The Huckleberry Trail has deep roots and a long history of providing transportation between Blacksburg and Christiansburg.
It began as the Virginia Anthracite Coal and Rail Company in 1902 to transport coal from the Merrimac Mine (now the location of the Coal Miners’ Heritage Park) to the Cambria Depot in Christiansburg. In 1904, the railway was extended to Blacksburg (the depot was located at approximately the site of the current Montgomery/Floyd Regional Library) and a contract was made between the coal company and Virginia Tech. On September 15, 1904, the first passenger train rolled into Blacksburg.
The regular schedule at that time was four daily trains, with three of the trips carrying mail. Passengers could make the trip from Cambria to Blacksburg for 50 cents with baggage, or 35 cents without, and a round trip could be purchased for 60 cents without bags.
On September 21, 1904, the first round of cadets made their way into Blacksburg on the train. It was soon nicknamed “Huckleberry Crossing” because when the train would stall, passengers could step off the train and pass time picking the abundance of huckleberries (wild blueberries) along the route. The name stuck, and “Huckleberry Crossing” was soon painted in large letters on the depot. From 1912 to 1922, the Huckleberry was Blacksburg’s main link to surrounding areas, but by the early 1930’s, fewer students were riding the train because of the long wait. With the use of automobiles increasing, the Huckleberry’s passenger service was cut to twice a day in the 1940’s and then once a day in the 1950’s.
On July 25, 1958, the Huckleberry made its last steam run and operated on power until August 9, 1958. In the summer of 1966, the Blacksburg depot was closed.
Thanks to the vision of J.C. Garrett of the horticulture department at Virginia Tech, the Huckleberry would not be lost. In 1966, he and others worked to transform the train path into a nature trail and walking path for about one mile between the Blacksburg Library and Airport Road, the start of what would later become known as the Huckleberry Trail.
About Friends of the Huckleberry Trail
The extension of the Huckleberry Trail to its current length of 7.5 miles and 3.5 additional miles on the Huckleberry North Trail began in 1989 under Blacksburg Mayor Roger Hedgepeth. As a part of an update of the Town’s comprehensive plan, a committee was formed in 1991 in cooperation with Montgomery County and the Town of Christiansburg. It became a non-profit corporation, the Friends of the Huckleberry, Inc. The guidance and financial help of the Friends of the Huckleberry has helped extend the Trail to the Town of Christiansburg Recreation Center. With its goal of promoting and expanding the Huckleberry Trail, Friends has helped raise over $3 million for the expansion of the trail through federal and state grants, funds from the local governments, and from corporations and private citizens. Corporate sponsors of the trail include Corning, Montgomery Regional Hospital, the National Bank of Blacksburg, East Coasters Cycling & Fitness, the Hethwood Foundation, HHHunt, and many others.
Friends of the Huckleberry is currently working with the local governments to extend the Trail south to the Christiansburg High School, into downtown Christiansburg and north to the Heritage Park and the Jefferson National Forest in Blacksburg. It is anticipated that these extensions will be completed in the next couple of years as funds become available. Friends of the Huckleberry will continue to work on improving amenities and landscaping along the trail, even after it accomplishes it’s mission of connecting Downtown Christiansburg and the Jefferson National Forest.
Original Source: “Huckleberry Line.” Virginia Tech Magazine. Volume 14, Number 3. Spring 1992.