Chasing the Powhatan Arrow
A Travelogue in Economic Geography
From its inception in the 1880s, The Norfolk & Western Railway primarily carried freight, principally conveying coal from the central Appalachian coal fields in Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky to the eastern seaboard port of Norfolk and to Cincinnati for transfer to the steel mills and power plants of the Great Lakes region. But as a sideline, it always provided passenger service. A profitable, well-run company, N&W only accepted the very best.
As World War II ended, N&W offered several named trains along its main line, including the Cavalier, the Pocahontas, and its daytime flagship the Powhatan Arrow. Pulled initially by the magnificent Class J steam locomotives that N&W manufactured at its Roanoke Shops, the Powhatan Arrow provided fast, luxurious, and memorable service for three decades before passenger service was discontinued, giving way to automobile and airplane travel nationwide.
The corridor traversed by the Powhatan Arrow is a wonderfully complex, geographically fascinating, socially diverse, and economically mixed path through Virginia, West Virginia, and Ohio. The vicissitudes of time have endowed the communities along the way with a broad spectrum of fortunes, branching from prosperity to failure.
With railroads no longer carrying passengers, Michael Abraham duplicated the route as closely as possible by car, motorcycle, bicycle, and even canoe, gathering each area’s history and culture and profiling entrepreneurs, historians, railfans, and everyday people in this enlightening, humorous look at a swath of America’s past, present, and future.
Please read this excellent, thorough review by the Appalachian Americans Facebook page adminstrator Dave Tabler.
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Books with names about famous trains are frequently written by historians and are filled with endless facts such as ridership figures, equipment types and service details. Michael Abraham’s Chasing the Powhatan Arrow is not one of those books.
Instead, Abraham takes a fresh look at the people, communities and issues affecting the population outside the train along its 676 mile route. This book presents a wide range of issues, from the history of tobacco, coal mining, and the Civil War to contemporary topics such as the coming ramifications of driverless cars. It is a testimonial to communities that have thrived since the heyday of passenger rail travel and those that have seen declining fortunes. Michael dives into the local fabric between Norfolk and Cincinnati with a unique and fresh sense of humor that is his signature writing style.
At each stop along the route of the Powhatan Arrow we are treated to a new story. While some interviews may have been planned in advance, other stories and tidbits are totally impromptu as Michael’s wit and charm draws the best out of his subjects and he in turn memorializes the history of the locals along the route for generations to come.
If you have not been to places like Crewe, Virginia, Welch, West Virginia or Ironton, Ohio, then sit back and let Michael Abraham’s Chasing the Powhatan Arrow take you there. You’ll laugh, learn, and be entertained throughout. But by the time you reach the end, I can promise there will be a few of these out of the way towns that will be on your bucket list of places to visit.
J. Preston Claytor
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"Mike, I am almost finished with Chasing the Powhatan Arrow and I do not want this book to end!!! I have loved every minute of it. I have learned so much about the engine I love, the State of Virginia (where I loved living so many years ago), and the N&W, which my dad worked for (he is now deceased). This book hit a chord with me in so many ways that you will never know and I will probably go back and read it again six months from now and enjoy it just as much.
"I enjoyed it so much that I just ordered all your other books. I love the way you write so do not stop writing books!!!!! You have a great gift that should be shared I really enjoy your writing style.
"Thank you, Mike, for a wonderful book. Keep on writing!!"
Gail in Georgia
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Chasing the Powhatan Arrow -- non-fiction
Printed book version: $18.95, 6 X 9, 500 pages, soft-cover, SIGNED PERSONALLY BY THE AUTHOR and mailed to you.
Ebook version: $7.50. Please go to this link on Smashwords and order your ebook.