The small town of Gretna in the U.S. state of Virginia in the southern-southwestern region of the state is a town that is not popular with travelers. It is a suburb of Danville, and the town’s commercial district is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is home to historic structures like Yates Tavern (also on the National Register of Historic Places), the Gretna Theater, and Lavalette House which now houses a restaurant.
Some of you are saying, “This is nice, but does this town have anything to do with the railroad?”
The town of Gretna, Virginia is a town that benefitted from the railroad. In 1874, the Lynchburg and Danville Railroad came to Gretna. In 1879, the railroad line was taken over by the Franklin and Pittsylvania Railroad which built a passenger and freight depot and a post office. Many trains passed through here. A famous train passed through here. What was that train? It was the ‘Old 97’. What was the ‘Old 97’? It was a train that had a famous wreck in Danville.
The passenger and freight depot are gone, but the trains still pass through, and is now owned by Norfolk Southern Railway. The Franklin Junction Historic Railroad Park was erected to remember the railroad town it once was. The park is a small park that consists of a caboose from the Southern Railroad which passed through here before the Norfolk Southern Railroad came through, and it has two benches with Number 1102 steam locomotive welded into the benches itself. It is a small park that keeps the railroad a big part of Gretna’s Heritage.
The Franklin Junction Historic Railroad is located at 105 Main Street (U.S. Business Route 29). It north of Virginia Route 40 and is easily accessible from U.S. Route 29. Park is on the street, and admission is free. It is open twenty-four hours a day. Therefore, you can visit anytime. If you are fortunate enough, Norfolk Southern Railroad may reward your visit by rolling on by.
So, if you are taking a drive along U.S. Route 29 in southern Virginia, take a short detour through the town of Gretna. It is a little town with a big railroad past.