Frograil Rail Tours -- Virginia Railfan Sites

Virginia Railfan Sites

A self-guiding railfan tour

Railfan, railfan--where do you see trains in Virginia? Here are lots and lots of individual sites. Check out the Cities and Sites listing below to take you all around Virginia.


There are now 11 self-guiding railfan tours in Virginia for local residents and visitors. For a map of the relative locations of these tours, go here.

CSX Portsmouth Subdivision, Suffolk to Garysburg. This one connects the Tidewater area to the A-Line, and offers ~16 specific fanning locations. More are to come. Sites detailed on the tour are identified in the Cities and Sites listing with a "[CSX-PS]".

NS Bluefield to Knoxville. Thru the Appalachians, this tour is complete in Virginia between Bluefield and Cedar Bluff, and between Saint Paul and Frisco. It's further completed from Frisco down to Knoxville, Tennessee. The total distance detailed is 208.3 miles, including 120.4 miles in Virginia. Sites detailed on the tour are identified in the Cities and sites listing with an "[APP]".

NS Valley Line Tour, -- expanded August 2009 -- Stuarts Draft - Hagerstown, MD. This is part of what will be a Roanoke -- Harrisburg tour, and details train watching locations along the Shenandoah Valley -- some of the most beautiful countryside in the United States. Sites detailed on the tour are identified in the Cities and Sites listing with a "[NW - VL]".

CSX Chesapeake & Ohio, Williamsburg - West Virginia Border. Recently expanded from Williamsburg to Providence Forge, and from Moss Run to the West Virginia Border. There are now ~225.9 miles of this tour in Virginia. Sites detailed on the tour are identified in the Cities and Sites listing with a "[C&O]".

NS Virginian Tour, Roanoke to Abilene. This will be a west - east counterpart to the NS Tidewater - Lakeshore Tour, which is being developed as an east - west tour. completed is a 21.7 Roanoke South Yard - Moneta section. The Altavista - Phenix segment has also been developed, and is 41.9 miles long. Sites detailed on the tour are identified in the Cities and Sites listing with a "[VGN]".

CSX East Coast Tour, New Jersey to Miami. Several Virginia segments of this tour are now open: 40.8 miles from the Potomac River to south of Marine Corps Base Quantico at Brooke, and another 127.3 mile section from Fredericksburg thru Richmond and Petersburg, and onto the border with North Carolina. Sites detailed on the tour are identified in the Cites and Sites listing with a "[CSX-E]".

CSX The Clinchfield, Unaka Springs/Chestoa, TN to Trammel, VA. Sites detailed on the tour are identified in the Cities and sites listing with a "[CCO]"

NS B-Line, Manassas -- Front Royal, Virginia. Sites detailed on the tour are identified in the Cities and sites listing with a "[B-Line]".

NS Crescent Route, NC/VA border -- Washington, DC. Sites detailed on the tour are identified in the Cities and sites listing with a "[CR] ".

NS Tidewater to Lake Shore, Norfolk -- Sandusky, Ohio. Four sections are complete: The Virginia Division has been done from Lamberts Point in Norfolk down to the south end of Portlock Yard in Chesapeake (approximately 7.2 miles), and from Waverly to Appomattox (121 miles), and from Berton (Pembroke) to the West Virginia border at Glen Lyn. A portion of the Pocahontas Division is complete, with just a smidgeon in Virginia: Bluefield, VA - Yards, VA. Sites detailed on the tour are identified in the Cities and sites listing with a "[N&W]".

Mapwork: If you're going to be looking for railfan locations, you'll need an industrial strength map resource. I definitely recommend you get a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer, study it before your trip, and copy pertinent pages for your field work.

Trainwatching Sites

BUENA VISTA (June 21, 2002)

This is a nice town on the NS Front Royal - Roanoke line, and while it doesn't carry dozens of trains per hour, it's in a lovely area of the country, and would make a nice place to stay while exploring Lynchburg, Roanoke, and the C&O and NS main lines to the south of Buena Vista. The Blue Ridge Parkway and I-81 are both 4 miles away, and the town doesn't have the bustle that Lexington does, as the latter is on the Interstate. There are too many natural features and scenic areas to list.

