Abandoned Rails

< Main Page

The Norlina Subdivision

Petersburg, VA to Norlina, NC



Many railfans and railroaders alike will argue that one of the most controversial abandonments ever made by CSX was the former Seaboard Air Line Railroad (SAL) mainline between South Collier, VA and Norlina, NC.  Regardless of one's opinion, the line is no more.  Under SAL ownership the line between Richmond and Raleigh was known as the Richmond Subdivision.  After the formation of the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad (SCL) on July 1, 1967 the route was identified as the Norlina Subdivision.  A practice which continues to this day with the active segment between Ridgeway, NC and Raleigh.

Almost immediately following the 1967 merger with the ACL, the mainline between Centralia to Petersburg was abandoned in favor of using the existing ACL mainline (A-Line).  In late 1986 CSX shuttered the Norlina Subdivision and the tracks were removed the following summer.   

  • CSX began rerouting through manifest and intermodal trains off the Norlina Subdivision on November 9, 1985.  This included trains R460, R461, R465, R190, R191 and R192.   

  • The last scheduled passenger train was Amtrak 81 which ran on Sunday, October 26, 1986.  The last northbound Amtrak 82 ran the prior day on October 25, 1986. 

  • The last non-passenger train to run over the Norlina Subdivision between Norlina and Collier Yard was a northbound work train consisting of one engine and ten cars.  It departed Raleigh at 10:30 PM on December 31, 1986 and arrived in Petersburg at approximately 1:00 AM on January 1, 1987. 

  • The last official train operated over the line was a rail train in March 1987.

Defect detectors were located as follows: Burgess (32.6), McKenney (45.7), Cochran (62.3), and Hagood (82.5).  Between Norlina and Raleigh detectors could be found at Middleburg (106.1), Franklinton (131.2) and Neuse (147.4).  All were the SAL's standard white cinderblock buildings.  There was also a detector located at Chester prior to that portion of the line being abandoned in 1970.  There was orginally a detector at La Crosse (78.06) prior to Hagood being placed in service in 1964.  The detectors at McKenney, La Crosse and Middleburg were active as of March 1961 according to FCC records.  All seven defector detectors are still standing as of late 2014. 

The SAL and SCL maintained radio stations at the following locations between Petersburg and Norlina: Dewitt (41.7), Alberta (61.1), La Crosse (78.0) and Norlina (98.2).  All four radio station buildings are still standing as of late 2014.  The radio station at La Crosse was originally the aforementioned defect detector. 

Thanks to the generous contributions, both in the form of photographs and information, from Steve Hammer, Herman Wilkins, Walt Gay, Jeff Allgood, Ryan Riddell, Staunton Cottrell , Doug Riddell and Chris Astle Jr.  This page would not exist without their help.  It should be noted that most of the views seen below are not possible anymore due to extensive overgrowth.  For additional photos of the modern day Norlina Subdivision, click here

If you would like to contribute material, please e-mail me




Petersburg - Appomattox River Bridge (S22)


The Seaboard's ominous bridge spanning the Appomattox River in Petersburg was built in 1931 and measured over 2,000' in length.  While the bridge is gone the five massive concrete piers still stand to this day.


Top photo by Chris Astle Jr.  (March 30, 1974)

Bottom photo by Herman Wilkins (1983)




Petersburg - ACL Bridge


Looking railroad north (compass east) along the SAL roadbed where it passed under the ACL mainline in Petersburg.


Photo by Walt Gay (2013)




Burgess (S32.4)


This photo is looking north from the old Quaker Road grade crossing.  The mainline track was on the left and the siding was on the right.  Barely visible in the distance are the Interstate 85 bridges.  The S.E. Burgess interlocking was several hundred feet behind the photographer. 


Photo by Walt Gay (1987)




S.E. Burgess (S32.4)


A CSX rail train is in the process of removing rails at the former S.E. Burgess interlocking during the summer of 1987.  The white building visible in the distance is the Burgess defect detector. 


Photo by Walt Gay (1987)




Burgess DD (S32.6)


Hiding amongst the trees and vegetation is the old SAL defect detector at Burgess.  The mainline track was located on the other side of the structure as seen in the previous photo.  Yes, this is the same location.  It illustrates just how grown up much of the right of way has become.   


Photo by Jeff Hawkins (May 25, 2014)




Milepost 34 (S34)


SCL caboose No. 0950 from train 289 has overturned at milepost S34 during a derailment in 1984.


Photo by Herman Wilkins (1984)



Dinwiddie - Depot (S37.5)


SCL caboose No. 0950 from train 289 has overturned at milepost S34 during a derailment in 1984.


