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Train Watching at Scottsville Depot

Train Watching at Scottsville Depot

Name:  Train Watching at Scottsville Depot

Date:  ca. 1914

Image Number:  Roll4Neg9A

Comments:  The James River Division of the Chesapeake and Ohio (previously property of the Richmond and Allegheny Railroad Company), was of great importance to Scottsville as it hauled freight, passengers, and the daily mail to town.  As did the James River and Kanawha Canal before it, the C & O train connected Scottsville to the commercial centers of Richmond and Lynchburg.  A purely Scottsville amusement in the early 1900's was watching the train go by.   As shown here, it was common to see a good-sized group of townsfolk strolling down to the depot with Postmaster Gault to meet the Number 11 from Richmond and pick up the day's mail.

Following is a guide to the names of these town citizens waiting on the platform at Scottsville Depot and keyed to the image numbers below:
(1)  Mr. Mawyer; (2)  Matt Maseley; (3)  Howard Robinson;
(4)  Thomas Staples; (5)  Sam Bragg; (6)  Wilkes Dameron;
(7)  Willie Beal; (8)  Billy Londeree; (9)  John Davis;
(10)  Emmett Carter;   (11)  Forrest Paulett; (12)  James Londeree;
(13)  Walter White; (14)  Jim Poe.

The station is located on land that was originally owned by the James River and Kanawha Canal Company from the late 1830's to 1880 when the company and its property were bought by the Richmond and Allegheny Railroad Company.  In 1881, the canal bed was drained and railroad tracks laid on the towpath.  In 1890, the Richmond and Allegheny and its property were bought by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company (C & O).  This wood frame depot stood on this site until the present brick station was built in 1915.

The wood frame depot was erected by C & O to service passenger traffic on its railroad in the early 1890's; an older wood structure on the other side of the track was used as a freight station.  In 1913, the C & O planned to remodel the station to make it a more permanent structure (a brick design) plus to add an express/baggage.  Why did they feel it necessary to enlarge the passenger depot?  A review of the passenger business at Scottsville determined that both the number of passengers and the passenger revenue doubled in the 1891-1916 time frame (3231 passengers and $3396.46 revenue in 1891 with 7420 passengers and $7210.67 revenue in 1916).  It appears that C& O needed the larger passenger station to manage the increased passenger traffic.

Brick passenger depot built in Scottsville by C&O ca. 1915
The brick passenger depot built in Scottsville by C&O ca. 1915. 

As people began driving their own cars and, later, traveling by busses and airplanes, Scottsville's use of the railroad as a mode of personal transportation dwindled.  The last C & O passenger train from Richmond to Clifton Forge stopped in Scottsville in October 1957, and the station was closed in August 1977.  The building was then used several times weekly by freight and maintenance staff and for equipment storage.  A mobile agent, however, served the area's freight needs.  In 2016, the Scottsville Depot is owned by CSX Corporation and in quite a dilapidated condition.

Scottsville's Passenger Business 
by Thomas W. Dixon, Jr., C & O Magazine, Fall 2014

In 1915, Scottsville was served by two trains east and two west each day.  One set of these were a through train between Richmond and Clifton Forge, while the other ran between Richmond and Lynchburg, the latter apparently mainly for Lynchburg-Richmond business since it ran at times inconvenient to Scottsville and other intermediate Rivanna Subdivision stations.

In addition to coaches, Nos. 9 and 10 had a buffet parlor car for first-class passengers.  Interestingly, No. 11 carried a 12-section/1-drawing room Pullman car between Richmond and Lynchburg that must have been used as a parlor car.  No. 12 carried this car back to Richmond for sleeping service.  This Pullman car could be occupied at Lynchburg at 9:30 pm and left at 2:30 am for arrival at Richmond at 8:35 am.  This may have been one of the shortest Pullman runs on the C & O ever.  Therefore, Scottsville even had first-class passenger service available in addition to the usual coach service, at least for a period.

Passenger service continued to decline on the James River Line starting in the early 1920's, and in 1930 new Brill Gas-Electric motor trains took over the work.  By 1950, a single motor train each way from Richmond to Clifton Forge was handling the remaining local business on the line.  It left Richmond as No. 9 at 7:10 am, arrived in Scottsville at 9:51 am, and terminated at Clifton Forge at 3:50 pm.  No. 10 left Clifton Forge at 8:35 am, Scottsville at 2:05 pm, and arrived in Richmond at 5:05 pm.  This passenger service lasted until October 1957, when it was discontinued, ending all passenger service on the line.

Railroad Days in Scottsville
by Evelyn Edson, July 2020

The train rumbles through Scottsville several times a day in 2020.  For a moment, conversations are suspended nearby on the patio of the Tavern on the James, but mostly we barely notice.  The train hauls coal from West Virginia and returns with empty cars going west.  But it has little to do with us.

The arrival of the train was once a big event, bringing crowds to the platform to wave good-bye to parting friends and to see who was getting off in Scottsville; see top photo of "Train-watching at Scottsville Depot, ca. 1914."  It was frequently late, and we hear that the Londeree brothers at one time entertained the waiting crowd with singing in close harmony.

The train had replaced the fabled canal in the 1880's.  The then-called Richmond & Allegheny Railroad had bought the canal right of way and laid its rails on the old towpath.  By 1890, the newly constituted Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad ran four passenger trains a day as well as freight trains that roared into town, stopping at the old depot.  The trains bought not only passengers but also the mail.  Among those waiting on the platform was Sam Gault, Scottville's postmaster for nearly forty years.  He was succeeded by Ashby Mayo in 1939.  After the train left, he took the mail up to the old Post Office on Main Street and handed it out.  "He could have let people wait till the next day.  But he didn't.  He was that kind of man," wrote John Randolph Phillips in Town and the River.  During World War II, Shirley Dorrier remembered eagerly awaiting a letter from her husband, Chick, who was serving in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific.  It was both a relief and a joy to hear the call, "A letter for you, Mrs. Dorrier."

State Farmers Institute Train stopping in Scottsville, 1915
The passenger train from Richmond made 4 trips daily to Scottsville in 1915; each trip took three hours.  This photo, by W.E. Burgess at the C&O Depot in Scottsville, shows the State Farmers Institute Train, which Virginia Polytechnical Institute outfitted with agricultural displays in the coaches.  At each stop,
local farmers boarded this train to learn about the latest new seeds and farm techniques.

Number 9, one of the passenger trains through Scottsville, was a real train with dining car.  Its last run was in October of 1957.  Only a few train fanciers, C.R. Dorrier and F.E. Paulett, were on hand to witness its final stop.  It was, of course, a little late.

Thanks to Ruth Klippstein for her research and Connie Geary for identifying photos for this article.

Copyright © 2020 by Scottsville Museum

First Image Located On:  Capturing Our Heritage, CD5

Second Image Located On:  Capturing Our Heritage, CD31

Third Image Located On:  Capturing Our Heritage, Burgess Roll 2

Reference: "A Depot for Scottsville" by Thomas W. Dixon, Jr., C & O Historical Magazine, Fall 2014; p. 28-33.



Train Watching at Scottsville Depot, 1915

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