The Railroads.

February 11, 1870


Richmond should be the railroad center for the State because that will most benefit the economy of the State.


The railroad fever is risen very high. The "Southside" is full of excitement. Norfolk and Lynchburg took the fever, and it has spread and become confluent between them and gone up the James river to Rockbridge. Various meetings have been held, and enthusiastic and confident resolutions have been everywhere adopted. This manifestation of the public spirit is encouraging, and we would not say a word to depress it. But the interests involved in the discussion are very extensive, and not everywhere exactly the same. For instance, we do not see why the "Southside road," so called, should be extended up James river beyond Lynchburg, crossing to the "Northside," where its name is a misnomer. Nor do we see why, as some argue, Richmond should wait till the "Southside" gets to prisoner's base before she plays for a direct and speedy communication between her and Lynchburg, and thence with Southwest Virginia, of whose trade she has been robbed by the manoeuvres on the railroad chess-board in this State. Nor do we think this city intends passively to await all these events and permit the consummation of projects not promising benefits for her, whatever their authors may intend. This city should certainly, not less than any other in the State, have the shortest and speediest possible communication with the important points of production and consumption in the West and Southwest. Every interest in the State demands this much, and Richmond should be content with nothing less. Her most popular connection with the west at this time is by the longest route from here to Lynchburg -nineteen out of twenty passengers going by the Chesapeake and Ohio and the Orange and Alexandria railroads to Lynchburg. That fact settles the question. Richmond may take that route as her guide in considering the necessity of a straight road, managed in her interest, to Lynchburg. It may be said that the Southside line brings the freight. But freight is no great matter without passengers. We want the travellers to come this way, that they, may see us. and if we offer inducements, trade with us. And we tell these people of Richmond they can never get this travel as long as the railroads remain as they are-never, never! But to return to the main subject: The Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company is fairly entitled to consider this James River route from Clifton Forge to Lynchburg as its line for shortening its road and improving its grades. It cannot justly be seized by the Southside until the Chesapeake and Ohio Company decides what it means to do. On this point Richmond may not suffer vitally if she with her straight line strikes the point of junction with the line from Clifton Forge at Lynchburg. Fair play, and we will take care of ourselves. It is proposed to straighten the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad by a line as near direct as possible front Clifton Forge to Richmond. Such a line would take Lexington in its course, and, crossing the Blue Ridge cast of it, traverse the hills of Nelson to James river, crossing that, and making its way in a direct line through Buckingham, Cumberland, and Powhatan, to Richmond. We repeat what we said before, that the question of building the road along this route is to be settled by cost and by grades ascertained by survey. It is a route beset with difficulties involving the boldest engineering and heavy costs. Whether or not a grade such as the heavy transportation on the road will require can be had, can only be settled by a thorough survey. Certainly it is very desirable that such a straight road should be built if the proper conditions can be secured. The county of Rockbridge, as our readers know, has declared very emphatically in favor of this line. And we take pleasure in acknowledging the very proper and creditable sentiments of the late meeting in Rockbridge, relative to the interests of the State and this city. Next week a very considerable convention is to be held in Lynchburg, and we think this city should by all means be represented in that convention. It would have a good effect. We could at least confer with our "Southside" friends. If we may not agree with them there can no harm grow out of a dispassionate and civil exchange of opinions with them. But we do not see that we must disagree with them. In our opinion, they know more about the "through freight" war than they did ten years since. The "forcing system," as the people of Boston [and Boston is a big city] have learned, is not the great affair it was expected to be. And maybe other people are not far from the same conclusion. There is no reason why the James River towns from the mountains to the sea may not be in entire harmony and cooperation; and let us show by sending delegates to Lynchburg that we feed that we may enter the convention there as friends. On the 23d another convention will be held at Powhatan Court house. Let Richmond be represented there, too. Let us consult with our people on these railroad projects. They are deeply interesting to us. "We should discuss matters freely with them, always keeping in view the vital necessity of a straight Richmond "Southside" line between us and Lynchburg. Whether the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad strikes through Rockbridge, Nelson, &c., or not, we must straighten our communication with Lynchburg and the Southwest. Basely delinquent, indeed, would we be if we were to surrender permanently that fair heritage.
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Charles Simmonds




“The Railroads.,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 18, 2022,