The ‘Little Gem’ of Fairfax County, Virginia

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Two and a half miles (three kilometers) south of the town center of Fairfax, Virginia just off the Ox Road (Virginia Route 123) is a small town called Fairfax Station.  Yes.  This town gets its name from an actual train station.  As you approach the old train, you look at it, and you ask yourself, “This is such a nice little train station, but there are no train tracks here other than those that hold the old caboose.  Is this a real train station?”

Yes, it is, but it was moved from its original location to save it from being demolished.

Now you are saying, “That is nice, but it is just a train station.  It has no use anyway.  What is the point in saving it?”

Fairfax Station is not just a train station.  It is a piece of American history.  Yes.  You can say that about many train stations, but real American history happened here at Fairfax Station.

The railroad was built in the 1850’s to serve the farms in the region, and at the time there were many farms in Fairfax County.  Then the Civil War broke out.  It went from being a typical passenger station to a strategic military point.  The railroad line played a major role in the war.  Troops were moved through this region, and there was a skirmish at the nearby Saint Mary’s Church.  (The church is in its original location and can be visited today, and it remains an active church.)  The station later became a hospital for soldiers fighting in the battles of Manassas and Chantilly.  Among the nurses working at this hospital was a woman named Clara Barton, the same Clara Barton who went on to erect an organization we known as the American Red Cross, an organization that is still active today.  After the war, it went back to being an active train station.  In 1973, the last passenger train served the station making it the last train station in all of Fairfax County, Virginia to have passenger and freight service, and it is one of the few surviving train stations in the county.  (It is the only surviving station on the current rail line which is now under the ownership of Norfolk Southern.  The other two surviving stations are in Vienna and Herndon along the doomed Washington and Old Dominion Line which is now a rail trail.)  The Fairfax Station was then moved to its current location.  In 1976, it was opened to the public as a museum, and you can visit this museum today every Sunday from 1:00pm to 4:00pm.

Now some of you are saying, “Wow!  I am glad that they were able to save this ‘little gem’ we know as this train station, but I am curious.  Why is it so far from Fairfax?  It makes more sense to put it next to the town so that people could just jump on.”

That was the original plan.  The rail line, known as the Manassas Gap Railroad, was to mainly go alongside the Little River Turnpike passing by what is the old town of Fairfax making its way through Chantilly and winding its way to what is now Gainesville, Virginia.  However, it was met with opposition from Fairfax residents.  Although they began to build it, it was never completed.  (You can see fortifications of what became known as the ‘Unfinished Railroad’ on Judicial Drive next to the post office.  You can also see portions of the track bed at Manassas National Battlefield, Sully Plantation in Chantilly, Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale and the Manassas Gap Park also in Annandale.

What happened next?  Was the region doomed?  The farmers of Fairfax County wanted a railroad to get their crops to Alexandria and Washington D.C.  Without the railroad, it would take days and weeks to get the crops to people around the world.  A man by the name of Silas Burke who lived in the region also wanted the railroad.  (His home is still standing, but it is currently not open to the public.)  He helped pave the way for the Alexandria and Orange Railroad to pass through the region, and Fairfax Station became one of the stops.  Unfortunately, through the years, development has taken over the region, but the tracks are still in operation today but under Norfolk Southern, and you can see Amtrak, the Virginia Railway Express and an occasional freight train go by.

Now some of you are saying, “Wow!  This is a gem.  It would be nice at visit.”

You can visit Fairfax Station.  As mentioned, the museum is open every Sunday from 1:00pm to 4:00pm.  Admission is $4.00 for adults.  They also have special events throughout the year, and you can event rent the station for your own event.  You can go to http://www.fairfax-station.org for more information.

Looking for gems?  There is a ‘Little Gem’ in Fairfax County, Virginia.

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