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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Alexandria, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The People of Potomac Yard

 
 
The People of Potomac Yard Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, June 19, 2016
1. The People of Potomac Yard Marker
Inscription. When Potomac Yard opened in 1906, it employed 1,200 people. At its peak during World War II (1941–1945), yard expansion increased the workforce to almost 1,500 people. Inspectors, brakemen, switch operators, locomotive engineers, mechanics, and carpenters kept the trains moving. Clerical employees sorted through waybills and paperwork while managers routed trains to their final destinations. Potomac Yard even had its own police force that kept an eye out for trespassers and hobos and inspected the freight cars. Potomac Yard operated every day, 24 hours a day to meet demand; this required 3 work shifts including an overnight shift Employees worked long days that frequently exceeded 8 hours and through all types of weather in order to get each task done.

Working at the Yard. Employees of Potomac Yard described themselves as being a close-knit group. Workers often lived in the same neighborhoods, raised their children together, and worked with family members. The work was stable and it was, for many years, the single largest employer in Alexandria. Often, multiple generations of families worked at the Yard. Young people frequently began as messengers and rose to become managers through on-the-job training, hard work, and assistance from more experienced employees.

The Del Ray and St.
The People of Potomac Yard Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, June 19, 2016
2. The People of Potomac Yard Marker
Elmo neighborhoods grew along with the Yard’s prosperity. Constructed in 1894 as planned subdivisions, they were built to take advantage of existing commuter railroads and trolleys that led into Washington, D.C. Del Ray and St. Elmo, however, did not flourish until the 1910s and 1920s when a combination of Potomac Yard workers and federal employees began moving to the area.


“It was a great life, a great life. I had one of the best jobs in the country, and certainly the best railroad job in the country. It was one interesting and challenging career.” —Jack McGinley, Last Superintendent of Potomac Yard
 
Erected by City of Alexandria. (Marker Number Panel 4.)
 
Location. 38° 49.579′ N, 77° 2.828′ W. Marker is in Alexandria, Virginia. Marker is at the intersection of Potomac Avenue and East Custis Avenue, on the right on Potomac Avenue. Click for map. Marker is on the Potomac Yard Trail which parallels Potomac Avenue, at the small plaza at the foot of Custis Avenue. It overlooks the three railroad tracks that remain of the former Potomac Yards. Marker is in this post office area: Alexandria VA 22305, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Bluemont Line (approx. half a mile away);
The Plaza at the Foot of Custis Avenue image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, June 19, 2016
3. The Plaza at the Foot of Custis Avenue
The marker is on the fence in the distance.
The Hump: Open Lots For Blocks (approx. 0.8 miles away); James Bland Homes (approx. 0.8 miles away); George Washington High School (approx. 0.9 miles away); Parker-Gray High School (approx. 0.9 miles away); Alexandria Canal (1843 - 1886) (approx. 0.9 miles away); The Memorial Pool (approx. 0.9 miles away); Robert Robinson Library -1940 (approx. one mile away). Click for a list of all markers in Alexandria.
 
More about this marker. The marker has a number of photographs of Potomac Yard workers and a large map showing the approximate location of Potomac Yard. The map’s legend reads, “Drawn in 1900, this map shows the Del Ray and St. Elmo neighborhoods west of Route 1 and the properties that would soon become Potomac Yard.” It is a portion of a map titled “Map of Alexandria County, Virginia” from the Library of Congress.
 
Categories. Railroads & Streetcars
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia. This page has been viewed 115 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia. This page was last revised on August 19, 2016.
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