CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Train and railroad enthusiasts can join other history buffs for “Every Blood-Stained Mile: The Building of the Norfolk and Western in West Virginia,“ the topic of discussion for a lecture at 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 1, in the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. Historians Jack and Kay Dickinson of Huntington will deliver the free talk and the public is invited to participate in the presentation.
Almost as soon as the Norfolk and Western (N&W) Railroad edged its way across the Virginia state line into Bluefield, N&W President Fred Kimball began to look for a midwestern outlet to expand his markets. He decided to extend his railroad to the Ohio River near Ceredo, where he could link up with another railroad that traveled to Cincinnati and Columbus. The Ohio Extension, as the additional N&W Railroad was called, ran from Elkhorn, near Bluefield, to the Ohio River.
This was rugged territory, and law enforcement was almost nonexistent. When the railroad began construction, different ethnic groups often clashed resulting in several deaths. By September 1892 when the track opened, the Ohio Extension had cost $8 million, almost bankrupting the N&W. However, the railroad brought a new era to the region. Villages sprang up, centered around the railroad station, and towns like Kenova, Naugatuck, Welch and Williamson took hold and still exist. When Kimball realized he had made a mistake in choosing the original path along Twelvepole Creek, the N&W built the Big Sandy Line, which follows the western border of West Virginia along the Big Sandy River. Today this is the route of the Norfolk Southern through West Virginia.
The Dickinsons will discuss the difficulties and problems encountered in building these two lines of the railroad, as well as how the towns sprang up along the tracks. They also will reveal little-known source material.
Husband and wife authors, the Dickinsons have spent more than 40 years researching the history and genealogy of the people and places of southern West Virginia. For a decade, they did research as certified genealogists and produced a four-volume set of books that covers the construction of the railroad; the growth of the area; the group of men who were the special agents or railroad detectives who provided security for the railroad and its passengers; stories of some bizarre train wrecks; and some amazing survival stories. The books will be available for purchase following the session. The couple is nearing completion of the fifth and final book in the series.
Jack Dickinson also is the author of a dozen books on the Civil War in West Virginia, for which Kay served as research assistant and editor. They recently authored and published a biography of Confederate Gen. Albert Gallatin Jenkins, which includes the history of his Green Bottom plantation.
On May 1, the library will close at 5 p.m. and reopen at 5:45 p.m. for participants only. For planning purposes, participants are encouraged to register for the workshop, but advance registration is not required to attend. To register in advance, contact Robert Taylor, library manager, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (304) 558-0230, ext. 163. Participants interested in registering by e-mail should send their name, telephone number and the name and date of the session. For additional information, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The Division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the Division’s programs, events and sites, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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