew substantially with the acquisition of over half of Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail).



  • Whitmell P. Tunstall (1847 – February 19, 1854)
  • A. F. D. (Adolphus Frederick Daubeny) Gifford (February 19, 1854 – April 13, 1854) (acting president)
  • Vincent Witcher (April 13, 1854 – December 10, 1856)[16]
  • Lewis E. Harvie (December 10, 1856 – September 12, 1865)[17][18]
  • Algernon Sidney Buford (September 13, 1865 – December 16, 1886)[19][20]
  • George S. Scott (1884, December 21, 1887 – December 18, 1889)[21][22]
  • Alfred Sully (December 16, 1886 – December 21, 1887)[23]
  • John H. Inman (December 18, 1889 – March 16, 1892)[24]
  • Walter G.(George) Oakman (March 16, 1892 – 1894)[25][26]

Vice PresidentsEdit

  • A. F. D. Gifford
  • A. Y. Stokes (1868 or before – 1880/1)
  • Joseph N.(Napoleon) DuBarry (Btw. 1876 and 1878 – 1880/1)
  • Thomas M. Logan (1881/2 – 1883), 1st VP
  • T. M. R.(Thomas Mann Randolph) Talcott (1881/2 – 1883, 1888/9 – 1889), 2nd VP 1881/2–1883, 1st VP 1888/9–1889
  • Joseph Bryan (1881/2 – 1884), 3rd VP
  • Calvin S. Brice (1884), 1st VP
  • Alfred L. Rives (1883 – 1885/6), 2nd VP
  • Frederick W. Huidekoper (1885 – 1885/6), 1st VP
  • Walter G.(George) Oakman (Fall 1883 – 1887, 1887 – May 1, 1891), 3rd VP Fall 1883–1887, 2nd VP 1887–1888, 1st VP 1888–May 1, 1891, Pres. 1892–1894[27]
  • Alexander B.(Boyd) Andrews (1886/7 – 1894), 3rd VP 1886/7–1889, 2nd VP 1890–1894
  • Henry Fink (Apr. 30, 1887 – Dec. 16, 1887)[28]
  • J. W. Johnston (1890), 3rd VP
  • Peyton Randolph (1891), 3rd VP
  • John A. Rutherford (1892 – 1894), 3rd VP

Acquired RailroadsEdit

  • Piedmont RR – A 48.5 mile line from Danville, Virginia to Greensboro, NC.[5] Chartered in March 1862. Construction began 1862 and ended late 1863. The R&D bought most shares and built and operated the railroad. Leased to R&D for 86 years on Feb. 20, 1874. Bought by the Southern Railway in 1894.[29]
  • North Carolina RR – A 223.15 mile line from Goldsboro, NC to Charlotte, NC, leased for 30 years (starting Oct. 1871) on September 11, 1871 for an annual rent of $260,000.[5] The North Carolina Railroad Company was chartered on January 27, 1849 and the line opened January 30, 1856. The R&D made an offer to lease the NC RR in Jan. 1871 but was rejected. In September 1871 a new offer was made and accepted. In 1895 the R&D successor, the Southern Railway, negotiated a new 99-year lease for the NC RR.[30]
  • North-Western North Carolina RR – 103.22 mile line from Greensboro to Wilkesboro, NC. The NWNC RR was chartered in 1868 and acquired by the R&D in early 1871. The line was finished in 1873. Purchased by the Southern RY along with the rest of the R&D system in 1894.[31]


  • "Map of the Richmond & Danville Railroad System in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas & Texas". New York: G.W. & R.B. Colton & Co. 1881. in "American Memory". Library of Congress.
  • "Map of the Richmond and Danville Railroad (Piedmont Air-Line) and Connections". Western North Carolina R.R. Scenery: "Land of the Sky". Portland, Maine: Chisholm Bros. c. 1880. p. 13. Retrieved 2013-12-27. at D. H.Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville 28804

