You may have heard of many forts across the United States of America, but very few of you may not have heard of Fort Monroe. Known as ‘Freedoms Fortress’ and the largest stone fort in America, it is a historic military fort built on a peninsula with the Chesapeake Bay on the east side and Hampton Roads to the south. It was designed to protect the entryway of the Chesapeake Bay and the Hampton Roads waterways during the early years of the nation. It was also used during the American Civil War. Today, Fort Monroe has been deactivated as a military installation, and there are restoration efforts to preserve the fort to its original state. Although much of the fort is not open to the public for tours, the Casemate Museum, which is operated by the Fort Monroe Authority of the Commonwealth of Virginia, is where you can see the history of the fort and read about the soldiers who were stationed or imprisoned there. Once you have visited the museum, you can look around and see the fortifications and get a view of the Chesapeake Bay and the Hampton Roads. You can even see the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse. (Please note that the lighthouse itself is not open to the public but remains an active navigational beacon owned by the Coast Guard.) Fort Monroe, a National Historic Landmark, is a historic place that has much history that begins even before the United States became a nation.
Now some of you are saying, “That is so amazing. I myself have never heard of this fort. I am so glad that they were able to save this place. However, I do not think that I will be visiting this place because there are no railroads here.”
Fort Monroe was a fort used during many wars, and, as mentioned, the Casemate Museum details the history of the fort throughout its years as an active military fort. It also has a model display. Yes, you have read correctly. There is an HO model train display. Fort Monroe was once a terminus for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, and that is what is shown on the display. Additionally, during the late 19th century and for much of the 20th century, Fort Monroe operated its own military railroad to move supplies and armaments around the post. Unfortunately, very little evidence of a railroad at Fort Monroe remains as the tracks and the structures are no longer there.
Fort Monroe, one of the nation’s newest National Monuments, is located in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. It is just minutes from Interstate 64. The Casemate Museum is located on the south side of the fort. It is open year round, but hours do vary during the year, and admission is free. You can go to http://fortmonroe.org/visit/casemate-museum/ for directions and hours, and to learn more about the history of the fort itself. In partnership with Fort Monroe National Monument, the Casemate Museum hosts the JR Ranger and the Passport Stamp programs.
Now you have a reason to visit Fort Monroe. It is a fort with much American history… and a little railroad history too.