Railfanning is drop dead easy -- just go to the middle of the town, and head west towards the tracks from the corner of 21st Street and Sycamore Street (US-501 in town). There is a municipal building parking lot (usually pretty full) and other parking in the area. The tracks are on the western edge of the area, maybe 100' from the parking lot. The immediate area of the railroad's storage and "yard" area is definitely posted, but there are plenty of off-railroad places for photos both north and south of 21st Street.

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CAPE CHARLES (July 30, 1999)

This is, without a doubt, one of the really remote outposts of railroading on the east coast. From Norfolk/Virginia Beach, go north over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel. If you've never done this, you should, as it's a fascinating experience -- it's well worth the $10 toll each way. Bring the family and make an outing out of the trip. Anyway, the bridge and tunnel are US-13, and you want to continue on US-13 to its junction with VA-184. Cape Charles is about 2 miles to your left (west) on VA-184. This is the place where the railroad barge from Little Creek (just east of Norfolk's city limits) arrives. This is also the site of the maintenance and yard facilities for the Eastern Shore Railroad. When you get into town, just follow your nose to the yard area -- you'll either find it or end up in the bay!

There are usually 2-4 engines here, but photographing them can be difficult. I would recommend sending a formal, written request to ESHR, asking for permission to take pix on their property. This is a long way to come for nothing, so some planning and effort ahead of time might pay off very well. If you don't have permission, call the office, and try to find out when the train(s?) will be running. Photography is especially easy along much of the north-bound lane of US-13 between the US-13/VA-184 intersection all the way north to Accomac, close to 30 miles.

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FOSTER FALLS (October 15, 1998)

There are no trains here; indeed, the tracks were torn up many years ago. So why include this site in a modern railfan's guide? This once-upon-a-time town is on the New River Rail Trail, and has a nice restored N&W station, as well as a display caboose. Take a stroll down the trail, which was part of the branch from Dora, and you will almost certainly be visited by some railroad magic. Also, there are picnic areas, canoe and bicycle rental, and this is all in addition to the wonderful scenery, courtesy of the New River, and the valley it has carved over the eons. A great family place to visit, and if you're really energetic, some 25 miles of the trail are now open.

Take exit 24 from I-77, and follow the signs to the New River Trail State Park. You will get on US-52 west (north), and then shortly turn right on VA-608, Foster Falls Road, which will take you to the Foster Falls area of the NRTSP.

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This is where the ex-Chesapeake and Ohio line from Washington, D.C., splits for Charlottesville to the southwest, and Richmond to the southeast. There is a tower still standing, and a depot, also. These are at US 15 and Depot Street. This is a nice place to take pix, with plenty of off-railroad areas for railfans. [NOTE: Help me with info on train volume, etc.]

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KERMIT (November 22, 1999)

The hamlet of Kermit hosts a passing siding on the CSX (ex-Clinchfield), and, as with almost all Clinchfield railfan sites, you kind of have to earn the right to watch trains here. From US-23 in Kingsport, Tennessee, head north into Virginia, and towards the town of Weber City. On the south edge of Weber City, head west on VA-614 [Webmasters note: I don't know if 614 has a name, but Virginia does an excellent job of identifying all its roads, so concentrate on VA-614 signs.] Continue on VA-614 (and be careful that you're still on it, as there are plenty of intersections and places to get goofed up), thru the hamlet of Yuma, and on to Kermit. The distance from US-23 to Kermit is about 9-10 miles as the crow flies, but is probably more as the wheels turn.

Chris Starnes has shared his knowledge of mountain railroading with us, making this entry possible.

