Historic Cambria Depot
630 Depot Street NE
Christiansburg, VA 24073
Welcome to Cambria.
As anyone will tell you, all roads do in fact lead to Cambria, although
the town is know for absolutely nothing...or, more to the point, nothing
of significant historical consequence.
The Virginia-Tennessee Railroad was first chartered
as the Lynchburg and Tennessee Railroad.
Virginia-Tennessee Railroad chose the site for the Christiansburg
Depot a mile north of courthouse square on the north side of Zion
Hill on land donated by the Montagues. (Visit Schaffer
Memorial Baptist Church and the original Christiansburg Institute
on the top of Zion Hill). Originally, the V-T looked at a route
that would have come up Elliot Creek, thru what is now Sugar Grove,
and thru downtown Christiansburg. Because of local concerns, mostly
political, the route was changed to the current route. Although
blamed on local politics, the route was more likely due to the
location and access to the coal mines at Merrimac, owned by the
Montagues and Jeremiah Kyle. It probably didn't hurt that the
Montagues gave the railroad the land for the new depot and Jeremiah
Kyle footed part of the bill to construct the rail line up and
over the Christiansburg
Grade (a 1.3% grade over, roughly, an eight mile span) The
Virginia Tennessee climbed from 905 feet in Salem and the Roanoke
Valley to 2, 052 feet in Christiansburg and was the steepest grade
on the Virginia Tennessee Line.
Grade extends from the western end of Shawville, through the "Big
Tunnel" at the midpoint of the climb, to a the S-Curve and
signal along the eastern edge of the Cambria rail yards. The middle
length of the S curve travels 100 yards along the Eastern Continental
Divide, which means that the streams between Shawsville and the
top of the grade flow into the Roanoke River and eventually into
Albemarle Sound on the North Carolina coast. The waters to the
west flow into the New River and eventually the Ohio, the Mississippi,
and the Gulf of Mexico.
spur provided access first to Merrimac and later Blacksburg.
Railroad reaches Christiansburg. (Take the Dixie Caverns Exit
in I-81 and follow US 460/Rt.11 towards Christiansburg. The route
parallels the Virginia-Tennessee rail line past Lafayette, founded
in 1826, and through two railroad villages: Elliston and Shawsville
before climbing Christiansburg Mountain. Stay on 470/Rt.11 until
you reach Depot Street in Christiansbug to reach the Christiansburg
of the first permanent station is open to debate, based on the
boundaries of the two towns (Bangs and Cambria). Although some
have suggested that it was built at the north end of Main Street
(on the site, more or less, of the "new masonry depot built
in 1906), Main Street did not extend town "danger hill"
until much later. The records of the West Salem Land Company suggest
that the original depot is under the Christiansburg Station (Historic
Cambria Depot) at the intersection of Depot and Cambria Streets.
The 1906 depot was built on what would have been a small spring
fed pond and primary water source for the proposed "town
of Cambria" in the 1890s The 1906 Cambria Station is currently
being used as the "maintenance of ways" office for the
|January 13, 1857
same year the original Bangs depot was constructed, Thaddeus
patented (Patent # 16381) the first railway scale/
platform scale. An example of the Fairbanks
can be found in the freight house at the
Historic Cambria Depot. Note: Bangs was the original name of Cambria.
depot, plus commissary buildings, warehouses, post office, and
a recreation hall, were burned
by Union troops under the leadership of Brigadier General
William W. Averell. According to
an account from D.M. Barnes, Special Correspondent for the
New York Times (Published 6/10/1864, document #80295664), Averill's
troops forded the New River and struck the depot at Christiansburg.
