Dry Fork Depot

Dry Fork, Virginia
By S. Dail Yeatts, 2003

Dry Fork Depot

In 1904, two years prior to Dry Fork's incorporation as a town by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Southern Railroad built the Dry Fork Depot. A contract called for four identical depots to be built, one each in Motley, Sycamore, Fall Creek, and Dry Fork. They were designated as combination depots since they served as warehouses for freight and ticket offices for train passengers. The contract to build them was awarded to J. D. Elliott, who lived in Hickory, North Carolina. They were to be built in three months, with the total cost of the four depots' being $4,408.00. Construction was to begin on September 29, 1904 and each of them was to be completed by December 1904.

Depot, Trains, and Post Office Partnership

During the height of the rail service to Dry Fork there were six passenger trains that stopped each day. The passenger trains also carried mail for post offices that were located along the tracks. If the train stopped at a depot, the incoming mail would be dropped off in bags for the postmaster. If there were outgoing mail, he would hand a bag of mail to a person who stood in the door of the mail car. It would be sorted by mail clerks according to its destination. For the mail trains that did not stop, the postmaster would hang outgoing mail in a mailbag on a tall iron post which was located near the tracks. The post was designed so that as the train sped by a mail clerk aboard the train would extend a bar that was hinged to the train to catch the bag. The bar would grab the bag and hold it for the clerk to pull the outbound mail into the mail car and it would be on its way to its destination.

Depot Agent

The person who was responsible for the activities of the depot was known as the depot agent. He accounted for incoming and outgroing freight, sold tickets for train travel, kept coal in the passenger areas, telegraphed and received messages that aided the normal functions of train travel. If he had a message to pass on to the engineer of a passing train he would attach it to a large wire hoop and hold it up within reach of him. As the train passed, the engineer would extend his arm, put it through the hoop, and pull the message into the cab to be read.

The Dry Fork Depot had to be operated as a segregated service. One passenger room was designated for Colored and the other for White, which was written over each door. Often the white and black person rode the same vehicle to the train station but they had to separate once they entered the depot.

The depot agent sat at his desk and did his other duties while always listening to the clicks of the telegraph machine. He would often sit at his telegraph key and click a message to be passed on to the proper persons at other depots. On the railroad side of the building there was a bay window so the agent would have a clear view of the railroad. There was always a freight wagon located on the railroad side for packages to be unloaded onto. It would then be pulled into the warehouse for storage until it was picked up. The depot served as storage for incoming and outgoing shipments of freight. Occasionally, a body would be shipped by train and the depot was called upon to render that service. The depot served the community for travel and train tickets were sold by the depot agent.


This webpage is sponsored by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House B&B, Chatham, Virginia.