Around 1912 Whitetop, VA would have it day in the sun when the first steam locomotive chugged its way up the mountain into this once quiet community. At its height, Whitetop boosted 500 residents, a hotel, doctor, dentist, two stores and a train depot. Whitetop was the highest community this side of the Mississippi that is served by a regularly scheduled passenger train.
Trains would carry passengers, supplies, timber from trains on the main of the Norfolk & Western Railway up the mountain through Whitetop to West Jefferson, NC and on to Elkland, NC (Todd). The Virginia Creeper nickname comes from the long slow push up the mountain to Whitetop. When the train was carrying a heavy load of timber the train would be 'double-headed' to make the trip. 'Double-headed' meaning two engines.
In 1928 the lumber mill closed and traffic on the rail line slowed. Traffic was reduced to shipping dry goods and passengers, Whitetop's day in the sun was coming to an end.
In addition to the station building, Whitetop had a small turn-table so the engines could be turned around to head back to Damascus or West Jefferson. Today you can see the large pit where it was located.
During a day excursion sponsored by a local women's club, as the train came into the station from West Jefferson two passenger cars de-railed. The derailment was an insight to the poor condition the rail line was in.
In October 2000, a new depot building was dedicated to the community in honor of the service that the original building gave to the people of Whitetop. The new building serves as a community gathering place and welcomes thousands of visitors to the Creeper Trail. At its location at the top of the trail, bikers shuttle to the top from Damascus or Abingdon and ride down the mountain. A few brave souls endure the ride to the top.
The northeast corner of the new building sits on the same spot as the original building. The new depot is wider and longer than the original. The new building has a large exhibit area, kitchen and restrooms.