Traffic on the "A" Line : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

Perhaps this is a bit off point, but it may be interesting.

My gal and I left the Shenandoah Valley in the motorhome Sunday, dropped some folks in Richmond, and quit at the Yogi Bear Campground in Emporia, which is just a couple of hundred yards from the "A" line. It's a great place for train listening, if not watching.

Traffic last night was heavier than we normally hear when we stay there. I can't be sure of the numbers, because we probably sleep through a lot of them, but I think we counted almost twenty between 10:00 pm and 7:00 am. Then there was a lull.

We left the campground around 10:30 am on Monday, and drove south through Emporia, and stopped to eat breakfast at a truck stop.

At about 11:15, we started south along US 301. A couple of miles down the road, we caught up with a southbound mixed freight behind one AC unit, moving along at about 25 miles an hour. I assumed that he was laying back for Amtrak 90, which passes that area about that time. Sure enough, a couple of miles below the "wye", the Northbound Palmetto flashed by through the trees. Then as we rounded the curve just above the state line, we say a southbound unit coal train (FLCX) in the hole, just beginning to move behind two AC units.

We stopped at the Virginia Lottery store at the state line, and watched the coal train build speed through the Georgia Pacific grade crossing. About ten minutes later, the mixed freight moved through at about 15 miles per hour, probably chasing the "yellows".

Once he had cleared Pleasant Hill, we followed himn as he built speed to 50 mph. We crossed over him on the highway bridge, and ran alongside toward Garysburg. At the end of northbound double track at Garysburg, there was a northbound mixed freight behind four units in the hole.

There, of course, the railroad leaves the highway until Halifix, and then it leaves you again until the bridge over the Roanoke River at Weldon. As we passed the bridge, there was a northbound COFC inching across the river.

So this morning, between 11:15 and about 12:00 nn, there were at least 5 trains in the twenty miles between Emporia and Weldon. I often travel this route, and seldom if ever have I seen this amount of activity.

By the way, we continued down 301 to the 64 Rocky Mount bypass, where we turned east toward Tarboro. As we crossed the ACL bridge, the coal train was heading south underneath us.

So what's causing all of the traffic??? Or was it just my lucky day?

Pete Wenk

-- Pete Wenk (, June 09, 2003


This is a response to Peter's question. With respect to Vic's answer, Yes you were lucky. That area can be very busy or dead for 2 or 3 hours. Of course they also jam up at rhe Roanoke river bridge.

-- Eric Corse (, June 15, 2003.

This is a response to Greg's question. Emporia Va was indeed two towns, Belfield north of the river and Hicksford on the south side. I've checked several items as to when they merged. I have an 1891 dispatchers sheet and a 1887 ETT which both show Belfield. They do not show Hicksford. The ETT from 1899 shows Emporia, so that narrows it down a bit. Hicksford junction was where the Greensville and Roanoke came off the Petersburg. This was later called the Gaston branch. The best info I have shows it about 3.5 miles south of Hicksford. There may have been a strucure of some kind there but I haven't seen anything to confirm or deny it. None of the references I have seen show a stop at Hicksford. The Coast Line later on had at least a freight house at South Emporia. I'm not sure if any passenger train stopped there.

-- Eric Corse (, June 15, 2003.

Yes, Larry, that 'tower' at the redone Emporia station does look a bit 'cheesy', but I guess it does have some historical precedent. Wasn't there a second station in the community at one time...a few hundred yards south and across the Meherrin river? (Actually in another village which later merged with Emporia.) I've mentioned before the single blade semiphores (long out of service) that are on either side of the NF&D diamond that controlled the crossing. They're certainly antiques...hope NS doesn't pull 'em down for scrap. Greg H. By the way, I wore my Society golf shirt while riding the 'Tarantula' steam tourist train on the old Cotton Belt route near Ft Worth, Tx last Sunday...lotta nice compliments.

-- Greg Hodges (, June 12, 2003.

About that station at actually is the old ACL freight station, although changed a good bit from its appearance before the city acquired and rebuilt the structure several years ago. The "tower" addition to the roof struck me as cheesy-looking and made up, but I later saw a postcard photo of the building in the early 1900s, and in fact it used to have a tower just like that. It may have housed the interlocking for the NF&D crossing, since as I recall we couldn't determine that a separate interlocking tower existed there. One other interesting tidbit is that when the city workers removed the old siding on the south side, they revealed the original wall, which was still emblazoned with ATLANTIC COAST LINE FREIGHT STATION in big letters on a pristine purple background. The Society urged the city to either leave that wall exposed, or remove it and donate it to us, but with no success.

-- Larry Goolsby (, June 11, 2003.

Vic is certainly right....this a a VERY busy area for freight & Amtrak movements. (even though much is now single tracked) In 'downtown' Emporia is a 'faux' station built to house a bank & Chamber of Commerce. Great ( & safe) viewing area only a few feet from the main line with adjacent parking. This spot is fifty yards or so from the old N,F,& D (NS) diamond....trains on the ACL 'hit' that diamond with a very convincing 'click-clack'. Very interesting action at Weldon further down the line.... though not sure of good/safe viewing area(s) there.

-- Greg Hodges (, June 11, 2003.

It is me or is this question posted 200,000 times a year. The North End sub runs more traffic than ANYWHERE else in NC. Last year alone, we ran 57 MILLION gross tons between Weldon and Rocky Mount. That's not even counting from Weldon north. If you want to watch trains in NC,come anywhere between Richmond and Rocky Mount and I ASSURE you,you will not be disappointed.

-- Vic Lewis (, June 09, 2003.

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