How times have changed...
How would you like to own a mansion planted at the center of your own large tract of land, bisected by a major railroad that serves your personal railroad depot?
Well, evidently this was a reality at the turn of the century, when certain wealthy Virginians built their own railroad depots to serve their estates. Thorn Cliff, pictured above, was located on the mainline of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway at milepost 112.9, which I have determined to be along the James River, not far from the present-day river crossing of Route #522. Although the picture above is of poor quality, it is a reminder of what was once the extent of luxury in domestic travel - personal service - even a scheduled stop just for you - on a railroad. According to the caption of the photo,
"It is unknown how many depots were erected around Virginia as private stops for estates of the wealthy. THORN CLIFF (MP 112.9) is one of at least four survivors and is probably the smallest enclosed structure to have been built in Virginia. Its stone construction and hipped roof, which includes colorful decorative tiles and a curved dormer, indicate the amount of thought and money expended on it. There's even a small fireplace inside!"
A wonderful example of American vernacular architecture, indeed!
This photo comes from a book titled Virginia Railway Depots by Donald R. Traser, published by the Old Dominion Chapter, National Railway Historical Society (1998). It is a fantastic survey of railway depot architecture throughout the state of Virginia.
For those of you who are interested in reading about the history of the nation's railways, there are a number of fascinating, and beautifully illustrated, books available that range from color catalogues of railroad passenger and freight rolling stock to chronological histories of individual railways. One of the more popular publishing companies is TLC Publishing,
which offers a wide selection of titles that covers many of the nation's major railroads. Many of the books are hardbound and well-priced (most under $30) given the quality of their binding and content.