Demolition of the railroad tracks in the Bloxom area has begun. An excavator was seen Sunday taking up old railroad ties in Bloxom. The action belies any hope that track could be rehabilitated to extend railroad service south of the current terminus in Hallwood.
Canonie Atlantic, the parent company of the railroad, is currently working with the Rails To Trails program to retain the track bed to provide right of ways for a proposed sewer line, broadband lines and other possible uses. The program would also make the right of way available in the event that in the future, rail service could be returned if feasible.
The dismantling of the tracks puts a definitive end to an era that at one time made Accomack and Northampton Counties two of the wealthiest counties in the country. The establishment of the rail line to Cape Charles in the 1880s opened the way for Eastern Shore produce to be shipped in a timely fashion to Philadelphia and New York City. With the establishment of the Eastern Shore Produce Exchange in Onley as a marketing agent for local produce and seafood, strawberries, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, clams, oysters and other items could be loaded on trains in the afternoon and be at markets in the northern cities by the next morning.
The coming of the railroad eventually displaced steam boats as the main mode of transportation to outside markets. New Church, Hallwood, Bloxom, Parksley, Tasley, Onley, Melfa, Keller, Belle Haven, Exmore, Nassawadox and Cape Charles grew around the railroad stations.
At one time, there were both north and southbound tracks and a car float service which provided a rail connection with the Hampton Roads area. In the 70s and the 80s the railroad shipped coal and vehicles from the Norfolk Ford Plant, along with grain, aggregates, LP gas bridge parts from Bayshore Concrete and and other items.
The rerouting of the coal shipments by Norfolk and Southern, the closing of the Ford Plant and the closing of Bayshore Concrete along with the demise of the car float barge limited the available business and three years ago the last train made its way north to Pocomoke.
It is hoped that the Rails to Trails project will keep the right of way in tact and bolster the Tourism business by providing a north south bike trail that covers approximately 70% of the Eastern Shore.
But the physical removal of the existing tracks practically eliminates all hope that railroad service will return south of Hallwood.