Railroads did not barrel into the Appalachians until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.But when they did, communities lying in the path of the locomotives were dramatically transformed, and mountain people suddenly found themselves living in a new age of economic opportunity.

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Without a doubt, “Old Maude bows to the Virginia Creeper” is Winston Link’s most popular photo made during daylight hours.

Although many of Link’s photos were carefully set up, old Maude, with her sledge load of oak stove-wood, just happened along as the train was approaching, and Link took advantage of the situation.

He asked brothers Gene and Roy Hampton, who were hauling the wood to the family’s farm nearby, to wait a few minutes for the train.

Maude is remembered for her gentleness and patience, but she was growing restless and began to bob her head as the train arrived.

Sawmills and lumber yards sprang up all along the route of the Virginia-Carolina/Abingdon Branch railroad, including the Blue Ridge Lumber Company, pictured here in Elkland, N. The Todd Mercantile store is visible in the background. Greer Company, this building was a handling and warehouse facility for roots and herbs gathered from the mountains.

The Riverside Restaurant in the Brownwood area stands alone as a relic from the once-thriving community that grew around the train depot. After being baled, they were shipped on the Virginia Creeper to destinations around the world eager for the healing qualities of the native plants of the Appalachians.The community never rebuilt after being destroyed by the flood of 1940.Norfolk and Western left a caboose in Todd when it pulled out in 1933, said John Ashburn: “All the kids played in that caboose when we were growing up.” In Todd, drivers pass by this engine and caboose from the old “Virginia Creeper” on Railroad Grade Road.“This train was unusual because very few trains were freight and passenger trains,” said John Ashburn, whose family roots in Todd date back to 1870. |none}The Creeper departed Abingdon, Va., with freight to be delivered at stops along the line including hardware, shoes, clothing for department stores, dry goods, farm supplies, and other commodities.A baggage car would carry suitcases, bags of mail from the postmaster, and some freight as well.“The conductor helped the passengers into the wooden coaches, the varnished interiors illuminated by the soft glow of the oil lamps that hung form the ceilings of the clerestory roofs,” writes author Doug Mc Guinn, who has penned several books about railroads in the region.