The Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area is full of suburbs that are very rich in history. Among them is the town of Vienna located west of downtown Washington. The town has numerous historic buildings with Virginia Route 123 going through the center of the town. Named after a town in the western region of the U.S. state of New York that that originally called Vienna (it is called Phelps today), it changed hands during the American Civil War with a small skirmish. Today, many historic sites remain to include the Freeman Store which still operates as a general store but is also a museum that tells the history of the town.
Some of you are saying, “This is wonderful. It is amazing that Washington D.C. is so full of historic suburbs. I am pretty sure that this town is an amazing town, but without a railroad, this town with not be visited by me.”
If you were to visit the town of Vienna in the U.S. state of Virginia today, you will see a modern town that has not forgotten its history. The Freeman Store is in its original location with the Washington and Old Dominion Trail running right next to the store.
Some of you are saying, “That is nice, but what is special about the Freeman Store being next to the Washington and Old Dominion Trail?”
Well, the Freeman Store, now known as the Freeman Store and Museum, tells the story of the town. In the museum you see items and photos and artifacts from the town. Then you see a model of the store itself from the time of the American Civil War. You see the Union Soldiers standing around, but then you see a set of railroad tracks with a wooden boxcar.
Some of you are saying, “Wait a minute. This is not possible because there is no railroad in this town.”
Today, there is no railroad in this town, but this town was once a railroad town.
In the 1850’s, the Alexandria, Loudoun, and Hampshire Railroad began operations between the ports of Alexandria, Virginia to the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. The railroad passed through the town of Vienna. The railroad went through rough times as it was under attack during the American Civil War from armies of both sides. Through the years, the railroad went through different names before it was called the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad. The railroad ceased operations in 1968, and the railroad tracks were taken up. Years later, it was converted into a rail trail where bikers, hikers, walkers, and skaters stroll past the Freeman Store and Museum on what was named the Washington and Old Dominion Trail named for the last railroad to run on the line.
Some of you are saying, “Sadly, the railroad has been erased from the town’s history.”
Sadly, you are wrong. Across the street from the Freeman Store is an old caboose. Painted in the color scheme of the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad, it sits in a park, and it is open on most third Saturdays in the afternoon. Please note that the caboose is not handicap accessible.
Some of you are saying, “That is nice, but is that all?”
Nope. Just a short walk along the rail trail is the old train station. It was built by the Alexandria, Loudoun, and Hampshire Railroad in 1859. It remained in service until 1968 when the railroad discontinued service, but the train station remained, and it is the home of the Northern Virginia Model Railroaders Club. The station is open in the afternoons on the third Saturday of each month year round. Admission is free, but they will gladly accept any donations to keep the model trains running.
As for the Freeman Store and Museum, it is on the Virginia Landmarks Register and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is open in the afternoons from Wednesday to Sunday. It is unfortunately not wheelchair accessible.
So, if anyone tells you that the town of Vienna, Virginia has no connection with the railroad, tell them that they need to visit the town. The Freeman Store and Museum is located on Historic Church Street one block north of Virginia Route 123. Parking to the store, caboose, and the old train station is street parking.
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