One of the things that we enjoy most about road trips is the ability to not only visit small towns along the route, but also to walk the main streets. Our road trip through the VA Blue Ridge included many small towns like Buchanan and Clifton Forge.
Buchanan is nestled within the slopes of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains. It's an example of “small town America” and one of the reasons we enjoy seeing these towns. The town has several notable buildings include the Buchanan Theatre, which is Botetourt Country's oldest thanking theatre. Its exterior features include art deco concrete details on the facade, a neon sign, and a free standing ticket booth. Concerts are still regularly held here.
Buchanan's downtown, which is also the main street, is home to specialty and antique shops and art galleries. It's also a popular destination for history buffs who visit the town's four Virginia Civil War Trail markers. And a visit to Ransomes is like stepping back in time where you can lunch at a 1950s era soda fountain and grill and also get a prescription filled at the pharmacy that's housed in the same building. It's also home to the Buchanan Swinging Bridge.
Clifton Forge is part of the Roanoke Region. The Jackson River flows through the town, which was once known as Jackson's River Station. The area is renowned for its mountain views and clear streams; Clifton Forge is home to Douthat State Park, one of the original six state parks of Virginia, built during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt's by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The town has a rich railroad heritage with the first passenger train arriving in Clifton Forge in 1857. Clifton Forge developed with the railroad industry and became a major maintenance facility for steam locomotives of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad (C&O) now CSX. The town was a virtual boomtown during the heyday of the railroad when the C&O employed nearly 2,000 people who lived within the area.
But, the advent of the diesel engine in the early 1950s brought many changes to the town when the C&O Railroad located its maintenance diesel shops in West Virginia. Many of the jobs formerly located in Clifton Forge were transferred to the new facility. The Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society, Inc. has its museum here which we also toured.