Some Railroad Views.

February 3, 1870


Railroads are crucial to the future success of Richmond and Virginia by bringing infrastructure and communication together.


It is surely time that all Virginians should perceive the folly of the forcing system of railroad transportation. And it is time, also, that we had considered the importance of compacting our interests and cherishing industries and enterprises already established within the State and furnishing a mutual commerce between the rural and the city inhabitants. Through transportation does little for the country it traverses. The local business-the local accommodation-is that which benefits the country. Railroad operations striving after through business not only fail to impart local benefits, but they impose burthens upon the local population without compensation. Now what we must have here in Virginia is the straightest and most expeditious communication between the sources of production and the largest manufacturing town in the State, which is this city. The welfare of the Commonwealth demands this. The farming interest wants a large central manufacturing and commercial population to give the farmers a market for their products. The State wants population and increase of wealth to enable it to pay the public debt and ultimately extend the public improvements. Give Richmond the direct lines that will best enable it to compete with outside interests (there is really no rivalry between it and any other town in the State), and that large community necessary for a flourishing agriculture, with a variety of productions, will soon grow up here in the centre of the State. Two things are indispensable for the attainment of this object: The straightening and shortening of the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad from here to Clifton Forge or Covington, and a straight road from this city to Lynchburg. Give us these, and we need fear nothing. We are ready to enter the ring upon this plan, and will take care of ourselves so effectually that a few years will build a town here upon James river that will be the pride of the State and her source of greatest prosperity. Give us the best ways to the mines and rich producing regions of the West-shorten the warp and expedite the transportation thither, so that the travel may without loss of time pass through this city-and all we can ask will be accomplished. We have a right to all the advantages of distance which we have in our topographical relations to other places. We ask no more. We should be content with nothing less. No town can succesfully struggle with rivals when placed at a disadvantage by roundabout railroad communications and delays. It must have travel-it must have communication free from delay. The whole State and every town in it should demand this fairness for Richmond, and the people of Richmond should never rest until it is accomplished. The proposed straight road from Clifton Forge to Richmond is one that ought to be made, if not at the expense of grades too heavy for the trade that it is intended to accommodate. The question is one that a survey alone can settle. We should also have the straight road to Lynchburg. We should never surrender the fair heritage of Southwest Virginia. We know that the company now having charge of the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad are aware of the devious route of their road from this city to Clifton Forge, and will be happy to straighten it at the earliest possible moment. This is demanded by so vast a western interest outside of this State that the road assumes a national magnitude, and is vastly more deserving of congressional assistance than many that have received it. We conjecture that a proper effort might secure for it this assistance, and with that the road could soon be made exactly what the western people desire it to be-the shortest and best way from the Ohio to the Atlantic. An incidental benefit to come of the consummation of these important schemes will probably be the opening of the Upper James river valley to railroad communication. At this time, on any railroad leaving this city, there is a dearth of localities within any reasonable distance for the location of manufacturing towns or fine residences. The Upper James abounds with the best of sites for these purposes-streams emptying into the James, water-power, beautiful elevations, and fine landscapes. To give railroad communication between Richmond and such a valley would be of inestimable value to her, for country residences of her wealthy people, and for manufacturing towns tributary to her trade. The canal could transport the ponderous freights-the railroad the passengers and light traffics. Our means of growth and happiness will never be complete until we can go up and down that Valley by rail.
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Charles Simmonds




“Some Railroad Views.,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed July 4, 2022,