You may have heard of Shenandoah National Park, the closest national park to Washington D.C. which mainly straddles atop a mountain ridge. You may have heard of the Shenandoah Valley, a valley on the west side of the national park. You may have heard of the Shenandoah River, one of the few rivers in the world that flow northward flowing through the Shenandoah Valley emptying into the Potomac River at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. You may have heard about a country music band called ‘Shenandoah’. You may not have heard of the town of Shenandoah, Virginia.
What is Shenandoah, Virginia? Is it some major city we have never heard of? Did some great events happen there? Is it the home of some great company or organization?
It began as Shenandoah Iron Works, Virginia.
Some of you are saying, “Well, that is a strange name for a town.”
Why was it named Shenandoah Iron Works? When two brothers, Daniel, and Henry Forrer, established the town in 1837, it was because of the region was rich with iron ore and high-grade limestone, and with its proximity to the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, the town had a water source and a means to transport goods to towns along the river. Because of the rich minerals, it became the home of the Shenandoah Iron Works. Other furnaces where built around the town. It became an important town during the American Civil War as pig iron was made and shipped to other towns. Shenandoah, Virginia may be a small town, but it has so much history behind it.
Some of you are saying, “This is all great. I enjoy visiting Shenandoah National Park, and I enjoy the Shenandoah Valley. I even enjoy the Shenandoah River. I do enjoy hearing country music from the band ‘Shenandoah’. As for Shenandoah, Virginia, well, it is a small town. With no railroads, this is a place I will not enjoy.”
Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to see what is so special about a small town known as Shenandoah, Virginia.
As mentioned, the town was founded as Shenandoah Iron Works, Virginia. It was named Shenandoah on March 8, 1890. Although it was the home of the Shenandoah Iron Works, it later became a hub for the Shenandoah Valley Railroad, and the railroad played a major role in the economy of the town. (The town was once named Milnes after William Milnes who was the President of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad. He was a major contributor to the success of the town.) The town began to erect itself along the railyard. When the Norfolk and Western Railway came to the town, there was a roundhouse and machine shop built. (They were burned in a fire in 1916.) Along with iron ore and pig iron being transported, the town also had regular passenger service.
Today, the rail yard remains, and the passenger station is now a field office for the Norfolk Southern Railroad. The yard remains, and you can see the Norfolk Southern trains roll through. You can walk along First Street and see a small steam locomotive encased in glass. If you get hungry, the Box Car located across from the old passenger station is where you can grab a bite to eat.
The town of Shenandoah, Virginia is in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia along U.S. 340 between Luray and Elkton. The railroad yard is a few blocks west of U.S. 340. Please note that the train depot is private property and is not open to the public. Parking is on the street. You can learn more about the history of the town at http://www.townofshenandoah.com/history.html. Please note that it is a long read detailing the history of the town to include floods, the iron industry, and the work of William Milnes.
So, you know about Shenandoah National Park. You know about the Shenandoah River. You know about the Shenandoah Valley. You know about the country music band Shenandoah. Now learn about the town of Shenandoah, Virginia. It is a town about the railroad. It is a town worth seeing.