A Southeastern Regional Railroad - 1930's - 1940's
Washington and Old Dominion Railway
Washington and Old Dominion Railroad (1936)


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The Washington and Old Dominion Railroad (W&OD) was an intrastate short-line railroad located in Northern Virginia. Its oldest line extended from Alexandria on the Potomac River northwest to Bluemont at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Snickers Gap, not far from the boundary line between Virginia and West Virginia. The railroad's routes largely paralleled the routes of the Potomac River and the present Virginia Route 7.
The "Bluemont Division" line followed the winding course of Four Mile Run upstream from Alexandria through Arlington to Falls Church. The division then continues, above the fall line, through Leesburg and Purcellville to its terminus at Bluemont, turning to the west only after passing through Clarkes Gap in Catoctin Mountain west of Leesburg.(wik) The "Great Falls Division", originally the Great Falls and Old Dominion Railroad, was a double tracked line from Washington northwest to Great Falls, Virginia on the southwest bank of the Potomac River. A third line connected the two divisions running from a junction south of Washington southwest to Potomac Jct. where it connected to the Alexandria-Bluemount main.
The W&OD was electrified in 1912. In the early 30's it ran an extensive amount of interurban trolley's from it's Rosslyn Station, south of Washington, to and from the Potomac River Great Falls resort areas, and to Falls Church, Leesburg and Bluemont, as well as connections to Alexandria. During the depression years service began diminishing. Electrification was discontinued in 1941 but, during WW2, a short revival occurred using diesel or gas electric power. By 1948 passenger services had been reduced to a few trains only from Rosslyn to and from Falls Church, Leesburg and Purcellville, on a portion of the Bluemont Division, the Great Falls branch passenger service having

W&OD
Washington and Old Dominion
Spptember 27, 1948
been terminated in 1934. By 1951 the W&OD was freight only. It is now mostly abandoned with small portions used by Norfolk Southern.(rp) The Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Trail, (W&OD Trail) and several other trails have replaced much of the railroad's routes.(wik)
Brief timeline of the Washington and Old Dominion Railway

