Railroad Towns: Crewe, Virginia – A Town Built By The Norfolk & Western

This old photo shows Crewe, Virginia (what looks like the 60s) as it was in busier times. Photographer unknown

This old photo shows Crewe, Virginia (what looks like the 60s) as it was in busier times. Photographer unknown

Crewe, Virginia – A Town Built By The Norfolk & Western

In the late 1950s, commercial photographer O. Winston Link spent 5 years documenting the last days of steam on the Norfolk & Western railroad (N&W). This took him to various nooks and crannies of the system including small, out-of-the-way towns like Crewe, Virginia.

Like many towns that dotted the rail lines in 19th century America, Crewe owes its existence to the railroad…. After all, it was named for the large railroad town of Crewe, England.

The N&W pre-planned and built the town in 1888 to support the operations of the N&W as a Divisional halfway point between Norfolk and Roanoke, Virginia. Most notably as a central location to house steam locomotive repair shops. The Norfolk & Western Railroad merged with the Southern Railway in the early 1980s and became the successful Norfolk Southern transportation system of today.

Unfortunately, as is the way with any merger (and with a changing of the times themselves) many railroad towns became less important to the railroads and many railroads outgrew many of the small towns along the lines they served…. Small towns like Crewe, Va..

The railroad repair facility’s importance decreased sharply in the 1950s as the switch to diesel-electric locomotives required less labor and equipment.

These days it seems that Lynchburg is the more important focal point of what is now Norfolk Southern’s Heartland  and Crescent Corridors, but fortunately for railfans and historians, remnants of Crewe’s glory days still exist…. For example there’s the Crewe Railroad Museum and NS still has a small yard there for east-west trains carrying Appalachian coal to Hampton Roads for export abroad.

The Museum is located on land donated by NS and is adjacent to their current operational yard. There’s several adequate viewing spots to monitor NS trains and operations without trespassing on railroad property.

In our next episode of Railroad Towns we’ll look at another once key rail yard that was once part of the NS system…. Keysville, Virginia is located a short distance southwest of Crewe and was built by the NS’s other half, the Southern Railway….

But that is another story….

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Railroad Towns: Crewe, Virginia

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Author:Railfan AC

AC is a U.S. Air Force Veteran, a long haul trucker, a transportation enthusiast and a lifelong lover of trains. AC's mission is to travel America documenting American railroading in the 21st century while educating those who want to know about the importance the railroads play in our daily lives including, but not limited to, the movement of goods, services and more.

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