Clifton Forge Rail Yard New Life

Houff Corporation Since 1975, family-owned. Neil Houff, Dennis Houff, Kern Houff, Uncle Harry, and Fred Houff

Clifton Forge Rail Yard is active once again thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Town of Clifton Forge and The Houff Corporation.   The Houff Corporation has constructed their transloading warehouse in the CFVA rail yard which has been dormant since the 1970’s.  The facility is 46,200 total sq ft, and will hold 450 rail cars of salt which is roughly 45,000 tons of road salt.  

On Friday December 15, 2017 the Houff Corporation received the first delivery to their newly constructed facility located at the the old Clifton Forge Rail Yard.  Twenty- two CSX rail cars of Salt were moved into the yard during the first delivery.


The Houff Corporation is A Shenandoah Valley Family Business.  From the very beginning, the Houff family has been committed to using innovative technologies in the pursuit of sustainable agriculture. Houff’s Feed and Fertilizer was founded in Weyers Cave, Virginia out of D.W. Houff and Sons dairy operation. In the late 1960’s, the Houffs started using custom equipment to apply liquid fertilizer to their fields. Quickly recognizing that their neighbors might have the same need, they started offering custom fertilizer application in the Shenandoah Valley. By 1975, Houff’s Feed and Fertilizer was a viable business and contributor to the local economy. Over time, their agricultural services have expanded to include full service agronomy, the application of biosolids, and ammonia control for poultry houses. On the industrial side, we offer: transloadingthird party logisticswarehousing, and much more. In 2017, Houff’s Feed and Fertilizer recognized the breadth of the business and rebranded to Houff Corporation.

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The revitalization of the CFVA Rail Yard and it’s potential is exciting news for the Alleghany Highlands.  CFVA is rich with railway history.  The C&O Historical Society and The C&O Heritage Center makes CFVA a interesting destination for any railway enthusiast.

The Amtrak Station is located downtown on Ridgeway adjacent from CFVA’s renown Jack Mason’s Tavern & Brewery.

CFVA’s renown Jack Mason’s Tavern & Brewery

The Clifton Forge station also serves several local colleges, including Washington and Lee University, Southern Virginia College, Roanoke College and the Virginia Military Institute.

CFVA Amtrak Train Station

The facility has a waiting room that is opened and closed by a caretaker. Amtrak does not provide ticketing or assistance with baggage at the CFVA station, which is served by the tri-weekly Cardinal (Westbound: Sunday, Wednesday, Friday; Eastbound: Wednesday, Friday, Sunday).

The Great American Stations report:  The station at Clifton Forge was built in 1902 by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O) as a coal freight and passenger depot for their successful operations in the New River Gorge. At three full stories, it towers over the trains that pass by on its tracks. The station building itself is across the street from the platform where the passing trains make their stops.

The station is also across West Ridgeway Street from the C&O Historical Society. This society has devoted itself to preserving the C&O Railroad’s place in the coal mining history of not only the town of Clifton Forge, but the entire region. It houses maps, timetables and records going back to the mid-19th century. The society has also constructed historically inspired railroad structures a short distance from the Amtrak depot, including a signal tower, passenger depot and engine house. The green wooden passenger depot is based on an 1891 design but adapted for 21st century uses, and includes an agent’s office, ADA-compliant bathroom and a large multipurpose space that can be used as an exhibit space or a classroom.

The land in the southern Shenandoah Valley that Clifton Forge now occupies was originally part of a 1770 land grant from the Governor of Virginia to Robert Gallaspy. A settlement developed on both sides of the Jackson River in this part of the Alleghany Highlands, from Slaughter Pen Hollow to Smith Creek. By 1826, the area had begun to grow both from the completion of the road over North Mountain and from the iron industry there in Alleghany County. William Lyle Alexander of Lexington owned a forge in the Rainbow Rock Gap and he named the forge Clifton in honor of his father’s estate in Lexington: thus, Clifton Forge. The city incorporated under that name in 1884, two years after the C&O named its new depot at the east end of town, “Clifton Forge.”

This view of Clifton Forge, VA and the Alleghany Highlands is overlooking the C&O Heritage Center, an area that pays tribute to the importance of the C&O Railroad in the development of the town.

Clifton Forge has had ties to the railroad industry since 1857, when the Virginia Central Railroad extended its line from Staunton to the Jackson River. From there, the tracks extended west, and when the line to Richmond was completed in 1881, the town prospered. The C&O used Clifton Forge as a maintenance facility for its steam locomotives and crew change point, and the area around the C&O shops came to be called West Clifton, which merged with Clifton Forge in 1906. At its peak, the railroad employed over 2,000 people in Clifton Forge. The town is still a major focus city for CSX operations in the region.

Fishing at Douthat State park

The town is home to one of the first state parks in Virginia, Douthat State Park. This 4,500 acre park was built during the late 1930’s by members of the New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps. Clifton Forge is also surrounded by the George Washington National Forest, which covers 1.8 million acres of land in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Approximately one million acres of the forest are remote and undeveloped and 139,461 acres have been designated as wilderness areas.

The Homestead, a 3,000-acre renowned five-star resort and National Historic Landmark, lies about 20 miles north of the town in Hot Springs, Va. Originally built in 1766, the current buildings date from 1888 to 1892. The Homestead and its three famous golf courses have hosted numerous national golf tournaments since 1928.

The Town of Clifton Forge, VA is nestled in the George Washington National Forest with majestic mountains, pristine rivers and streams.

Visiting Clifton Forge is easy with Interstate 64 exits at each end of town. AMTRAC provides connections to D.C., Chicago & New York. At the west end of Town is Dabney S. Lancaster Community College and on the east end scenic Douthat State Park.

Arts & Entertainment abound in our community. The Alleghany Highlands Arts & Craft Center, newly renovated Historic Masonic Theatre & Amphitheatre, and Clifton Forge School of the Arts offer classes, exhibits, live music, dance, movies, theatre and festivals.

Enjoy downtown shopping, eateries and take in the C&O Railway Heritage Center. You will love the small town feel, friendly citizenry and strolling the The Historic District.  We invite you to visit. You may just decide to live here in CFVA.

Enjoy Roanoke news WDBJ7’s coverage:  Changes come to Clifton Forge rail yard – WDBJ7

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