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The city grew frequently through annexation through the middle of the twentieth century. The state legislature has since prohibited cities from annexing land from adjacent counties.
The presence of the railroad also made Roanoke attractive to manufacturers.The Carolina Road branched off in Cloverdale, Virginia to Boones Mill, Virginia, and on to the Yadkin River Valley.The Roanoke Gap proved a useful route for immigrants to settle the Carolina Piedmont region.The Virginian Railway (VGN), an engineering marvel of its day, was conceived and built by William Nelson Page and Henry Huttleston Rogers.Following the Roanoke River, the VGN was built through the City of Roanoke early in the twentieth century. The opening of the coalfields made N&W prosperous and Pocahontas bituminous coal world-famous.