The town of Annandale in the U.S. state of Virginia is a suburb of Washington D.C. that is on the Little River Turnpike, one of America’s oldest toll roads. (It is now Virginia Route 236.) Just a little drive from the town center of Annandale in the U.S. state of Virginia nestled in a protected wooded area is the Hidden Oaks Nature Center. Here you will find an art center, a small zoo where you can see animals native to the region, a picnic area for picnics, a few basketball courts and over a mile of hiking trails through a natural wooded area. You come here and you will feel like you are in nature in spite of the fact that you are surrounded by urbanization.
Now some of you think of how wonderful it is to have a place like this in a hustling and bustling place like Annandale, but you are wondering what the railroad has to do with this place.
As mentioned, there are over a mile of nature trails here. As you walk through the woods, you will notice a long embankment. As you look at it, you see that it looks like a rail line was once here. The answer is that a rail line never passed through here… but there almost was.
What you see is the embankment of the proposed Manassas Gap Railroad, a rail line that was supposed to go from Alexandria through Annandale and Fairfax and connect to Manassas and Gainesville. The embankments were built, but the rail line was abandoned for a more southern route.
Today, the embankments remain as a reminder of what could have been. Imagine what the area would have looked like if the Manassas Gap Railroad would have passed through.
Hidden Oaks Nature Center is located off of Hummer Road in Annandale, Virginia. It is just minutes from I-495. There is no admission fee, and the walk to see the remnants of what could have been is just a short walk from the visitor center.
So, when you visit the Hidden Oaks Nature Center, think of it as a place when a railroad could have been.