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Purcellville in Loudoun County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Tracks into History
The Washington & Old Dominion Railroad
 
Tracks into History Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, February 3, 2008
1. Tracks into History Marker
 
Inscription. The railroad that became the Washington & Old Dominion was born in Alexandria in response to the competition in shipping posed by the port in Baltimore, which was served by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The B&O was diverting farm produce from the Shenandoah Valley away from Alexandria by way of its junction with the Winchester & Potomac Railroad. It also had access to the rich coalfields of the Ohio Valley.

A group of Northern Virginia businessmen formed the Alexandria, Loudoun & Hampshire Railroad, with the first train reaching Leesburg from Alexandria on May 17, 1860. Their goal was to reach the farmlands and coalfields and recapture the trade that was slipping away.

Because of financial problems, this goal was never achieved and the railroad terminated in the town of Bluemont, Virginia. To survive, the rail line picked up business wherever possible. The railroad hauled farm products from the Fairfax and Loudoun country side into Washington, carried mail for the Federal government, provided freight service to and from the many towns and communities springing up along the line and furnished passenger service for the many commuters working in Washington. A specialized service promoted by the railroad was as an excursion line for vacationers wanting to reach cooler temperatures and resorts in the Loudoun Valley.

The
 
Tracks into History Wayside Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, February 3, 2008
2. Tracks into History Wayside
 
railroad was only modestly successful throughout its life, although it experienced a boom during the fuel shortage years of World War II. After that, with improvements to the road systems and motor vehicles, business declined quickly. By 1951, passenger service had ended and, in 1968, the rail line was abandoned.

Time Line
March 20, 1847 - Incorporated as the Alexandria & Harper's Ferry Railroad.
March 15, 1853 - The corporate name changes to the Alexandria, Loudoun & Hampshire Railroad Company.
February 25, 1855 - Construction begins near Alexandria.
May 17, 1860 - First train from Alexandria to Leesburg.
1861 to 1865 - Railroad construction, and some service, is interrupted by the Civil War.
June 1, 1867 - Train service is restored from Alexandria to Leesburg.
March 29, 1870 - Name is changed to Washington & Ohio Railroad Company.
April 1, 1874 - Railroad completed to Purcellville.

The company passes quickly through a number of ownerships starting January 31, 1882, when it becomes the Washington & Western Railroad. Then on May 9, 1883 it becomes the Washington, Ohio & Western Railroad. On October 30, 1886, the line is leased by the Richmond & Danville Railroad. Finally, the railroad becomes the Bluemont Branch when purchased by the Southern Railway Company on June 28, 1894.

Early
 
The Old Railroad Bed Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, February 3, 2008
3. The Old Railroad Bed
Today the railroad bed is a paved trail through Purcellville.
 
1900
- The terminus of the railroad was reached when the line was completed to Snickersville (Bluemont).
July 1, 1912 - The railroad becomes the Washington & Old Dominion Railway Company.
Late 1912 - The railroad converts from steam to electric power.
April 16, 1936 - The name changes for a final time when it becomes the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Company.
February 1939 - Railroad service is discontinued west of Purcellville.
April 1941 - Passenger service is discontinued but starts up again a year later as result of World War II. All passenger service is ended May 31, 1951.
Early 1940s - Railroad changes from electric to diesel power.
August 27, 1968 - W&OD freight service ends and the line is abandoned. Virginia Electric and Power Company (Virginia Power) immediately buys the property to protect its existing easements and for future expansion.
1978 - After six years of negotiations with Virginia Power, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority purchases the right-of-way from Shirlington to Purcellville for use as a multi-use trail which is completed in 1988.
 
Erected by The Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park, Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad marker series.
 
Location. 39° 8.309′ N, 77° 42.779′ W. Marker is in Purcellville, Virginia, in Loudoun County. Marker is on North Hatcher Avenue (County Route 611), on the right when traveling north. Click for map. Located at a parking area for the W&OD Trail Park. Marker is in this post office area: Purcellville VA 20132, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, as the crow flies. Purcellville Station (approx. 0.2 miles away); Beyond Purcellville (approx. 0.2 miles away); Ambush at Purcellville (approx. half a mile away); Electric Trains on the W&OD (approx. half a mile away); Loudoun County Emancipation Association Grounds (approx. 0.6 miles away); Mother of the Wright Brothers (approx. one mile away); Goose Creek Friends 1765 Meeting House (approx. 1.7 miles away); Goose Creek Friends 1817 Meeting House (approx. 1.7 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Purcellville.
 
More about this marker. This is one in a set of standard markers alongside the W&OD Trail. The marker features three pictures: A steam engine at Herndon Station, July 1910; An electric passenger train near Bluemount in 1939; and a diesel engine near Reston in 1958.
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on May 25, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 767 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on May 25, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.
 
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