Abandoned Rails

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Virginian Railway - Norfolk Division

Tidewater Junction - Norfolk, VA



Approximately two miles east of downtown Norfolk the Virginian Railway and the Norfolk Southern Railway (not to be confused with the modern day Norfolk Southern Corporation) crossed at grade.  The Norfolk Southern Railway was headquartered in Norfolk until 1961 and was merged into the Southern Railway on January 1, 1974 after being purchased by the Southern.  


The area was known as Tidewater Junction or simply Tidewater in Virginian speak.  The Norfolk Southern Railway's line from downtown Norfolk to Virginia Beach intersected here with the Virginian mainline to Sewell's Point.  An operator controlled the entire interlocking and connection track from Tidewater Tower which was located in the southwest quadrant of the diamond.  The tower stood for many years after being closed until finally being demolished in 1993.


Not only was Tidewater Junction where the two railroads met, but a connection track in the southwest quadrant facilitated the movement of Virginian passenger trains to and from downtown Norfolk as the line originally extended to Norfolk Terminal Station.  Just east of Terminal Station the line crossed the N&W on a diamond just north of where Interstate 264 crosses the Norfolk Southern mainline to Lambert's Point today. The Virginian operated it's passenger trains via trackage rights over the Norfolk Southern Railway between Tidewater Junction and the N&W diamond.  The trackage west of the N&W diamond to Terminal Station belonged to the Norfolk Terminal Company which was jointed owned by the N&W, Virginian, and Norfolk Southern Railway.  The Virginian's "South Branch Switcher" based out of Sewell's Point also operated over this line in order to service the Virginian freight station which was located adjacent to Terminal Station. 


According to official Norfolk Southern Timetables, the former Norfolk Southern Railway line was identified as the South Beach Route.  For many years the western terminus of the line was located near the intersection of Brown Avenue and Reservoir Avenue just east of the former N&W line to Lambert's Point.  To the east, the tracks extended as far as South Birdneck Road, just over a mile from the Virginia Beach oceanfront. 


Today Tidewater Junction is only a memory and the area is almost unrecognizable even from the modern day photos at the bottom of this page.  The diamond at Tidewater Junction was removed in 2003 and the former Norfolk Southern Railway line was abandoned between here and Virginia Beach.  It now serves as the right of way for The Tide, a light rail system operated by Hampton Roads Transit.  Extending for 7.4 miles, The Tide connects the downtown Norfolk area with the western fringes of the City of Virginia Beach. 


Up until construction of The Tide began in 2007, there were still several Virginian searchlight signals guarding the diamond and connection track at Tidewater Junction.  If you visit the junction today you'll find no evidence that there ever a crossing at grade here between two railroads.  A new bridge has been erected which allows The Tide to span the Norfolk Southern mainline.  It is interesting to note that the original connection track was left in place to maintain an outside rail connection between The Tide light rail system and Norfolk Southern. 


Despite the many changes Tidewater Junction has undergone in recent years, the junction still retains a unique piece of Virginian infrastructure.  Situated next to Westminster Avenue is a dual purpose milepost.  The mainline east of Tidewater Junction to Sewell's Point was designated as the Sewell's Point Branch.  It was assigned an "A" prefix, thus one side of the milepost is inscribed with "A0" since Tidewater is the origin of the branch.  The other side reads "2.3" which references the 2.3 mile distance from the junction to the Virginian's freight station, home of the zero milepost. 


Jeff Hawkins

September 2011




Copyright 2002- | Jeff Hawkins

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