Predecessors - 1855-1911
1855 - The Alexandria, Loudoun and Hampshire Railroad (AL&H).began construction of a line first intended to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River to reach the coal fields in the western part of Hampshire County, Virginia. The AL&H was originally incorporated as the Alexandria and Harper's Ferry Railroad. Construction began in what is now Mineral County, West Virginia.
1860 - The AL&H reached Leesburg in Loudoun County. Because of its proximity to Washington, D.C., the line saw much use and disruption during the Civil War.
1870 - Name changed to the Washington and Ohio Railroad and the line was extended to Hamilton.
1874 - Round Hill reached.
1882 -- New owners changed name to the Washington and Western Railroad.
1883 - Name changed again to the Washington, Ohio and Western Railroad (WO&W). However, the line's trains did not serve either Washington, Ohio, or the West.
1886, - The Richmond and Danville Railroad, a trunk line that connected Washington, D.C., with Atlanta, Georgia, leased the WO&W.
1888 - The Richmond and Danville began to operate the WO&W's trains between Washington, D.C., and Round Hill.
1894 - The newly-formed Southern Railway absorbed the Richmond and Danville Railroad and acquired the WO&W.
1900- The Southern Railway extended the line westward for four miles from Round Hill to Bluemont (formerly Snickersville). The Southern Railway designated the line as its Bluemont Branch.
1908 - By this time, steam locomotives were hauling Southern Railway passenger trains from the new Union Station in Washington, D.C., to Alexandria Junction (north of old town Alexandria), where they switched to travel westward on the Bluemont Branch. A connecting line shuttled passengers from a station in old town Alexandria on a route that the AL&H had earlier established. On weekends, express trains carried vacationers from Washington to Bluemont and other towns in western Loudoun County in which resorts had developed.
Great Falls and Old Dominion Railroad - 1900-1911
1900 - The GF&OD is chartered.
1904 - The 15-mile electrified railroad was built from Georgetown in Washington, D.C., to Cherrydale in Arlington County.
1906 - GF&OD crossed the Potomac River on a superstructure built on the upstream side of the old Aqueduct Bridge to Rosslyn in Arlington, where it made connections with an older electric trolley line, the Washington, Arlington and Falls Church Railway. From Rosslyn, the railroad traveled northwest along the north side of Lee Highway (now part of U.S. Route 29) to Cherrydale and then on its own right-of-way (now Old Dominion Drive) in Arlington and Fairfax Counties to Great Falls, where the railroad constructed an amusement park, which became a popular destination.
1906 - GF&OD electric trolleys are running to Great Falls from Georgetown in Washington, D.C.
Washington and Old Dominion Railway (Railroad).
1911 - The owners of the GF&OD formed a new corporation, the Washington and Old Dominion Railway.
1912, The GF&OD became the "Great Falls Division" of the W&OD Railway.
1912 - The W&OD Railway leased all of the Southern Railway's Bluemont Branch, except for a short segment connecting Potomac Yard with old town Alexandria. The W&OD made the Southern's Bluemont Branch a part of the new railway's "Bluemont Division".
1912-16 - Bluemont Division electrified, and W&OD becomes an interurban electric trolley system that carried passengers, mail, milk and freight. From that time onward, W&OD trains crossed over Potomac Yard on a long viaduct. In contrast to the Southern Railway's earlier Bluemont Branch service, the W&OD Railway's Bluemont Division did not serve Washington's Union Station.
1912 - To join its two lines, the W&OD Railway constructed a double-tracked Bluemont Division connecting line that traveled between two new junctions in Arlington: Bluemont Junction on the Alexandria-Bluemont line and Thrifton Junction on the Georgetown-Great Falls line. The connecting line passed a short distance west of Ballston, crossing on a plate girder bridge over a competing interurban electric trolley line (the Fairfax line of the Washington-Virginia Railway) that carried passengers between Rosslyn, Clarendon, Ballston, Falls Church, Vienna and Fairfax City.
1923 - The W&OD ceased operating from Georgetown when the federal government replaced the aging Aqueduct Bridge with the new Francis Scott Key Bridge. At the same time, the railroad constructed a new passenger station in Rosslyn which became its "Washington" terminal.
1931 - The W&OD passenger service was alive and well with a dozen or more trains each day between Rosslyn and Great Falls, six a day from Rosslyn to Bluemont, with more terminating at Leesburg or Falls Church. It also had three trains from Alexandria to Rosslyn via Bluemont Jct.
1932 - The depression hit hard and the W&OD went into bankruptcy and was placed in receivership.
1934 - The railway abandoned operations on the Great Falls Division between Thrifton Junction and Great Falls.
1936 - A new corporation, the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad, assumed operation of the remnants of the W&OD Railway, which by then consisted only of the Railway's Bluemont Division and the portion of the former Great Falls Division that had remained between Rosslyn and Thrifton (which was no longer a junction).
1939 - The railroad abandoned the western end of its line, which had connected the towns of Purcellville and Bluemont.
1943 - The W&OD Railroad acquired ownership of the section of line between Potomac Yard and Purcellville that the W&OD Railway had earlier leased from the Southern Railway. The Southern Railway retained ownership of the easternmost section of the railroad's route between Potomac Yard and old town Alexandria.
1941 - Electrified passenger service discontinued, but temporarily resumed passenger service during the Second World War using gas-electric motor cars and cars pulled by diesel-electric locomotives.
1948 - Passenger service limited to three trains a day between Rosslyn and Leesburg, with two continuing to Purcellville
1951 -Passenger and mail service ended and W&OD is freight only/
1956 - C&O buys W&OD, but name remains.
1963 - The C&O abandoned the line between Rosslyn, Thrifton and Ballston. The Commonwealth of Virginia then purchased this segment to acquire a right-of-way for the planned route of Interstate 66 (I-66).
1968 - Alexandria-Purcelville operations completely abandoned.
c 1968 - Balance of W&OD sold to the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Commonwealth then sold most of the route to the Virginia Electric Power Company (VEPCO) (now Dominion Virginia Power), whose transmission lines had run along the railroad's right-of-way. The Commonwealth retained a portion of the route in Arlington immediately east of Falls Church, on which it built I-66, and the section of the route which crossed the Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway (presently part of Interstate 395 (I-395)) along the Arlington-Alexandria boundary.
Current - The Norfolk Southern Railway now operates a spur between the Alexandria waterfront and a Southern Railway main line that earlier had traveled through Potomac Yard. The route of the spur formerly served W&OD trains traveling on the Bluemont Division to the Division's freight and passenger stations in old town Alexandria.
W&OD current rail-trail use
-- A paved trail in Alexandria's linear Mt. Jefferson Park and Greenway has replaced part of the Bluemont Division's course through that city.
-- The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority's W&OD Trail travels in the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park within the Bluemont Division's former right-of-way from the Alexandria/Arlington boundary through Bluemont Junction to Purcellville.
-- The section of the Bluemont Division between Purcellville and Bluemont has not become a part of any trail, as the W&OD Railroad abandoned this section many years before the remainder of its line closed in 1968.
--I-66 and its adjacent Custis Trail now travel on the former right-of-way of the W&OD Railway's Great Falls Division between Rosslyn and Thrifton Junction. The highway and the trail continue to Washington Boulevard in Ballston along the former route of the Bluemont Division's Thrifton - Bluemont Junction connecting line.
--Arlington County's Bluemont Junction Trail now travels on the connecting line's former right-of-way from Washington Boulevard to meet the W&OD Trail near Bluemont Junction. The Junction now contains an Arlington County railroad display that features a bay window Southern Railway caboose that was built in 1972, four years after the W&OD closed

W&OD map
Washington and Old Dominion - 1931


Our Sources
Private Collection of Richard R. Parks(rp)
Wilipedia the free encyclopedia(wik)
Official Guide- various editions
http://www.geocities.com/pem20165/WashingtonOldDominionHistory.html(wh))
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Web Page Written and Maintained by Richard Parks
Copyright Richard Parks, May 2, 2009, revised November 22, 2011