Track Development at Farmville - TransDominion Express


Track Development at Farmville

There is a new twist to the TDX plan. At a meeting in Farmville, on July 1, the community discussed Norfolk Southern’s decision to discontinue use of track running through there. The TDX Steering Committee will be meeting this summer to further examine the situation, and determine if there is enough grass roots support there to keep the TDX from bypassing Farmville. No other planned stops would be affected. Here is a rundown of what we understand to be happening, thus far.

The Development

Last winter, Norfolk Southern (NS) diverted its coal trains from the track which runs through Farmville and crosses High Bridge. Declining coal orders have drastically reduced rail freight in that section. Both the Farmville line and the Old Virginia line, running to the south of Farmville, had been used to maintain bi-directional traffic. Now, two tracks are unnecessary. NS prefers to use the Old Virginia line, primarily for economic reasons. High Bridge represents a high maintenance and high liability stretch of track, partially stemming from a history of individuals trespassing on the bridge. Although legalities are on the side of Norfolk Southern, the railroad would be pleased to dispense with the expense of ensuing court hearings and settlements.

Delegate Watkins Abbitt, fearing the possibility of track abandonment, is seeking ways to keep the right of way open through the Rails to Trails Conservancy (RTC). Doing so would maintain right of way for future rail transportation by disallowing the property to revert to farmland, and it could also boost tourism for the area. However, should that option be adopted, it would forestall the TDX from passing through Farmville indefinitely.

Recent conversations with Norfolk Southern and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT) shed some light on plans and possibilities. Although NS can be expected to attach its decisions to the bottom line, it is beneficial that President, David Goode, grew up in Burkeville and nurtures certain nostalgia for the historic bridge. Currently, NS plans to remove the track for use elsewhere, but to preserve the historic bridge. Although it is improbable that once removed, track would ever be laid again, it is not impossible. Such action has reportedly taken place in the Pacific Northwest on the Old Milwaukee Line.


The obvious ramifications of allowing NS to pull up the track, whether for abandonment or for Rails to Trails, means there could be no viable passenger train station in Farmville. When traveling from Lynchburg to Richmond, the TDX would divert to the Old Virginia line west of Farmville at Pamplin City and rejoin the original route east of Farmville at Burkeville. Even if the right of way were retained and it were later determined to route TDX through Farmville, one would expect 15 years, at best, to pass before laying new track through the town. In that case, the trail would also have to be relocated at the extreme edge of the right of way and a fence erected between path and rail.


1. Residents of the Farmville region could be joined by the TDX to insist that the TDX route go through as planned. Prior to dismantling track, NS must get federal approval from the Surface Transportation Board for an abandonment exemption. There will be a period of open comment for customers, local governments, and others to file a motion for denial. But, this would require additional directed solutions.

• Rather than pulling it up, NS might consider selling the track at “market value,” derived from three separate, independent appraisals. Historically, NS has stuck fast to those figures. This option would be expensive.

• The concerned communities and/or other legal entity could petition the Commonwealth and/or the federal government to purchase the track and lease the right of way from NS. It would require available money and a strong argument, notably tied to the statewide rail plan now in development. Much groundwork and positioning, legal and fiduciary, would be necessary. Likely, this would also require a powerful advocate at the federal level.

• Once attained, we would need to have a developed plan for track and right-of-way maintenance, either contracting with the railroad or finding other sources.

2. Residents of the Farmville region could promote the Rails to Trails Conservancy in Farmville and encourage the community to develop a shuttle service to the replacement train station, which would be in either Burkeville or Pamplin City. Farmville would miss the immediacy of an on-the-spot train station, but it could still have relatively easy access to one within about 10 miles

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