Photo by Bill Monypenny - 1970 (Brian Ezzelle Collection)






Dinwiddie (S37.7)


The beginning of the end.  CSX crews are busy removing the rails through Dinwiddie County.  From here on out, only memories will remain of trains passing through Dinwiddie.  This photo was taken looking south from the Courthouse Road bridge. 


Photo by Herman Wilkins (1987)




Stony Creek (S38.8)


Looking north at the bridge over Stony Creek just south of Dinwiddie. 


Photo by Walt Gay (1992)




Dewitt - Radio Station (S41.7)


The northernmost radio station located on the Norlina Subdivision was at Dewitt.  Visible on the right is one of two antennas still standing here, including one on the opposite side of the building that is well over 100' tall. 


Photo by Jeff Hawkins (November 9, 2014)




Dewitt (S41.8)


Just prior to abandonment, SCL GP38-2 No. 2546 is seen passing through DeWitt to pick up the last few cars at McKenney.


Photo by Herman Wilkins (1987)




S.E. Dewitt (S42.6)


Looking south where the S.E. Dewitt interlocking was located.  The base for the northbound signal can be seen in the distance near the center of the photo.   


Photo by Jeff Hawkins (April 10, 2014)




Georgia Pacific Chip Mill (S45)


This wood chip mill was located a few miles north of McKenney along U.S. Route 1.  Author and historian Bill Griffin recounts this as being the only active shipper between South Collier and McKenney at the time CSX abandoned the Norlina Subdivision.


Photo by Walt Gay (Date Unknown)





McKenney DD (S45.7)


The old SAL hot box detector at McKenney. The bottom photo is looking south with the detector barely visible on the left.  


Photos by Jeff Hawkins (November 9, 2014)




McKenney - Station (S47.7)


Walt Gay photographed the modern SAL station at McKenney several years after the line was abandoned.  This is a replacement for the original passenger station and was built in 1964.  The station has been incorporated into a large industrial building that now spans the old roadbed and only the south end of the structure is visible.  


Photo by Walt Gay (1992)




Nottoway River (S50.7)


Looking north at the Nottoway River bridge just south of McKenney. 


Photo by Walt Gay (1992)





Alberta - SAL/VGN Crossing (S61.1)


These two photos are looking south at the location where the Virginian Railway (VGN) crossed over the SAL.  As you can see the trees grew quite a bit in a 23 year span.   The SAL was completed through Alberta in 1900 while the VGN laid it's tracks down through town in 1906, spanning the Seaboard on a bridge.


Top photo by Steve Hammer (July 1991)

Bottom photo by Jeff Hawkins (April 10, 2014)




Alberta - Station (S61.1)


Jeff Allgood took this photo of the modern SAL station in Alberta during the last year the Norlina Subdivision was active.  This station was built in 1959 and still stands today in fairly decent condition and even rates a new roof.  At this time the Norfolk Southern (ex-VGN) line was still active and part of the bridge spanning the Norlina Subdivision is visible in the top left corner of the photo.  Norfolk Southern operated the last official train thru Alberta on April 22, 1988.


Photo by Jeff Allgood (1986)




Alberta - Radio Station (S61.1)


Positioned opposite the right of way from the station is the Alberta radio station building.  There are no antennas remaining at this location. 


Photo by Jeff Hawkins (November 9, 2014)





Alberta - MOW Buildings (S61.3)


Steve Hammer captured the fall colors at near peak in October 1992 when he photographed a trio of MOW buildings in Alberta.  Although it was five years post abandonment, the right-of-way is surprisingly open. 

Fast forward to the Spring of 2014 and the same three buildings are still standing in good condition.  It was noted that several code line poles are still standing nearby as well. 


Top photo by Steve Hammer (October 1992)

Bottom photo by Jeff Hawkins (April 10, 2014)





Alberta - Oil House (S61.3)


The old oil house in Alberta still stands amongst the rapidly growing weeds. 


Top photo by Steve Hammer (October 1992)

Bottom photo by Jeff Hawkins (April 10, 2014)





Alberta - Tool House (S61.3)


Another building located in Alberta.


Top photo by Steve Hammer (October 1992)

Bottom photo by Jeff Hawkins (April 10, 2014)





Alberta - MOW Building (S61.3)


Yet another structure from Alberta.


Top photo by Steve Hammer (October 1992)

Bottom photo by Jeff Hawkins (April 10, 2014)




Cochran DD (S62.3)


Standing amongst a barren area that was recently harvested for timber, the old defect detector at Cochran still stands adjacent to the old roadbed. 


Photo by Jeff Hawkins (May 25, 2014)





Cochran - Route 1 Bridge (S63)


These views were taken from the bridge that carried the northbound lanes of U.S. Route 1 over the Norlina Subdivision.


