Harrisonburg, VA 22807

Compiled by Samuel T. Elswick, June 1997 and Tony Madson, March 1998


SCOPE AND CONTENT. This collection consists of 15 records storage boxes and 32 unboxed large volumes of Chesapeake Western (CW) Railway operating records of various kinds, 1928-1982.

The origins of the CW date back at least to 1871, when the Washington, Cincinnati and St. Louis Railroad was chartered in Virginia as a narrow-gauge railroad to run from Washington, D.C., through Elkton, Harrisonburg, and Bridgewater, VA, to Cincinnati, OH. Virginians bought stock in the corporation, including many people in Rockingham County; rights of way were purchased and railbed grading began. But like many similar ventures of the time, the goals of the company never bore fruit and work halted in 1874.

In 1892, a group of promoters including Jedediah Hotchkiss incorporated to build a railway to carry coal from West Virginia mines to Gloucester Point, Va. Initially called the Chesapeake, Shendun, and Western Railroad, the name was quickly changed to Chesapeake & Western Railroad. Using parts of the old WC&StL right of way, and with $150,000 from the city of Harrisonburg to insure that the railroad would pass through it, a 26 mile single-track, standard-gauge line was completed from Elkton to Bridgewater and began operating on March 23, 1896. In the next few years, substantial C&W stock was purchased by New York investor Thomas Stokes, who hoped to develop the coal mines in western Rockingham County but became mired in financial difficulties. His brother, W.E.D. Stokes, purchased control of the C&W and also organized a new railroad, the Tidewater and West Virginia, in 1900. This changed its name in 1901 to the Chesapeake Western Railway, leased the C&W line for 99 years, and in 1902 completed 13 miles of rail from Bridgewater to the new town of Stokesville in North River Gap. Trains carried passengers as well as freight between Elkton and Stokesville. Plans were drawn up to continue the line into West Virginia, but were not implemented.

For just over a decade, Stokesville boomed as timber, tanbark, and to a much more limited extent, coal, in the area were exploited. Stokes operated the CW, with offices in Harrisonburg, until his death in 1926; his estate operated it until 1938. In 1928 the line from Mt. Solon to North River Gap was abandoned for financial reasons; in 1933, the nine miles from Bridgewater to Mt. Solon were also dropped. When the Stokes heirs put the CW up for sale in 1938, Don W. Thomas, a former Norfolk and Western Railroad employee who had been the general manager of the CW since 1926, fought a bid from Japanese scrap metal buyers and bought the line. In 1943, Thomas also bought the Baltimore and Ohio's Valley Road of Virginia line, which ran between Harrisonburg and Lexington.  The line south of Staunton was taken up and sold for scrap, but the road between Harrisonburg and Staunton was improved and became an important link in the CW system, because there was a connection with the Chesapeake &Ohio Railroad at Staunton. The CW was linked with the Norfolk & Western at Elkton. 

In 1954, the Norfolk & Western Railroad purchased the CW, but the name was retained and it was operated as a separate corporation. By about 1980, however, little or no rolling stock carried the CW logo any longer. Norfolk & Western and the Southern Railway Company merged as Norfolk Southern Corporation on June 1, 1982. A five-alarm fire burned the CW office located at Chesapeake Drive in Harrisonburg on July 28, 1982, and company offices and operations were eventually absorbed by NS. Five miles of track east of Bridgewater were removed in 1988. The CW under the control of NS serves as the Harrisonburg area’s poultry feed supplier, passing through the campus of James Madison University several times daily.

PROVENANCE. Operating records remained in the CW building after the 1982 fire, many of them in disarray on the floor, damaged from fire or water or both. In April 1997, JMU professors Raymond Hyser (History Dept.) and Clarence Geier (Anthrology Dept.) requested and received permission from D.A. Brown, II, Superintendent, VA Division of Norfolk Southern in Roanoke, to salvage the records for research use. After an initial cleaning and inventory by departmental students, the materials were deposited in Carrier Library in February, 1998. These are apparently the only extant records of the CW, although some items may be held by Norfolk Southern.


Cooper, Mason Y. Norfolk and Western’s Shenandoah Valley Line. Forest, Virginia: Norfolk and Western Historical Society, Inc., 1998.

Geier, Clarence. Stokesville; Augusta County, Virginia: Early History and Town Plan. [Report] Submitted to George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, Roanoke, VA. March, 1998.

Hawkins, Leighman. "The Shortline Railroads of Virginia." Virginia and The Virginia County, January 1951.

Murray, Michael S. "Rails Through Rockingham County: The Chesapeake Western Story." Railpace Newsmagazine, January 1985.

