Norfolk Southern Corp. has announced the donation of its complete collection of historical documents and archives from predecessor company Norfolk and Western Railway to the Virginia Museum of History & Culture (VMHC).
The collection dates to the 1840s and includes thousands of photographs and glass-plate negatives, as well as business records, annual reports, blueprints, plans, bridge drawings, advertisements, portraits and three-dimensional artifacts from predecessor railroads that together “provide a fascinating look into the growth of rail transportation across the eastern U.S.,” the rail company said.
The firm also will donate $750,000 to support the collection in perpetuity.
“Virginia has played a pivotal role in our history, and we are incredibly proud of the contributions it has made to our success,” said Jim Squires, chairman and CEO of Norfolk Southern. “This important piece of history belongs in Virginia, and we’re confident that our archives will be in excellent hands with the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.”
Norfolk and Western originated as a nine-mile single-track line in 1838 to connect Petersburg and City Point (now Hopewell). In the years to follow, more than 200 railroad companies were built, merged, reorganized and consolidated until the company merged with Southern Railway in 1982 to create Norfolk Southern.
Since then, Norfolk Southern has grown to become one of the nation’s largest freight railroads and premier transportation companies.
In total, the archives represent the history of Norfolk and Western and its predecessor companies.
“Railroads have played a critical role in the expansion of both passenger travel and commercial transportation in the United States,” said museum president/CEO Jamie Bosket. “With the addition of the Norfolk and Western collection, the VMHC now houses one of the most significant railroad archives in the U.S. We’re thrilled to preserve this iconic history and to make it publicly available to students and teachers, researchers and railroad enthusiasts.”
The $750,000 grant will allow the museum to digitize, catalog and preserve the collection. As part of the donation, Norfolk Southern has created a special fund to allow the museum to hire interns from underrepresented communities to support the museum’s work annually for the next five years, beginning this coming fall academic semester.
Among the items in the archives are publicity materials including radio-program scripts and posters, timetables, and rolling-stock records, as well as advertisements, contracts, an extensive collection of photographs, and construction plans for rail stations and yards.
The Virginia Museum of History & Culture is operated by the Virginia Historical Society, which was established in 1831 and is the oldest cultural organization in the commonwealth.