Photos by Kenny Daniels (July 1987)





La Crosse (S78.9)


Another town that once hosted two railroads is La Crosse.  In addition to the SAL, the Norfolk, Franklin & Danville ran east/west through town crossing the Seaboard on a diamond that was located just to the right of center in both of the above photographs.  Both views are looking north and in the top photo the U.S. 58 bridge is barely visible in the center of the frame.  Today very little from the 1992 photo remains except for one pole and the stop sign. 


Top photo by Steve Hammer (June 1992)

Bottom photo by Jeff Hawkins (April 10, 2014)




La Crosse (S79)


The oil house along with two unidentified railroad buildings in La Crosse.  All three structures have since been demolished.  Note the station visible in the left of the photo. 


Photo by Steve Hammer (June 1992)





La Crosse (S79)


In June 1992 Steve Hammer photographed the SCL era station that served La Crosse.  The right-of-way is located on the very left edge of both photos.  While the code line poles are gone, the building remains and now serves as the town office.  The name La Crosse is derived from the fact that two railroads once crossed.  During the steam era, La Crosse was one of four water stations on the SAL between Richmond and Raleigh.  The others three were located at McKenney, Cochran and Norlina.


Top photo by Steve Hammer  (June 1992)

Bottom photo by Jeff Hawkins (April 10, 2014)





Hagood DD (S82.5)


The old SAL hot box detector at Hagood.  The detector was placed in service at 6:00 PM on May 28, 1964.  This detector replaced the original installation at LaCrosse (S78.06).


Photos by Jeff Hawkins (November 9, 2014)




Bracey (S86.5)


Looking north from what used to be the Bracey Drive grade crossing.  The station was orignally located off to the left.


Photo by Jeff Hawkins (February 2004)





Bracey Depot (S86.5)


The old depot in Bracey is now privately owned and still looks respectable in this modern view.

This photo shows how the depot appeared in April 2008.  Note that the "BRACEY, VA" sign on the end of the building is now gone.  I don't know if this was removed by the owners for safe storage or if it was stolen.  


Top photo by Brian Ezzelle (July 26, 1987)

Middle and bottom photos by Jeff Hawkins (April 2002 & April 2008)





Bracey (S86.5)


Looking south from what used to be the Bracey Drive grade crossing.  The depot is visible through the trees in the left of the photo.


Top photo by Brian Ezzelle (July 25, 1987)

Bottom photo by Jeff Hawkins (February 18, 2004)




Bracey (S83.7)


The view looking south from the Highway 903 overpass towards Lake Gaston.


Photo by Jeff Hawkins (April 2008)




Bracey (S86.5)


The view looking north from the Highway 903 overpass.  This deep cut was known as the "Grand Canyon of the East" by Seaboard crews.  The northbound grade was a stiff one as the line rose in elevation as it left Lake Gaston. 


Photo by Jeff Hawkins (April 2008)




Lake Gaston Bridge (S88.6)


This photo was taken from Interstate 85 and shows the Seaboard's nearly 3,000' long bridge across Lake Gaston. 


Photo by Jeff Hawkins (April 2008)





Wise (S95)


Brian Ezzelle took these views looking north and south at Wise, NC shortly after the rails had been removed.


Photos by Brian Ezzelle (July 25, 1987)





Norlina - Depot (S98)


Originally known as Ridgeway Junction, the Town of Norlina was founded in 1900.  These photos show the station in the waning years of the Norlina Subdivision.  It is believed that the station was demolished in 1987 in conjunction with the line north of Norlina being removed.   


Photos by Bob Vendetti (Circa early 1980's)





Norlina (S98)


This pair of images is looking east to Portsmouth and south towards Raleigh respectively.  It's the summer of 1987 and the rails to Richmond have been removed and the depot has been torn down.  A sharp eye will also detect that the signal heads in the distance have been turned. 


Photos by Brian Ezzelle (July 25, 1987)






Raleigh (S156)


This trio of photographs show the former SAL passenger station in Raleigh in the years following the end of passenger service north of Raleigh via the Norlina Subdivision.  The station was known the Bagwell Station and was named for Mr. Eugene C. Bagwell, an officer of the railroad.  It was located at the south end of the SAL's Johnson Street Yard.  The Bagwell Station served 14 trains daily when it opened on September 28, 1942.  From late 1986 to 1991 the property sat unused until a garden center opened for business, and is still in operation as of late 2014.  Both the station and train sheds remain standing and in good condition.  The Seaboard Cafe also operates inside the former SAL Bagwell Station.   


Top photo by Bob Vendetti (1988)

Middle photo by Brian Ezzelle (August 10, 1990)

Bottom photo by Brian Ezzelle (February 1987)





Copyright 2002- | Jeff Hawkins

All copyrights are the property of their respective owners.