"Norfolk and Western to buy Chesapeake Western." Harrisonburg Daily News Record. July 29, 1954.

Price, Charles Grattan, Jr. The Crooked and Weedy: A History of Virginia’s Chesapeake Western Railway. Harrisonburg: Don Mills, Inc., 1992.

Thompson, Tommy. "Shortline." Harrisonburg Daily News Record, April 3, 1971.


Series 1: Payrolls and Time Sheets, 1929-1982, with gaps. Contain names of employees, occupations, hours, rates, payments, and dates of employment.

Box 1: Bound Volume (Bd. Vol.)1, Jan. 1929-Dec. 1935;  2, Jan. 1936-Dec. 1937; 3, Jan. 1938-Dec. 1940.

Box 2: Bd. Vol. 1, Jan. 1941-Dec. 1942; 2, 1944; 3, 1945.

Box 3: Bd. Vol. 1, 1947; Folder 1, Jan. 1976 - Dec. 1976 and Jan. 15, 1977;           2, Jan. 1978-Feb. 1978; 3. March 1978-April 1978.

Box 4: Bd. Vol. 1, May -June 1978; 2, July -August 1978; 3, Sept.-October 1978; 4, Nov.-Dec. 1978.

Box 5: Bd. Vol. 1, Jan.-Feb. 1979; 2, March -April 1979; 3, May -June 1979; 4, July -August 1979.

Box 6: Bd. Vol. 1, Sept.-Oct. 1979; 2, Nov.-Dec. 1979; 3, Jan.-Feb. 1980; 4, March -April 1980.

Box 7: Bd. Vol. 1, May -June 1980; 2, July-August 1980; 3, Sept.-Oct. 1980; 4, Nov.-Dec. 1980.

Box 8: Bd. Vol. 1, Jan.-Feb. 1981; 2, March-April 1981; 3, May-June 1981; 4, July -Aug. 1981.

Box 9: Bd. Vol. 1, Sept.-Oct. 1981; 2, Nov.-Dec. 1981; 3, Jan.-Feb. 1982; 4, Mar.-Apr. 1982; 5, May -June 1982.

Series 2: Account Books.

9A (unboxed): Balance in Interline Freight Accounts, Bd. Vol. 1932-1938. Lists date, items, folio number, and debits with yearly balances, organized alphabetically by account name. Some account entries include the B&O Railroad, Michigan Central, and the NYC and St. Louis Railway.

9B & 9C (unboxed): Car Services Balance Books, Bd. Vol. 9B, Jan. 1944-March 1952; 9C, Jan. 1953-Dec. 1971. Balance and payment information for interline car service accounts.

9D & 9E (unboxed): Record of Amounts Due From and To Foreign Companies on Interline Freight Accounts, Bd. Vol. 9D, Jan. 1955-Dec. 1967; 9E, Jan. 1968-Feb. 1974. (For Sept. 1935 see Series 4: Misc. Docs., folder 1).

9F-9I: Journals (unboxed), Bd. Vols, 1930-1944. Contain operating expenses and revenues and other miscellaneous information. Entries include shops and engine house, bridges, agents, conductors, donations, etc. :
9F: Jan. 1930-Sept. 1933 (stamped as "No. 8").
9G: Oct. 1933-June 1936 (stamped as "No. 9").
9H: July 1936-June 1939 (stamped as "No. 10").
9I: July 1939-Feb. 1944 (stamped as "No. 11").

Box 10: Per Diem Reclaim Records, 1952-1969.
Bd. Vol. 1, Jan. 1952-Dec. 1957; 2, Jan. 1958-Aug. 1963.
Folder 1, 1964; Folder 2, 1965; Folder 3, 1966; Folder 4, 1967; Folder 5, 1968; Folder 6, 1969.

Box 11: Per Diem Reclaim Records, con't., 1970-1973.
Folder 1, 1970; Folder 2, 1971; Folder 3, 1972; Folder 4, 1973.
Folder 5: Income Statement, Jan. 1968-Nov. 1971.
Records of Vouchers Released, Bd. Vol. May 1955-Dec. 1967.
(Box 11 continues under Series 3, below).

11A (unboxed): Freight Car Hire, Bd. Vol. 11A, 1943-1975. Summaries of Car Hire, Passenger, and Freight Car Mileage.

11B (unboxed): Miscellaneous Accounts, Bd. Vol. 11B, 1934-1951. Contains detailed account information on a variety of topics, organized chronologically and cat1egorically under Operating Revenues, Freight Revenues, Rent from Locomotives, Misc. Income, Maintenance, Transportation Improvements, and statements for the depreciation for railway structures. Series 3: Dispatchers' and Conductors' Reports.