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NORFOLK (July 16, 2000)

First and foremost, don't try to sneak into any of the terminal areas. Norfolk Southern, Norfolk International Terminal, US Navy, etc., are all very serious and vigilant about chasing, catching, and prosecuting "fans." Several people have been killed while wandering along the tracks in recent years, and the companies and governments who own and operate the trackage are very serious about trespassers. You can see some good Norfolk Southern action without trespassing. One such location is the Norfolk International Terminal (NIT).

From the intersection of the International Terminal Boulevard and Hampton Boulevard, you'll see the entrance to the NIT to your immediate west. Don't even try to ask permission to visit. However, you can often see cars, and even entire trains from the adjacent public road and the grassy area outside the fence. You can get a better view of trains from the parking lot of the old shopping center across Hampton Boulevard from NIT's main entrance, because trains entering and leaving NIT must cross Hampton and run parallel to International Terminal Boulevard on their way to and from the NS terminal.

Further southeast of this point, the NS main is accessible from the vicinity of Thole Street and Tidewater Drive, but you'll want to scope this area out thoroughly, as ultra-busy I-64 also cuts through here.

This information is courtesy of Keith Ranker, who also takes to time to bring us the excellent NSfans info group, which can be accessed via

See also the information added in January, 2012, about Tidewater -- Intermodal Terminals

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PARDEE (October 16, 1999)

Getting to this place is a hoot -- it combines dramatic mountain and brawling river scenery with the quintessential mountain railroad coal branch. To get you started, click here for directions on how to get to Norton. Then, click here for a little bit about the Norton - Appalachia drive via US-23Business.

On US-23Business west of Norton, about 6 miles (remember, 6 miles up here seems like a lot more than 6 miles on I-95, so use your odometer), and then go north on VA-603, Dunbar Road. Always remain on VA-603 from here on. There are other roads, especially where you part company with Roaring Fork, about 3-4 miles up the valley, but bear left and remain on VA-603. You just keep going and going, now with Potcamp Creek(?) rather than Roaring Fork, but the NS (ex-Interstate) is still with you all the way. Finally, you'll reach the big Pardee mine operation.

Park at the gate, and ask for permission to photograph loading operations. If you get the OK, good, but if not, the loader is visible from off-Pardee property. Pardee currently loads at least one unit train per day, and those trains are pushed and pulled up the branch by up to 5 big locos. Scout this area ahead of time, and you'll probably be able to produce some stunning, modern branch line photos.

With many thanks to Markolf Gudjons of Aachen, Germany, for this information.

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QUANTICO (970905)

Quantico is a Marine Corps Base, and the site I use is not available to the public. However, if you have an ID card, email me at:, and I'll be glad to give you the details of the location.

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RICHMOND -- NS JAMES RIVER PARK (September 30, 1999)

This is an interesting place to see trains, and one which can provide you with some artsy photos, but the relative lack of traffic here makes a scanner pretty much a requirement. You can sit for a long time here between trains. However, the setting here is gorgeous, with the backdrop of the James River fall line to the north, and a real forest primeval to the south of the tracks. In spite of the paucity of trains, the site is definitely a place to visit, and bring the spouse and kids or grandchildren.

From the center of Richmond, drive south on US-1/US-301 (Belvidere/Jefferson Davis Highway) over the James River to your first right, which is (surprise!) Riverside Drive. Drive carefully, because within a quarter mile or so, you'll take a very hard right into the James River Park's parking lot. This is the eastern-most parking lot in the park. The NS tracks are now directly in front of you, north of the parking lot, and on the other side of a high chain link fence. Park and walk east, out of the parking lot, and up some stone stairs. After about 100 yards of a rather rugged uphill walk, you'll come to a footbridge over the tracks.

Pictures are no good here, as the overpass is covered by heavy chain link fencing. On the north side of the overpass, there are nice photo opportunities as you go down the "spiral" stair affair. However, you're now on the north side of the tracks, so you'll have to shoot in late afternoon or during overcast conditions. This was the site of the Southern Railway's Belle Island yard, which paralleled the river, and apparently must have been recently removed, because everything is surgically neat here (typical NS-quality operation, in your Webmaster's humble opinion.). There remain one storage/lead track and the main line. [Note: Just around the bend to the southeast, the stub end of the yard remains, and was packed full of cars on the above date. This may either indicate good business levels, or problems in the aftermath of that wet, wet, wet hurricane Floyd.]

