A motorist drives through a roundabout that once served as a turnaround for the trolley line that provided transportation from Hilton Village to Newport News Shipbuilding. Photo by Ashley Cowan

Honoring the Past

Published October 26, 2021

Newport News Shipbuilding joined forces with the city to honor the legacy of an important transportation link – the trolley that once ran between Hilton Village and downtown Newport News.

Charles Southall, vice president of Columbia-Class Submarine Construction, spoke on behalf of NNS during a recent ceremony to unveil a historical marker at the loop that once served as a turnaround for the trolley.

“Hilton Village and this trolley provided a quality of life that opened the door for our shipyard to attract the skilled workforce that has enabled Newport News Shipbuilding’s continued success,” Southall said.

Built in what was then a rural area a few miles north of the Newport News city limits, Hilton Village was created in 1918 to help house shipbuilders and their families during World War I. The war effort had led to a hiring boom at the shipyard, leading to a severe housing shortage in Newport News.

Hilton Village helped ease the shortage, and – during a time when personal vehicles were not yet common for most – trolley service from the Newport News and Hampton Railway Gas and Electric Co. provided reliable transportation for shipbuilders to and from the shipyard.

In the decades that followed, the trolley was gradually abandoned in favor of modern bus service. By 1950, all tracks had been removed. The old trolley turnaround now serves as a roundabout for vehicles traveling along James River Drive and Villa and Botetourt roads.