Box 11 (cont.): Dispatcher’s Record of Movement of Trains, Bd. Vol. 2, 1973-1975; 3, 1976-1979. Contain information about specific trains, routes, departure times, distances, and engine numbers.

Box 12: Time Return and Delay Reports: Bd. Vol. 1, 1975; 2, 1976; 3, 1977. Lists engineer’s name, train departure time, type of service, etc.

Box 13: Bd. Vol. 1, 1978; 2, 1979; 3, 1980.

Box 14: Bd. Vol. 1, 1981.
(Box 14 continues under Series 4, below).

14A (unboxed): Conductor’s Car Records and Tonnage Reports: Folder 1, Feb. 1980-Sept. 1980; Fold. 2, Oct. 1980-Feb. 1981; Fold. 3, Mar.-July 1981; Fold. 4, Aug.-Dec. 1981; Fold. 5, Jan.-Jun. 1982. Includes engine number, weight of trains, cargo, and names of conductors and engineers on each train. Series 4: Miscellaneous Documents. Not easily categorized. Some records are bound, but most are loose-leaf.

14B & 14C (unboxed): Shipping Logs, 1970-77: 14B, A-M; 14C, N-Z.

Box 14 (con't): Chronological Correspondence Files: Bd. Vol. 2, 1976; 3, 1977; 4, 1979. Variety of topics, including land leases, shipments, track upgrades, expense reports, and business agreements.
Bullinger’s Postal and Shipper’s Guide for the US and Canada, Bd. Vol. 5, 1963. Published volume containing shipping rates, distances, etc.
Standard Transportation Commodity Code Tariff No. 1-E, Bd. Vol. 6, Nov. 15, 1977.

Box 15: Miscellaneous Documents, con't.
Folder 1, 1935-1938. Various financial notes and documents, many handwritten: Conductor’s Balance Sheet (Sept. 1935), operating expenses (undated), Per Diem Reclaim Mileage Records, Record of Amounts Due From and To Foreign Companies on Interline Freight Accounts (Sep. 1935), and Reports of Interline Passenger Traffic (Aug. 1935). One of these last records contains a note in the "Remarks" column stating "CCC,".probably indicating a one way trip to the Bridgewater Station for Civilian Conservation Corps men.

Folder 2, 1955-1976. Documents and invoices for parts and repairs, indemnity releases, and misc.

Folder 3, 1928-1968. Records and correspondence on purchase of forms from various printing companies, including local ones.

Folder 4, 1930s-41. Three different forms related to the Railroad Retirement Board, containing employee biographical and genealogical information.

Folder 5, 1930s-43. Employee personnel records related to Railroad Retirement Board, containing biographical and genealogical information.

Folder 6, 1941-73. Employee personnel records related to Railroad Retirement Board, containing biographical and genealogical information.

Folder 7, 1970s. Includes a State Corporation Commission Assessment of Property, explanations of reporting procedures, and misc. correspondence.
Traffic Analyses and other shipping records, 1973-1981 (with gaps).
Folder 8, 1972
Folder 9, 1973
Folder 10, 1974
Folder 11, 1975
Folder 12, 1976
Folder 13, 1977
Folder 14, 1978
Folder 15, 1980
Folder 16, 1981

Folder 17, 1975-80. Two Receipt Books, Carload Traffic Received, Automobile Expense Records, Forecast Statement, letter concerning N&W strike, letter leasing 3.5 acres to Va. Electric and Power Co.

Folder 18, 1934-55. Correspondence, freight bills, account information, etc. pertaining to the Staunton Textile Corp. and the Celanese Corp.

Folder 19, 1974-1976. Records pertaining to Exxon.Series 5: Blueprints and Schematics.

15A (unboxed): Blueprint, of the railroad between two stations, last updated in 1951; difficult to read.

15B (unboxed): Schematics, 1961-1979. Diagrams of electrical gates and signal wiring at various points along the railroad.

Series 6: Per Diem/Mileage and Transfer Books, 1953-1970 (with gaps). Contain what appear to be freight and transfer records, written in a code. Organized alphabetically by company name.
15C, (unboxed): 1953

15D " : 1954.
15E " : 1955.
15F " : 1956.
15G " : 1957.
15H " : 1958.
15I " : 1959.
15J " : 1960.
15K " : 1961.
15L " : 1962.
15M " : 1963.
15N " : 1964.
15O " : 1966.
15P " : 1967.
15Q " : 1968.
15R " : January 1970.
15S " : January-June 1970.