On the north side of the tracks, a high, new, chain link fence follows the tracks in both directions for an undetermined distance. However, there are doors in the fence every so often, and every one I observed was unsecured and open. If the light is good, just stick your camera in the open doorway and get a good shot. Just do NOT walk onto railroad property. There is plenty of distance from the fence to the tracks to give you good pictures.

From back in the parking lot, enter the trail to the west, and you'll immediately be immersed in a dark, cool forest like the indians and pioneers might have seen (except for the chestnuts, but that's another story). Follow the trail for 20 minutes or so, and you'll arrive at another parking area. The NS will be on your right shoulder the entire hike, but you'll barely be able to see it, as the forest is really like a jungle here. From this western parking lot, you will have good photo access to the north, so after early morning shadows have vanished, you'll have good main line opportunities. The main line is the northern of the two tracks. Actually, you've got good photo access from both sides of the tracks, but the sun is a continuing problem if shooting from the north side.

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ROANOKE -- CYCLE SYSTEMS (October 17, 2001)

Cycle systems is not a favorite place for railfans -- it's a scrap dealer that has cut up hundreds, if not thousands of locomotives. However, it's worth a visit to maybe see some of your old friends for the last time. From the intersection of I-81 and I-581 north of Roanoke, go south right thru Roanoke until you cross over the Roanoke River. Shortly thereafter, take the Wonju Street exit and go south towards US-220Business. The railroad track you go over between the interstate and US-220Business is the NS (ex-N&W, exx-Virginian) heading west back to Princeton or Bluefield and the coal mines.

At the intersection of Wonju and US-220Business are the vestigial remains of Broadway Avenue SW. This was a major road connecting Stephenson Avenue, US-220Business and Colonial Avenue SW. When the interstate and upgraded US-220 were put in over the years, somewhere along the way Broadway was truncated (probably when the interstate was put thru. In the empty space between the interstate and the NS tracks is Cycle Systems. A piece of the old Broadway leading right into the facility.

This entry has been adopted from a posting to by Jerry LaBoda.

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SUFFOLK -- NS (ex N&W) STATION (July 30, 1999)

From the major intersection of US-58/US-460 and Main Street (US-13/US-460/VA-32), go south on US-13 (Main Street), past the first set of tracks until you get to Washington Street. Turn left (east) on Washington to over the first set of tracks -- this is the NS (ex-N&W), and after a short few blocks, you'll see the station area on your left. There is plenty of viewing north and south of the tracks, off railroad property. If I were you, in the interest of personal safety, I'd want to bring a few male friends along.

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In general, CSX is difficult to fan thru the Waynesboro area, because of a river, the street/road patterns, and the sprawl of residential neighborhoods. However, there is a nice spot close to the major intersection of US-340/US-250 in town. Exit I-64 at exit 96, Delphine Avenue, and go northeast into town. At the busy US-250/US-340 intersection, take a left, and this street will shortly become one-way westbound (Broad Street). One block south of Broad is the eastbound street (Main Street). From Broad Street going west, take a right and go north on North Wayne for one block, where it will T at Ohio Street. Find a place to park. There is a nice open area next to the CSX tracks.

For a description of the crossing of the CSX and NS, go here.

Frograil thanks Henry Mikus for providing this excellent information to us.

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WINCHESTER -- B&O STATION (February 2004)

From I-81, take exit 317 onto US-11 towards Winchester. US-11 is Martinsburg Pike at this point, but will make some 90° turns as it splits to become a one-way south and north street in town. After the turns, you'll be on Braddock Street/US-11 southbound. Two blocks to the east is Cameron Street, which is the northbound US-11 in town. Continue south on Braddock/US-11South until you see the Handley Library at the northwest corner of the intersection of Picadilly Street and US-11South. Please note that MapQuest is not able to find Picadilly Street.

