The scenic North Mountain Subdivision runs west from Charlottesville to Clifton
Forge. The line crosses the NS at grade at JC Cabin, adjacent to Charlottesville Union Station, now used by Amtrak. Once the line leaves Charlottesville, the grades intensify on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge. One notable structure on the eastern end is the high bridge over Mechum's River. See photos. The "Mountain" crosses the Blue Ridge
in the 3000-foot-long Blue Ridge tunnel, just west of Afton. At the eastern portal of the tunnel the opening to the original bore dating
from the 1850s can be seen. Originally, there was another tunnel east of the Blue Ridge, at Greenwood Station. This one has been bypassed, but the sealed
entrances can been observed in wintertime.
West of the Blue Ridge tunnel, the line passes through Waynesboro, where some
traffic is interchanged with the NS. To the west, across the Shenandoah Valley, lies Staunton with its
connection to the Shenandoah Valley Railroad. Just west of the C&O station in
Staunton lies the yard where the Virginia Central's excursion fleet and steam locos are
stored. West of Staunton the line becomes mountainous once more, as the line threads its way through Buffalo Gap. After passing through Buffalo Gap, it turns southwest and reaches the crest of North Mountain summit at 2082 feet, only five feet lower than the Alleghany summit. West of Goshen the line passes through Panther Gap and then on to Millboro, where there are a pair of tunnels. The North Mountain sub joins the James River sub at JD Cabin before continuing west to the station and yard at Clifton Forge.
The single-track line is dispatched by CTC. There are controlled sidings
at Ivy, Crozet, Afton, Brand, Lagrange, North Mountain, Craigsville, Bells Valley
and Goshen. There are no talking detectors on the line, although these may be installed soon.
The North Mountain Sub is accessible from parallel roads, grade crossings and overpasses over much of its length, with the exception of west of Millboro.
The North Mountain Sub, once the western leg of the old C&O main line through
Charlottesville, was nearly eliminated as a through route in the early 1990s.
The North Mountain Sub, the preferred route for passenger trains, once hosted the C&O's name trains: The
FFV, the George Washington and the Sportsman. In a
dramatic turnaround, the line has enjoyed a marked revival lately. CSX
uses the line as a safety valve for the James River line, as a handful
of empty grain and coal trains, usually about four to six daily, are
routed "over the Mountain" to relieve congestion on the River line. Another
factor in the retention of the line is the presence of Amtrak's
thrice-weekly Cardinal, symboled P050/P051 on CSX. If both
Amtrak trains are on time they will meet at La Grange. Meets between #50
and coal empties are quite common at Afton and Brand. Due to short sidings, the empty
trains usually hold the main. On very rare occasions, #51 will perform a "zig-zag" meet with a westbound empty train. Traffic has increased since the completion of the "AM Connection" in Richmond, which allows traffic from North Carolina direct access to the routing through Charlottesville.
A Clifton Forge-based local (H740/H741) works the line east to Charlottesville on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with a 6AM call in Clifton Forge. This train commonly works west out of Charlottesville the next day after the crew has their rest. The biggest shippers on the line are a woodyard at Goshen and interchange
coal traffic for Dupont in Waynesboro. The only regular customer east of
Waynesboro is the University of Virginia's steam plant. On-line traffic being sparse, this line's future is by no means certain.
(1) Charlottesville Yard: Remains of Charlottesville yard, with Virginia Central excursion equipment. Amtrak #50 is passing through. October 1993.
(2) Charlottesville Yard: CSX pumpkin GP39 #9654 works the yard. The yard's 300-ton Fairbanks Morse coaling tower stands watch over the scene. March 1997.
(3) Charlottesvlle: Westbound empties, led by C40-8W #7700, about to cross the JC Cabin diamonds and head west. August 1996.
(4) Charlottesville: Amtrak #51, the Cardinal, resumes its westward journey after a stop in Charlottesville, June 1996.
(5) Charlottesville: C30-7 #7092 leads a westbound empty train past the work site for the 1oth Street underpass. Photo taken from the Medical Center garage. January 1997.
(6) Charlottesville: Empty with University Hospital in the distance. August 1996.
(7) Ivy: Conrail SD60I # 5635 on the point of U755, at the east end of Ivy. August 1996.
(8) Ivy: C40-8W #7729 leads a westbound empty under the footbridge at the east end of Ivy. August 1996.
(9) Ivy: Grain empties in the siding to meet Mountain local from Clifton Forge. April 1996.
(10) Ivy: Amtrak #51 with a typical off-season consist. April 1996.
(11) Crozet: Grain empties hold the siding at Crozet station, waiting on a meet with the Amtrak #50, the eastbound Cardinal. April 1996.
(12) Crozet: CSX Mountain local, powered by a mother/slug set, takes the siding to meet wb empties, April 1996.
(13) Jarman's Gap: The CSXT "one spot", CW40AC #1, leads empty Confederates past the signal at Jarman's Gap Road, about one-third of the way up the grade to Afton. Photo by Vic Stone.
(14) Fishersville: CW44AC 138 heads a train of empty "Confederates" past the derelict switchers. November 1997.
(15) Brand: CSX Mountain local (H741) wb at Brand siding, April 1996.
(16) Craigsville: Amtrak train #51, the westbound Cardinal, passes the east end of the siding at Craigsville. #50 is in the siding. July 4, 1997.
(17) Clifton Forge: CSX office car train at the west end of Clifton Forge Yard. CSXT B40-8 5935 pulls the train on its way to White Sulphur Springs. August 1997.