Chesterfield Railroad Timeline: 1824 to 1851

From "Historically Significant Sites on the Mid-Lothian Coal Mining Co. Tract In Chesterfield County, Virginia," a collection of articles and excerpts compiled by Thomas F. Garner, Jr. and located in the Midlothian Branch Library, and libraries of the Virginia Historical Society and Chesterfield Historical Society.

Also from "Forerunner of Virginia's First Railway" by Elizabeth Dabney Coleman, Virginia Cavalcade, Volume 4, Number 3, pages 4-7. Virginia State Library: Winter, 1954.

The Chesterfield Railroad

Midlothian coal mine owners are frustrated by the difficulty of transporting more than 1,000,000 bushels of coal by wagons and horse teams to waiting ships below the falls in the James River. They seek a better method of transshipment so that their markets can be expanded.

A group of mine owners, Nicholas Mills, Beverly Randolph and Abraham S. Wooldridge, resolve to build a tramway.

Winter, 1827
State Engineer Claudius Crozet surveys the proposed route, deeming it feasible for construction.

February, 1828
Chesterfield Railroad Company obtains charter from State Legislature. Within a year, $100,000 stock is subscribed, half purchased by the colliers of Chesterfield County and half by Richmond area investors. The company hires Moncure Robinson, a European trained engineer to supervise construction.

Legislature increases capital stock to $150,000 to cover unexpectedly high construction expenses.

June, 1831
Construction complete: $127,000 total cost. Railroad operational, using horses, mules and gravity as motive power. One of the most remarkable features is the cycloidal inclined plane, a drum and rope device by which loaded coal-carrying cars lowered down the steep western slope of Falling Creek Valley pull two empty cars up the slope. Note: The site of this feature is still recognizable and juxtaposes the remains of the railroad bridge at Falling Creek.

160 cars put into operation. Instant financial success.

Company carries 25,903 cars, 84,976 tons of coal, receives gross revenues of $83,409: 19% of stockholders' original investment repaid plus 6% dividend. Reputed to be most profitable railroad in the world.

Company repays stockholders' original investment and con-sequently comes under regulation of Board of Public Works, which adjusts charges to fix dividend return of 6%. Charge for carrying coal reduced from 6¢ per bushel to 3¢.

Steam-driven Richmond and Danville Railroad begins operation. Chesterfield Railroad becomes economically obsolete, petitions Legislature to be allowed to sell its property.

Railroad files last report with Board of Public Works.