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Orange in Orange County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The Orange Railroad Depot

The Orange & Alexandria Railroad

 

— Crossing —

 
The Orange Railroad Depot Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, April 9, 2021
1. The Orange Railroad Depot Marker
Inscription.  
1965
On the snowy evening of February 1, 1965, this railway station was severely damaged when steel girders being carried on three piggybacked trailers of a northbound freight train broke loose and swung to the right as the train rounded the curve just south of the station. The swaying girders struck the freight platform and the passenger terminal, derailing the three girder-laden flatcars and trailing caboose.

Hurtling girders tore away much of the front of the terminal; some girders shot completely through the building emerging through the back wall onto Short Street.

Despite great damage to the passenger terminal and to the tracks, repair crews had the railroad up and running within twenty-four hours. Happily there were no casualties, but a railroad employee had to dive under the concrete freight platform to escape the flying girders.

1749 witnessed the birth of Orange as a courthouse town. Some 100 years later, in 1854, the railroad from Alexandria arrived, bringing the town into the railroad era. For the next 100 years the railroad was the principal artery of commerce. Passenger trains dropped

The Orange Railroad Depot Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, April 9, 2021
2. The Orange Railroad Depot Marker
Click or scan to see
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off and received passengers; freight trains brought clothing, furniture fuel, fertilizer, tools, farm machinery, processed foods and staple groceries, and indeed, even automobiles to local merchants. They carried away the products of Orange County farms, forests and factories.

Thus, the railroad station became the heart of Orange business and commerce. Railroad Avenue, alongside the tracks, and East Main Street were the "high rent" district of the town. Along the tracks were Levy's Business Corner — the turn-of-the century equivalent of a contemporary superstore, hotels, restaurants, drug stores and saloons.

The great fire of 1908 destroyed all these prime addresses in less than 12 hours. However, the railroad was a magnet that assured the rebuilding of the Orange business district in less than a decade. This railway station was one of the buildings which rose up, Phoenix-like, from the ashes of that disastrous fire.

World War II was the "last hurrah" of Orange as a railroad center. During WWII, on average, a train passed through Orange every ten minutes, day and night. Then, after the war, our national love affair with the automobile sounded the death knell of rail service. In 1979 the town was unable to convince Amtrak to establish even a flag stop here. The railroad station closed and sat unused for 17 years. Trains continued to pass through Orange,

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but rapidly, with only a toot and a wave from the engineer. The old train station sat in decay.

In 1993, after prolonged negotiations, the town received title to the station. The efforts of many elected officials and volunteer citizens brought this handsome old structure to life again. On October 12, 1997, the building was rededicated as the Orange Transportation Center and now houses the Orange County Department of Tourism and Visitor's Bureau.

[Sidebar:]
The wreck of the Fat Nancy Trestle occurred at approximately 4 a.m. on July 12, 1888. The site is about one mile south of Orange, just west of State Route 20. Construction crews were replacing the trestle with an earth fill when a southbound passenger train crossed and the trestle collapsed. Eleven people were killed and 34 were seriously injured. Several of those involved in the disaster were former Confederate soldiers who were returning from the 25th Reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg. The trestle was named after an old woman who lived in a cabin beside the site and always waved at passing trains, but history does not record her last name.
 
Erected by The Orange Downtown Alliance, Inc.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceRoads & Vehicles

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Settlements & SettlersWar, World II. In addition, it is included in the Orange and Alexandria Railroad series list. A significant historical date for this entry is February 1, 1965.
 
Location. 38° 14.699′ N, 78° 6.595′ W. Marker is in Orange, Virginia, in Orange County. Marker is on Short Street just south of East Main Street, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 122 E Main St, Orange VA 22960, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Welcome to… The Town of Orange (here, next to this marker); Historic Downtown Orange (here, next to this marker); Town of Orange (within shouting distance of this marker); Orange County Visitor Center (within shouting distance of this marker); Orange Train Station (within shouting distance of this marker); Crosthwaite Alley (within shouting distance of this marker); Confederate Dead (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); General Zachary Taylor (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Orange.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on April 12, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 11, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 33 times since then. Last updated on April 11, 2021, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on April 11, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.

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May. 14, 2021