Backroads: The Lyndhurst Depot

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The Lyndhurst depot today

The Lyndhurst railroad depot had a rich history of service before its eventual demise, but thanks to the restorative efforts of Max and Sylvia Reinhardt, the derelict building has become their unique private home. Read about the depot’s beginning and long career as a train station/post office and follow its history to the present day.

The Lyndhurst Depot, located at mile post 148.0 on the original Shenandoah Valley Railroad line, was a combination station and supposedly derived its name from SVRR’s George C. Milne who named the community after Lord Lyndhurst. The SVRR (1867-1890) extended down the Shenandoah Valley from Hagerstown, Maryland through the West Virginia panhandle into Virginia to reach Roanoke and connect with the Norfolk and Western Railway. Construction began in 1870 and was completed on June 19, 1882. In September of 1890, SVRR went into bankruptcy and was reorganized as the Shenandoah Valley Railway. In December of the same year, it became part of the Norfolk and Western line. Today the tracks are a major artery of the Norfolk Southern system.

An early photo of the depot

In 1935, Gordon Patterson started his apprenticeship as a telegraph operator at the Lyndhurst depot. He was 24 years old at the time and made 63 cents an hour. His pay increased to 83 cents an hour once he became an agent. He walked the five miles from his home in Sherando to the depot twice daily for a year while learning his trade. Telegraph training is a slow process. The ear is not naturally attuned to the clicking sound of Morse Code, so it takes a long time to be able to send and receive messages with any speed. One who is proficient should be able to send messages as fast as one can type on a typewriter. Gordon always said he used the “biblical system” of typing called the “seek and ye shall find” method! 

When there were no messages to send, Gordon helped the postmaster, Albert Finter, with duties in the post office, which was located inside the train station. Because of this post office training, Gordon resigned from the railroad when the job of Lyndhurst postmaster came open. On January 19, 1951, he became acting postmaster and on June 30, 1952, he was appointed to the office.  Along with his new title, he continued to act as telegraph operator, express agent, and freight agent all rolled into one. Western Union was also located in the depot and one of Gordon’s saddest duties was to hand-deliver casualty telegrams to the families of men who had lost their lives in the Korean War.

Gordon Patterson, 1994

As postmaster, Gordon sorted the mail and put it in people’s pigeonhole mail slots. For those who didn’t have an inside box at the depot, the mail was sorted for the rural route carrier to deliver.  Andy Arnold, who lived in the Love community, received his first contract as a carrier on July1, 1909, delivering mail from Lyndhurst to Love until 1940. Prior to Arnold, there were three other early carriers; Peter Coffey, F. E. Campbell and Columbus “Lum” Hatter. When Gordon became postmaster, Reginald Hatter was the route carrier.

Rural route carrier Andy Arnold

In February of 1969, a new post office was built in Lyndhurst and Gordon moved with it and continued to serve as postmaster until his retirement in 1976. When the old depot was no longer used, the building was abandoned and eventually bought from N&W by Max Quillen, who used it for storage. In 1985, Max was contemplating tearing the depot down when a woman by the name of Sylvia Leake offered to buy and restore it as a private residence. Although it was in a bad state of disrepair, this plucky little lady saw it had “good bones” and had a vision of what the depot could be turned into with a certain amount of elbow grease. Sylvia was a pharmacist and had a boyfriend by the name of Max Reinhardt who was also a pharmacist at the same drug store. When Max took one look at Sylvia’s new “investment,” he thought she had lost her mind. The windows were boarded up and the interior was full of old bags of fertilizer and odd pieces of litter. But Sylvia persisted and work began to turn the old depot into a livable dwelling. After the restoration, Max and Sylvia were married on May 23, 1992 and moved into the Lyndhurst Depot full-time.  

When asked if the trains rumbling by several times a day bothered them, they said no, that over the years they have grown accustomed to the sound and hardly noticed it. The interior of their home is warm and cozy, decorated inside and out with Sylvia’s artwork. The old pigeon-hole mail slots from the former post office are now cubbies in the Reinhardt’s kitchen that hold an assortment of utensils.

The depot, once a hub of activity in Lyndhurst, later abandoned and neglected, became one woman’s dream of a unique home that continues to serve her and her husband well.  

Max and Sylvia Reinhardt

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