Take a left and drive to Kent Street. The B&O station is at the northwest corner of Picadilly and Kent. For the past several years, the CSX crews have used the lower level of the station, while the W&W offices have been on the top floor. There is a process underway whereby the city is taking over the building for restoration and eventual use as a tourist center. The CSX crews will work out of a new structure in the area, and I'm not sure what will happen to the W&W offices.

One block west of Kent Street, at 430 North Cameron Street/US-11North, is the B&O freight station, distinguished today because of its occupation by the Winchester Model Railroad Club. Apparently, the city is going to do some structural repairs to the freight station, and then continue to rent it to the club for a nominal fee.

Frograil thanks Henry Mikus, a member of the Winchester Model Railroad Club, for providing this excellent information to us.

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WINCHESTER -- Miller Milling (June 3, 2001)

From I-81, take exit 317 onto US-11 towards Winchester. In a half mile or so, US-11 veers to the left, and other roads veer to the right, via an overpass over the W&W tracks on your right. Go left on US-11. You will very shortly come to a traffic light at Park Center, an industrial park drive. Take a left onto Park Center, and drive towards the huge, white grain elevator. The road will end at a T. Turning left, however, is your only option, so go ahead and do it. You can drive around the elevator and park way off to the left, then walk across the tracks for a good AM shot of the engine. In the afternoon, of course, you don't have to cross the tracks to get good lighting for pix.

NOTE: I was there early on a Sunday morning, and drove in as per the above. Even then, there was rail and truck traffic, so this is a big, industrial concern. You might consider parking before entering the property, and then walking around the property as far to the north as practical, before crossing the tracks for your picture.

This is a very impressive facility, neat as a pin, and it just looks like the picture of efficiency. An Alco RS-11, #3611, which is owned by the W&W and leased to Miller, is the Miller Milling switcher.

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From I-81, take exit 317 onto US-11 towards Winchester. US-11 is Martinsburg Pike at this point, but will make some 90° turns as it splits to become a one-way south and north street in town. After the turns, you'll be on Braddock Street/US-11 southbound. Take a right onto Amherst Street to go west on Amherst/US-50West. Just before US-50West and US-50East join in the western part of Winchester, there is a shortcut to the left which will take you from Amherst/US-50West to Boscawen/US-50East. Once on Boscawen/US-50East, you'll very shortly see the Pennsylvania Railroad station on your right.

The station is on a cut-off dead end section of track over on the west side of Winchester. The station was at the stub end of the PRR line into town out of Hagerstown. Thru a series of transactions, the W&W ended up with what had been the PRR's line, and the station was in an area of zero interest to any railroad, and is currently not on any active rail line. However, the structure is in good shape and is operated by a local business. The station is red brick and sits in plain view but behind a clothing establishment called the "Workingman's Store".

Frograil thanks Henry Mikus for providing this excellent information to us.

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WINCHESTER -- Winchester & Western MofW Facility (June 3, 2001)

From I-81, take exit 317 onto US-11 towards Winchester. Take your first right (at a traffic light) onto Welltown Road, and from there, again take your first right. You'll be going towards a large auto repair facility, and a railroad track will be on your left. This track often has engines on it, although the actual engine facility is in Gore. The lighting is best in the morning.

Thanks to Gary Jenkins for a clarification of an earlier posting.

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WYTHEVILLE (October 15, 1998)

NS runs some 4 trains a day on this route, which still forms part of a Roanoke - Knoxville thru route. Train frequency estimate is thanks to some locals, and not any scientific endeavor. There is a siding in the southeast part of town, and, at the crossing of 6th Street (north?) and the railroad, there is a Southern States feed and farm supply store. Across the street from the main SS building is a long, low brick structure in disrepair, which is used for storage by SS. Believe it or not, this is the N&W Wytheville station. One local informed me emphatically that there is a "big ole long train there [that is, in the siding] every morning." I wasn't there in the morning so can't confirm his declaration.

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Cities And Sites