History, Department of



The Countryside Transformed: The Eastern Shore of Virginia, the Pennsylvania Railroad, and the Creation of a Modern Landscape

Date of this Version



Published in Southern Spaces, July 31, 2007; http://www.southernspaces.org/contents/2007/thomas/1a.htm


In 1884 the New York, Philadelphia, and Norfolk Railroad, a subsidiary of the powerful Pennsylvania system, extended its line south through the Eastern Shore of Virginia. For decades the Eastern Shore had remained disconnected from the rapidly advancing railroad network on the Atlantic coast, a region distinctly Southern in its cultural landscape and seemingly frozen in time. The arrival of the railroad altered the geography of the Eastern Shore in fundamental ways and prompted unforeseen changes in the peninsula's cultural and natural worlds. This essay examines what happened when one of the largest railroad companies in the nation came into a Southern community and connected it to the modern network of rail and commerce. We consider the Eastern Shore a test case or laboratory for understanding the development of a modern landscape in the South and the social, cultural, and environmental changes that came with the railroad.