Old Train Station, Manassas, Virginia

The Old Train Station in Manassas, Virginia

When you hear about the town of Manassas in the U.S. state of Virginia, the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind is the American Civil War.  Manassas is the only location where two major battles of the war took place.  As the two wars made Manassas famous, it was not what originally built the town.  What built the town was something that was a great aid to a Confederate General named Thomas Jackson.  It aided him to ‘stand like a stone wall’.  What helped him make that stand?  What was a great help was the railroad.  General Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson and his troops arrived in what is now Old Manassas.  It was the first time in the history of the United States of America where the railroad was used for warfare, and it brought the troops to town where they march five miles to the battle.  Yes, Manassas was established as Manassas Junction with the junction of the Manassas Gap Railroad and the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.  The junction still remains, but it is now under the ownership of the Norfolk Southern Railway.  The first military railroad in the nation also began in Manassas going north to Centreville, Virginia, but the railroad was short lived.  On the first Saturday of June, Manassas celebrates its railroad heritage with a festival.

The Waiting Platform at the Train Station in Manassas, Virginia

The old train station in Old Town Manassas was built in 1914.  It still is an active train station today with regular Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express service and a waiting room for passengers.  It also houses the town visitor center and has a small museum with a few artifacts.  You can even stand in the old ticket masters window and get the same view as the ticket master did.  The visitor center and museum are open from 9:00am to 5:00pm daily, and admission is free.

The Old Ticket Window at the Train Station in Manassas, Virginia

Next time you are in Manassas, Virginia, do not think of it as just a battle town but as a town established by the railroad that continues to keep its railroad heritage alive.

Trains on Display Inside the Old Train Station in Manassas, Virginia

The Indian Head Rail Trail, Maryland

You have rail trails, and you have the Indian Head Rail Trail.  It was once a rail line that connected the Naval Base in the town of Indian Head in the U.S. state of Maryland.  Today, it is a leisurely along what was once a major supply railroad.

The Indian Head-White Plains Railroad was built to supply a power facility at the Indian Head Naval Facility, and it was a big asset during World War I and World War II.  It connected the base with a spur line that served much of Southern Maryland with the Pennsylvania Railroad in Bowie, Maryland.  Considering the distance the train traveled to get to the main line, it took a little while for the railroad to transport the power to other areas.  With the American highway system growing to include roadways like U.S. Route 301 crossing the Potomac River south of the base and Maryland Route 210 connecting the base with the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge to the north, the railroad saw its demise, and the line was abandoned in the 1960’s.

In 2010, the Indian Head Rail Trail was born.  Today, you can ride your bike or walk or jog along a trail that followed the rail line from Indian Head, Maryland to a point near the base to a location White Plains, Maryland just west of where is crossed U.S. Route 301.  (The spur line is still active from the connection to the original Pennsylvania Railroad line in Bowie, Maryland mainly following U.S. Route 301 to a refinery on the Potomac River just east of the Potomac River Bridge.  It is mainly used by coal trains.)  At the White Plains Trailhead, you can see an old caboose painted in the colors of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway.

There are many parking areas along the trail.  (Please note that there is no parking at the Indian Head trailhead.  Parking is in a nearby park off Maryland Route 210.)  It is paved making it accessible to wheelchairs as well.

Each section of the trail takes you by swamps and ponds with much wildlife.  You can imagine what the engineers saw as they were supplying the U.S. Navy.  You will not even notice that you are surrounded by development.

Next time you are Southern Maryland, make your way to either Indian Head or White Plains.  Hike along a trail where trains once served the United States Navy.

Old Rail Bed, Saltillo, Pennsylvania

What is so special about the small town of Saltillo in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.  If you visit the town today, it will appear as a town that is not much, but it was once a big town on the East Broad Top Railroad.  When the railroad came to the town in 1874, there was a small yard there with a water tower and a wye to turn trains around.  The town was home to a tannery, an iron mine, numerous quarries, and there was a passenger station here.  The rail line was discontinued in 1956.

Today, the railroad is gone with only the railroad bed and an old bridge remain.  The actual tracks remain and are being overtaken by the ground.  They parallel Railroad Street which intersects with Pennsylvania Route 655.

The town of Saltillo, Pennsylvania is accessible by Pennsylvania Route 655 which is accessible from U.S. Route 22 from the town of Mapleton in the north and U.S. Route 30 in Harrisonville in the south.  Please note the Railroad Street is not recommended for trucks and busses.

