The goal of the Norfolk and Western Historical Society, Inc. is the preservation of the history of the Norfolk and Western and Virginian railroads. Operating as a non-profit organization, it is covered by the 501C provisions of the Internal Revenue Service codes. It is not affiliated with, sponsored, or supported by the Norfolk and Western Railway or Norfolk Southern Corporation.
The Society was organized in 1984 by Rick Stone and a small group of interested individuals with the mission to provide a structured way by which to capture and share the history of the Norfolk and Western and Virginian Railways. Stone served as President and Editor of the bi-monthly Society newsletter. Early efforts of the group focused on the publication of the mimeographed newsletter and an annual membership convention. The conventions were held in cities on the original N&W mainline. Convention programs included a modeling contest, modeling clinics and tours of railroad facilities in the area when possible. By 1990, membership had grown to approximately 500 members. Starting in 1985, the Society began a calendar publication program. This marked the first step in the development of a sales program which has grown and flourished in recent years.
With the 1990 elections, Jim Gillum assumed the leadership responsibilities as Society's President. Editorship of the newsletter was assumed by Jim Brewer as this function is now separated from that of the President. Beginning with the first issue of 1991, the use of enameled paper was begun; the first of many steps in the continual upgrading of the quality of the publication. Renamed as The Arrow at the start of 1992, the capabilities of today's digital printing place the publication among the finest of its type.
Efforts to improve the Society financial condition have been on-going. It is felt that unless the available funds could be increased, the ability to preserve and make available the history of the Norfolk and Western and Virginian would be greatly limited. Success in this area allowed the establishment of a permanent archives program in 1994. This collection, based in Roanoke, Virginia, now represents a valuable repository of drawings, photographs and documents on the history of the two railroads.
The Society is actively engaged in the publication of books and booklets related to the railroads. The Society has published a number of original works - Cabooses Of The Norfolk And Western, Norfolk & Western's Shenandoah Valley Line, and Norfolk and Western Electrics. The newly released The Norfolk and Western…As I Knew It! showcases many previously unpublished photos by photographer August Thieme. The Society has also published a number of reprints of original booklets from the N&W and Virginian including the official N&W publication The Norfolk & Western: A History by Pat Striplin. Drawings and photographs from the archives have also been reproduced and made available to Society members.
The Society celebrates its twentieth anniversary in 2004! Membership now numbers over 1500; 30% of whom are Sustaining Members contributing an additional $15.00 each year to the preservation program. Work progresses to catalog the archives collection into a database for ease of reference and research. Results from the Commissary sales program continue to show steady gains with an ever expanding selection of related products. The pursuit of ways to improve the quality and content of The Arrow continues. Changes on the railroad brought about by consolidation in the railroad industry represent a very urgent challenge to preserving N&W and Virginian history. With many of the documents, photographs and files already lost or scattered, the acquisition and safe-guarding of what remains is critical. To this point, the Society is working on a number of fronts to acquire material for the archives collection.
The long-term objective of the Society is to be a primary source for historical information on the Norfolk and Western and Virginian railroads. This objective covers all of the readily identifiable areas of interest; publications, model production, and historical research. Artifacts will be added to the archives collection of drawings, photographs and documents as space allows. It is felt that the collection of rolling stock is best left to groups more experienced in this type of activity.