Purcellville in Loudoun County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Tracks into History
The Washington & Old Dominion Railroad
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
The 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.
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.
Early 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.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Railroads & Streetcars. In addition, it is included in the NOVA Parks, and the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad series lists.
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. Located at a parking area for the W&OD Trail Park. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Purcellville VA 20132, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Killed in Action Memorial (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); A Little History (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Case Building (approx. 0.2 miles away); 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). Touch for a list and map 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 was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on May 25, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,306 times since then and 43 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on May 25, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.