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Days They Changed the Gauge
  2. ^ a b Interstate Commerce Commission. Southern Ry. Co., Volume 37, Interstate Commerce Commission Valuation Reports, November 6, 1931, p. 555. Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1932. OCLC 297351688.
  3. ^ The line between Richmond and Danville was 140 miles (230 km) long. The railroad had also constructed a 1 mile (1.6 km) between Manchester, Virginia, and Lower Rocketts, Virginia, a 0.7 miles (1.1 km) line between Belle Isle Junction, Virginia, and Belle Isle (Richmond, Virginia) and a 3 miles (4.8 km) line between Granite, Virginia, and Granite Quarry, Virginia. ICC, Southern Ry. Co. valuation report, 1931, p. 219.
  4. ^ ICC, Southern Ry. Co. valuation report, 1931, p. 556.
  5. ^ a b c d Poor's Manual of Railroads. 1877. p. 354. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  6. ^ Virginia (1848). Acts Passed at a General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia. p. 184.
  7. ^ Melton, Herman (1993). Pits, Tracks and Bateaux: Industry in Pittsylvania County 1750-1950. self. pp. 174, 175.
  8. ^ a b "New Railroad Syndicate: The Richmond and Danville Trunk Line System" (PDF). The New York Times. June 16, 1880. Retrieved 2013-12-27.[dead link]
  9. ^ a b c ICC, Southern Ry. Co. valuation report, 1931, p. 557.
  10. ^ Piedmont Air-Line System (1882). "Piedmont Air-Line System (advertisement)". J.H. Chataigne. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  11. ^ T.M.R. Talcott, Improvements at North Danville, General Manager's Report, Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Stockholders of the Virginia Midland Railway Company, Alexandria, 1882; page 58.
  12. ^ No. 1737, Grafton T. Nutter, Jersey City, N.J., U.S., 2nd November, 1872, for 10 years: "A Railway Wagon Lifting Machine", The Canadian Patent Office Record, Vol. 1, No. 1 (March, 1873); page 8.
  13. ^ a b c ICC, Southern Ry. Co. valuation report, 1931, p. 558.
  14. ^ ICC, Southern Ry. Co. valuation report, 1931, p. 563.
  15. ^ a b ICC, Southern Ry. Co. valuation report, 1931, p. 212.
  16. ^ "Richmond and Danville Railroad". The Daily Dispatch (Richmond, Va.). April 14, 1854. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  17. ^ "Richmond and Danville Railroad Company" (Vol. LIII, No. 67). Richmond Enquirer. December 16, 1856. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  18. ^ "There was a meeting of the stockholders..." Alexandria Gazette. September 14, 1865. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  19. ^ "At a meeting of the stockholders..." The Wheeling Intelligencer. September 20, 1865. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  20. ^ "Richmond and Danville". Savannah Morning News. December 11, 1884. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  21. ^ "R. & D. R. R." Alexandria Gazette. December 22, 1887. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  22. ^ "Richmond, VA., Dec. 5". West Virginia Democrat. December 14, 1888. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  23. ^ "Richmond and Danville Railroad". The Daily Times (Richmond, Va.). December 17, 1886. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  24. ^ "Richmond and Danville Railroad" (Vol. XC, No. 401). Alexandria Gazette. December 18, 1889. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  25. ^ "Richmond Terminal Reorganization" (Vol. XXI, No. 123). The Seattle Post–Intelligencer. March 17, 1892. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  26. ^ "Richmond and Danville R. R." The Times (Richmond, Va.). December 8, 1892. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  27. ^ "Mr. W. G. Oakman Resigns". The Times (Richmond, Va.). May 1, 1891. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  28. ^ Distinguished Successful Americans of Our Day. Chicago, Il.: Successful Americans. 1911. pp. 370, 371. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  29. ^ "North Carolina Railroads - Piedmont Railroad". J.D. Lewis. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  30. ^ "North Carolina Railroads - North Carolina Railroad". J.D. Lewis. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  31. ^ "North Carolina Railroads - North-Western North Carolina Railroad". J.D. Lewis. Retrieved 16 June 2020.


External linksEdit

  Media related to Richmond and Danville Railroad at Wikimedia Commons