The End of N & W Passenger Service on the Clinch Valley Division…Part 1

© Jerry F. Couch

HERE’S HOW IT ALL STARTED — [From the Clinch Valley News, July 11, 1890]  Mr. O’Connor, who has charge of the track-laying force on the C. V. [Clinch Valley Division of the N & W Railway] above St. Paul has been directed to have the track completed to St. Paul by the 15th inst., as the regular passenger train will be ordered to make regular daily trips to that place on and after that date.

For years, N & W provided safe and dependable daily passenger service between Bluefield to Norton.  Traveling through a series of curves, grades, tunnels, and trestles, those who rode N & W’s rails were treated to an ever-changing panorama.  Farms, coal mines, coke ovens, tipples, factories, towns both large and small, were nestled alongside the tracks.  Generations of children waved at the passing trains.  I was one of them, just as my father and mother had been.

Train Schedule 1914 N & W

The final Bluefield to Norton N & W passenger run took place on March 30, 1959.  “Number 5” arrived in St. Paul at approximately 1:30 p.m.  It was made up of ten coaches carrying 1,000 or more passengers according to an Associated Press article that appeared in newspapers the following day.

03-30-59 N&W passenger train - crowd
A portion of the crowd that gathered at the St. Paul Union Depot to await Number 5’s arrival on March 30, 1959.

03-30-59 Train arrvies - 2 diesels 10 coaches.jpg
Number 5 approaches the depot.
03-30-59 N&W passenger train - coaches
This picture was snapped by Icie Williams, who operated Brooks Cafe on St. Paul’s Western Front.  She was our friend and South St. Paul neighbor.  My father and I had stopped at her restaurant to wait for the train.  I’m one of the wide-eyed kids looking out the window of coach number 1660 on March 30, 1959.  

The day was sunny though a bit chilly as my father and I boarded the train.  Departing St. Paul, the Robinette Trestle seemed impossibly high, and cars on the highway below seemed impossibly small.  The drinking fountain in the coach we were riding was puzzling.  How could a train have running water without a pipe attached to a spring or a well?  For years, I kept one of the little conical paper drinking cups as a souvenir.

03-30-59 N&W Passenger Train
Number 5’s diesel engine and mail-freight car.
03-30-59 Elizabeth Greear, Anna Barbee, Lora Hillman
Long-term St. Paul residents Miss Elizabeth Greear, Anna Hillman Barbee, and Lora Hillman Hancock were on hand to say goodbye to Number 5 on March 30, 1959.

If you were aboard Number 5 on March 30, 1959, please consider sharing your memories for others to enjoy.   Part 2 of this story will feature pictures of Number 5’s final trip from Norton to Bluefield that took place on April 4, 1959.



3 thoughts on “The End of N & W Passenger Service on the Clinch Valley Division…Part 1

  1. I was not on this train, but my father took me on the last passenger train from Princeton to Mullens. I have a photograph commemorating the day, but have no idea who any of the people are other than myself.

  2. Don’t know what number of the train but I rode the train from St.Paul to Castlewood many many times from about 1949 to 1952.Had a sister Edna Couch Boris, that lived in Castlewood.

  3. I rode the passenger many times. I also met the train at night in Tip Top to hand the days section workers time sheets to the baggage person. i lived with Jack Brewster who was the section foreman in the early 1950’s. I really miss all the steam locomotives on the CVL.

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