July 12, 2015

Virginia Central Railroad and the Virginia Central Railway

Question sent by "S.B." April 16, 2015, via email.

I have been digging into these two railroads and looked in your second edition to see if you had both listed. I noticed that you have the VC Rwy listed on page 517, with two different pieces identified. The first is a bond dated 1852 which must be the VC RR, successor to the Louisa RR, which operated from 1850 until 1868 when it merged with the Covington and Ohio and became the C&O RR in 1868. The second piece is dated 1896, a stock certificate that I own, entitled the VC Rwy: BUT according to Wikipedia, the VC Rwy did not come into existence until l926. So I think you need to split these two and I will continue to find out how I can have an 1896 stock of a railroad that was not supposed to exist until 1926. My Poor's Manual of 1901 does not list either railroad. When I find out I will let you know.

My reply —

Thanks for your email. Regrettably, I have no information to help you straighten out this problem.

I will begin by suggesting you use the online database to keep track of current information. While I have been trying to get the third edition into print for several years, it might be delayed yet another year. That means the paper edition is now about 12 years old. However, EVERY bit of information is kept current in the online database.

The web site has around 400 pages of information about certificates and collecting. It also has an active database that is updated every two weeks.

As for this particular rail operation, you can start searching by going to:


and enter the text "vir cent" in the search box. The search routine will find every company containing the words "Virginia" and "central" regardless of order.

As for the "Virginia Central Railroad Co," The bond listing you see in the book remains the only one known to me. Obviously I moved the bond into the "Railroad Co" designation at some point in the last decade. That particular listing was contributed by a German collector and I have never seen a picture or a listing of the certificate anywhere.

If you then look at the listing for the Virginia Central Railway, you will see the listing for a stock certificate. When you view the listing, you will be able to view an image of the certificate by clicking on the word "photo." If you click on the "#" symbol, you will notice that two serial numbers reported for this variety.

Now the question about WHY this company was in existence a quarter century before the dates reported in the general literature, I have no clue. I can absolutely testify such disagreement is NOT terribly unusual.

I would normally recommend checking Poor's Manual of Railroads. However, I just checked Manuals for 1894, 1895, 1896 and 1897 and was unable to find any mention of the Virginia Central.

I tried to check the Virginia Secretary of State for business listings, but that site was under maintenance. So you might check the site, or even better, call the business department directly and ask if they have any records for the company.

Good luck on your exploration.

SB's response — 

Thanks so much for the quick reply. I hope that Tom Dixon, the founder of the C&O Historical Society in Clifton Forge, VA will be able to find his one VC RR stock certificate so that I can get a copy for our new local museum. If so, I will forward a copy to you. You know of course that I, along with many others, await with baited breath the third edition of your publication. I will do anything I can to help. If there is anything there that I can do, just ask.

My overly long reply —

Back in the late 1990s, my partner and I had the opportunity to scan and index about 13,000 line maps for the Union Pacific tax department after the UP took over the Southern Pacific. In the course of doing that, I encountered corporate organizational charts that showed all the various small companies involved in the SP. Because of my interests, I noticed several inconsistencies between the charts and information recorded externally in normal library literature. To make matters worse, I even found internal disagreements between documents that mentioned "official" dates of organization.

In the case of the Southern Pacific, a company named Southern Pacific Railroad Co. had been incorporated in Texas in 1852. Sometime after its second organization in 1856, it lost its corporate identity through consolidation into other southeast Texas rail lines. The 1852-1856 company had absolutely nothing to do with the large Southern Pacific Railroad Company of West Coast fame that formed in 1865. That later company of the same name ultimately grew into a giant corporation through a series of five successive reorganizations. As it turned out, the later California version of the Southern Pacific Railroad Co. ultimately acquired trackage of the Texas company, but only through merger.

A similar situation can be found with the Union Pacific. There were at least three companies that shared the "Union Pacific" name: Central Branch Union Pacific Rail Road Co., Central Branch Union Pacific Railway Co. and Iowa Branch of the Union Pacific Rail Road. None were part of the original Union Pacific company and in fact, didn't even connect to it. The Iowa Branch probably never operated, but the Central Branch ultimately became part of the UP system through various corporate marriages.

In your case, it is possible that the Virginia Central Railway represented by 1895 certificates might have had absolutely nothing to do with the later incorporation of the same name. Theoretically, the solution of the problem SHOULD reside with the Secretary of State. It will be an interesting mystery to unravel.

SB's followup reply —

Thank you for the interesting response. I will dog this one down and let you know what I find. 

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