“The Ghosts of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad”

A family lives in a rowhouse in the southwest section of the city of Baltimore in the U.S. state of Maryland.  The father wakes up.  He eats breakfast with the family.  He kisses his wife.  He goes to work at the Mount Clare shops to work to build the locomotives and the rolling stock for the railroad that has come to town.  Another worker works to maintain a passenger car.

The passenger train has pulled up to the platform.  Passengers board the train.  They are on their way to a small mill town of Ellicott Mills.

People board the train.  A man reads the paper.  Another man looks out the window.  A woman takes her shoe off to rub her aching foot.

These are the stories of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  The railroad itself may no longer be running on the rails, but this spirit of the railroad goes on.

These are the Ghosts of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

Old City Cemetery, Lynchburg, Virginia

Gravestones the Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia

The city of Lynchburg in the U.S. state of Virginia is a city on the James River that is rich with railroad history, and the railroad still passes through the downtown area.  A few miles from downtown is the Old City Cemetery where some of the city’s deceased are buried.  Erected in 1806, it is the oldest still in use cemetery in Virginia.

Some of you are saying, “Every cemetery has gravesites where the dead are buried.  This place is no different than every other cemetery.  Let me say that I am not ‘dying’ to visit this place.”

When it comes to the Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia, there is something more.  It has graves like any other cemetery.  It has memorials like any other cemetery.  It has a chapel like many cemeteries.  It has an old train station like… wait?  An old train station?

Old Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Train Station at the Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia

One of the sites in the Old City Cemetery is the old train station from Stapleton, Virginia.  Why is the train station here in a cemetery?  That is a good question… that has an answer.

The old train station was built by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in 1898 that was relocated to the cemetery and made into a small museum.  It is the only remaining station of it size and style.  It also commemorates the city’s railroad heritage and the former railroad workers that are buried in the cemetery.

Old Luggage Cart

The Old City Cemetery is located at the intersection of Fourth Street and Taylor Street one block from Virginia Route 163.  It is open from dawn to dusk every day of the year, and there is no admission fee.  You can get more information at https://www.gravegarden.org/.

Old Scale

So, you have cemeteries, and you have the Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia that pays heritage to the railroad.  It is truly unlike any other cemetery experience.

Old Chapel at the Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia

The Holocaust Memorial, Baltimore, Maryland

Many people will say that one of the worst genocides in history is Adolph Hitler’s attempt to destroy the Jewish nation in Europe and throughout the world.  Millions of innocent people who had done nothing against Adolph Hitler or the Nazi’s were put to death.  Sadly, to many railroad fans, the railroad played a major role as the Jewish people were shoved and packed into wooden box cars and taken to the concentration camps to be murdered. The Nazi’s were defeated in World War II bringing an end to this atrocity.  Many memorials and museum were erected around the world to remember what happened to these people.  One of these memorials is the Holocaust Memorial in Baltimore, Maryland.

As you walk through the memorial, you will feel the impact of what happened to the Jewish people.  Imbedded in the ground are railroad tracks to remember how the railroad played a role in this atrocity.  Please note that some of the images at this memorial are very disturbing.

The Holocaust Memorial in Baltimore in the U.S. state of Maryland in located at the intersection of Lombard Street and Gay Street.  It is just a few blocks north of the Inner Harbor.  The memorial is free to visit and is open twenty-four hours a day.  Only street parking is available, and the memorial is wheelchair accessible.

The Museum of Culpeper History, Culpeper, Virginia

Many people in the Washington D.C. / Northern, Virginia region are very familiar with the town of Culpeper in the U.S. state of Virginia.  It is the county seat of the county of the same name.  The town is rich with history of the American Civil War.  The town is also in a region where most of historic sites in the United States of America is located.  With so much history, it would be great to have a museum to tell the history of Culpeper.  Well, the Museum of the Culpeper History was born.  A visit to the Museum of Culpeper History is a must for anyone who enjoys history.

Some of you are saying, “This is quite amazing.  I love historic towns.  I have heard so much about Culpeper.  However, the museum is about Culpeper and hot about the railroad.  Therefore, I there will not be a history of me making a visit to this museum.”

Ladies and gentlemen, not making a visit to the Museum of Culpeper History is a big mistake.  Why?

Yes, Culpeper is a town rich in history.  It is also a town rich in railroad history.  In Culpeper, the railroad played a big role in the American Civil War.  It is said that Culpeper helped build the railroad and the railroad helped build Culpeper.  The Orange and Alexandria Railroad arrived in 1853.  Passengers enjoyed a twenty-minute dinner stop at a place known as the Waverly Hotel.  The town grew into a major business and industrial town.  When you visit the Museum of Culpeper History, you will see exhibits on how the railroad played a major role in the town’s history and development.

