Virginia's First Railroad: The Chesterfield Railroad

The Commonwealth of Virginia's first common carrier railroad, the Chesterfield Railroad, was first planned in 1827 as a tramway between Richmond, VA and the mines 13 miles west of town. Scottish mine owners would name the area Midlothian, which remains the name today. (Right of way)

Construction was completed in 1831. The line ran with mule power as opposed to the new steam engines of the day. The workload of transporting coal from the mines nonetheless led it to being the most profitable railroad in the world at the time.

Image: James Shelton, "The now damaged granite block eastern and western abutments that were part of the Falling Creek Railroad Bridge of the Chesterfield Railroad."

However, the continuing passage of time would not be kind to companies who refused to invest into new technology. The line's success would continue until it was largely supplanted by a steam railway, namely the brand new Richmond and Danville Railroad, which ran just to its north. The Chesterfield brought a lawsuit attempting to legislate its competition out of existence, but it was unsuccessful.

As it was now duplicitous, it was allowed to be abandoned in 1851, making it one of the oldest railroad abandonments in US history. In spite of being abandoned for nearly 170 years, there are still a few remnants of the line in spots, such as the abutments that are pictured.

Thanks as always for reading!


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