For more information on Montgomery County during the Civil War,
visit the Montgomery Museum
and Lewis Miller Regional Art Center on Pepper Street in Christiansburg.
and Tennessee Railroad constructed the "Christiansburg Station"
in 1867 (completed and opened in 1868) as part of the rebuilding
effort under the leadership of its new president, General
William Mahone. During this period, Mahone consolidated the
Virginia and Tennesse with several other roads, forming the Atlantic,
Mississippi, and Ohio Railroad. The alternate name for the
AMO Railroad was "all mine and Ophelia's" Named after
William Mahone's wife. It is said that Ophelia Mahone was an Anglaphile,
and she named most of the depots, at least at the eastern end
of Virginia, after British locations (towns, counties, villages,
castles, etc.). According to records, Mahone began the reconstruction
of his railroad on the east side of Virginia and moved west. Today,
there are only three Virginia Tennessee structures left (Christiansburg--1867/1868;
Retreat --1870; and Abingdon
1869). Of the three, only the Rural Retreat depot is oriented
towards the track. The Stations at Christiansburg/Cambria and
Abingdon were oriented towards the street and necessitated the
need for the Norfolk and Western to build a new depot to accommodate
Post Office (original name of Cambria) opened near the depot.
Depot, in addition to providing passenger and freight service
for Montgomery, Giles, and Floyd Counties, also served as the
transfer point for the resort at Yellow
Sulphur Springs, six miles to the northwest and Mountain Lake,
nearly 30 miles to the north.
Railroad went into receivership. Purchasers of the railroad in
1881 renamed the railroad Norfolk
|January 12, 1877.
First major labor strike against the railroads and is often
referred to as the "Great
Railroad Strike." The strike was the result of railroads
drastically cutting wages to offset financial losses earlier in
the decade. As one observer noted:
"The strike," an anonymous Baltimore merchant wrote,
"is not a revolution of fanatics willing to fight for an
idea. It is a revolt of working men against low prices of labor,
which have not been accomplished with corresponding low prices
of food, clothing and house rent." (Digital
History Project, 2010)
It should be noted that the date is open to question. A couple
of sources identified the starting date as February 12, 1877.
Many of the Pullman Porters who served the rail line between Roanoke
and Bristol hailed from Bangs/Cambria, as did many of the maintenance
of ways workers. Indeed, there were strong ties between the depot
and the African American community for nearly 100 years (1867-1960).
For more information on the Pullman Porters, please see Lyn Hughes's
An Anthology of Respect: The Pullman Porters National Historic
Registry of African American Railroad Employees (Chicago
IL: Hughes Peterson Pub., 2007). Hughes's book also include excerpts
from Nikki Giovanni's "Train Rides."
|January 14, 1878
v. Decuir, 95 U.S. 485 (1878), the United States Supreme Court
ruled that common carriers (rail, ferry, riverboat, and other
modes of transportation) could not discriminate based on race
(13th Amendment) in interstate travel. The decision did not, however,
stop railroad companies from discriminating.
The Christiansburg Station (Historic Cambria Depot) and the newer
Cambria Passenger Staton provide an example. The depot has two
waiting rooms: one is a general waiting room on the trackside
of the building; the other is a lady's waiting room (street-side).
The waiting room on the street-side of the depot has far fancier
woodwork and is removed from the immediate grime and noise of
the rail yard. While there is no record of the Historic Cambria
Depot having ever been segregated, the African American passengers
may have boarded through the unheated freight house. According
to a Civil War specialist at the University of Virginia, the Christiansburg
Station is one of only three "pre-segregation" depots
left in Virginia (stations built and opened before the Presidential
election in 1868).
Because of the building's orientation towards the street, the
requirement of providing "separate but equal" accommodations
necessitated building an entirely new station further up the track.
