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Then & Now

Whitetop, VA rests nested in the shadow of Whitetop Mountain just a mile or so from the North Carolina border. Whitetop was the highest point of the rail line between Abingdon, VA and West Jefferson, NC. This community at its height boosted and doctor, dentist, two hotels, post office and general store. When trains reached this point, a round table could turn the engine around or it  could proceed to the next stop.

The original station was torn down when the rails were taken up after 1977. This new station, although larger, was built on the same footprint as the original. Today Whitetop is one of the two main trail heads and welcomes visitors from all over the world.

The photograph, top right, shows Whitetop today. The photograph, bottom right, taken c. 1919 about 4 years after the rail line reached Whitetop, still has not been painted. At one time, Whitetop had two through tracks and two siding tracks.

The two bottom photos were taken by Winston-Salem Journal photographer Frank Jones on an excursion ride sometime around 1956. On a different trip near the same year two or three cars derailed at Whitetop. The cars were uncoupled and the train was allowed to finish the trip after several hours.

By this time most of the passenger traffic on the railroad had diminished. Cars were more plentiful and affordable, highways and roads had improved and the need for rails to move passengers in this area was less important.

The derailment of the train depicted in this photograph was one a a few along the rail line not to mention the wash outs from hard rains. It also reflected the maintenance and repair that was needed to maintain rail service.

This continued until 1974 when the then N&W Railroad petitioned to discontinue the Abingdon Branch due to severe damage from torrential rains. In 1977 the railroad was granted its petition and removal of track and buildings begun.

c. 1919, Used by permission of Norfolk Southern Railroad Archives

Courtesy of Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection, Winston-Salem, N. C.