The same occurred in Abingdon. When the 1908 station was constructed,
it also had two waiting rooms, although the use distinction between
the two of them was based on race rather than gender.
a duel was fought near the depot by J. Stuart Crockett of Wythville
and John S. Wise of Richmond. Both combatants arrived by rail
with their seconds, having selected Bangs (Cambria) as a convenient
middle point between their respectibve places of residence. The
duel, resulting in no injuries, was fought a short distance up
Yellow Sulphur Springs Road (now Cambria Street). The duel was
Wise's last and led to his much publicized decision to fight no
more duels (an example which was instrumental in ending the practice
about the Wise-Crockett Duel:
JOHN S. WISE WILL NOT FIGHT.; A SPICY LETTER IN REPLY TO EDITOR
M'CARTY'S COMMENTS (New York Times, March 8, 1884)
took the name of Ronald in honor of a local Confederate hero,
Captain Charles A. Ronald, the leader of the Montgomery
Highlanders ( Company
E of the 4th Virginia Militia). This is in some dispute. According
to Earl Palmer, the former (and last) mayor of Cambria, the town's
name was changed back after Captain Ronald debunked with roughly
half the town's funds. There is no documentary evidence to support
the story, but the story is still told as fact and is part of
the "oral history" of the town.
changed the name from Ronald back to Bangs and finally settled
on "Cambria" in 1906. While the origins of the name
of Cambria have been attributed to a variety of sources (the Welsh
and a rock formation), the name actually came from the West Salem
Land Company and was the name of a proposed "new" town.
While the depot resided in both Bangs and Cambria (both incorporated
by the Virginia General Assembly), the town's boundaries shifted
east in 1906 to match the boundaries of the proposed new town,
even though the West Salem Land Company was long since defunct.
of Cambria was officially incorporated. In the same year, the
new masonary passenger station was erected at the site 400 yards
east of the original station and the old depot was converted for
use solely as a freight station.
conversion of the building as a freight facility resulted in several
significant alterations to its structure. The freight section was
cut away from the passenger section and raised 25 inches, creating
the existing short gable on the west end of the freight room. A
problem with rot under the front section (waiting rooms) was solved
by cutting 25 inches off the entire bottom of the passenger rooms
(look at the height of the chair rail when you visit the Cambria
Toy Station). An additional thirty feet of freight room was
added to the east end of the building, and the original slate roof
was replaced by a standing
seam tin roof.
Click on image.
Click on image.
Station (Cambria Depot) was retired from service by the railroad
and ownership subsequently shifted to Cash Lumber Co. and later
to Mitchell Sales.
with Christiansburg, a decision not supported by the majority
of residents of Cambria. While it officially became known as North
Christiansburg, it unofficially continued to be referred to and
is still referred to as Cambria.
The following sections are currently under development and will
be updated after the first of the year (2016)
Click on image.
Versus Train, 1981
end of the freight section of the Cambria Depot (the Christiansburg
Station's popular name) was demolished by two box cars from the
stub siding behind the building. In one sense one could attribute
the actual restoration of the original depot building to
this mishap for the section destroyed was the thirty feet added
Raze Order. 1983
(Cambria) Depot was acquired by Helen and James Dorsett for the
purpose of its rehabilitation
and restoration as an historic structure and a useful building
in the life of the Cambria community.
Lessons in Preservation
work began in January. While all of the basic structural work
was completed during the first year of rehabilitation, much remained
to be accomplished before the project was finished. Part of the
remaining work involved rehabilitating the community's view of
the depot (especially given the predominant view that the building
should have been razed and turned into a parking lot). Dorsett
Publications relocated to the Depot in the late summer of 1984.
Depot was placed on the Virginia Landmarks Register on April 16th
and was endorsed by the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission
for placement on the National
Register of Historic Places. The Depot entered the National
Register of Historic Places in December, 1985.
Historic District enters the National Register of Historic
Places, as does the East Main Historic District and the South
Franklin Historic District.
Housing Partners renovates the Dew Drop Inn, the "third leg"
of the commercial center of Cambria. The Dew Drop Inn welcomes
two new businesses: Embroidery Etcetera and the Tech Express.
Italian Restaurant opens their doors in the Cambria commercial
150 year birthday. Dorsett Publications opens the Cambria Toy
Station in the trackside waiting room.
the approval of a town house development within the boundaries
of the Cambria Historic District, the Christiansburg Town Council
and Planning Commission begin discussing a possible historic district
overlay ordinance to help protect the Town's historic resources.
Museum opens on Labor Day.