Some of you are saying, “Alright!  You have given me enough reasons to visit the museum.”

But there is more.  The museum is located in the old train station.  Yes, this is the same train station built by the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.  It shares the depot with the Culpeper Visitor Center and the Amtrak Station.  Yes, you can still ride passenger trains from Culpeper.  The museum also features an old caboose from the Southern Railroad.

If you are in the northern and central regions of the U.S. state of Virginia, the Museum of Culpeper History is worth a visit.  You do not have to be a local to appreciate the museum.

The Museum of Culpeper History is located at 113 South Commerce Street inside the old train station in Culpeper, Virginia.  Two hour and three hour is available at the depot giving you enough time to visit the museum and maybe grab a bite to eat.  Admission is $5.00.  The museum is wheelchair accessible.  You can get more information at https://culpepermuseum.com/.

The next time you hear about the town of Culpeper, Virginia, think about a visit to the Museum of Culpeper History where the railroad played a big role in the town’s history.

Gordonsville, Virginia

Store Front in Gordonsville, Virginia

The town of Gordonsville is a small town near the center of the U.S. state of Virginia.  It is named after Nathaniel Gordon who was the town’s first postmaster and established a tavern here in 1794.  Some of the taverns famous visitors of the tavern was Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States of America and the drafter of the Declaration of Independence, James Madison, the fourth President of the United States of America and the author of the United States Constitution, and French Major General Marquis de Lafayette.  The tavern was the center of the town until something came along in 1840.  What changed the town?  We all know it as the railroad.

Through the 1800’s, Gordonville was the junction of two railroads: The Orange and Alexandria Railroad and the Virginia Central Railroad.  It was also the western terminus of the Louisa Railroad and was once the westernmost railhead in Virginia.  The railroad not only made the town an economic center of the region, but it also played a critical role in the American Civil War for the Confederate Army supplying the troops in Richmond and Staunton.  Gordonsville was the home off the Exchange Hotel, a luxury hotel built in 1859 for passengers on the Virginia Central Railway.  In 1862, the hotel became a hospital for wounded Confederate soldiers who were brought here by train.

After the Civil War, the town continued to thrive, and it became the ‘Fried Chicken Capital of the Universe’.  How did the town get that title?  The railroad played a major role.  As trains passed through the town, women approached the train and served chicken and biscuits to the passengers on the train.

In the 1870’s the railroad lines were taken over by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway who also had shops in the town.  Passenger trains continued to pass through.

In 1916, a fire destroyed the town.  A new line was built through nearby Barboursville.  Gordonsville was no longer the economic center of the region.

Today, the trains still pass through the town now owned by CSX.  The train station that served passengers is gone, and passenger trains no longer stops here for passengers, but the yard tower still remains.  (It is not open to the public and is off limits to visitors.)  The freight depot is also still standing.  (It is not open to the public but can be seen from the street.  The passenger depot was between the freight depot and the tower.)  The railroad shops no longer exist.  The Exchange Hotel remains, but you cannot spend the night there.  Why?  It is a museum that displays the hotel as a hospital, but there is an exhibit that tells the history of the railroad in Gordonsville.  You can get more information about the museum and read more into the hotel’s history at https://www.theexchangehotelmuseum.org/.  There is the Magnolia House next to the tower that served as a hotel (not open to the public).  You can read more about the town of Gordonsville at https://www.townofgordonsville.org/.

Magnolia House

Gordonsville, Virginia is at the junction of U.S. Route 15 which goes through the historic district to the town’s attractions, restaurants and shops and U.S. Route 33.  It is part of the ‘Hallowed Ground’ driving tour which runs from Charlottesville, Virginia to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  The historic district is a Virginia Registered Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  The town may be quiet, but it still stands as a town at the crossroads of history.

The National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum, Coatesville, Pennsylvania

The Original Office Building of Lukens Steel, Home of the National Iron and Steel Heritage Center in Coatsville, Pennsylvania

The town of Coatesville in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania is 40 miles west of Philadelphia and 40 miles east of Lancaster.  It is a town on the Lincoln Highway commonly known as U.S. Route 30.  (U.S. Route 30 bypasses the town.  U.S. Business 30 follows the original Lincoln Highway through the town.)  The town’s name comes from a local farmer named Moses Coates whose son-in-law created the town.  One of the main features of the town is the arching railroad bridge (aqueduct) that crosses the West Brandywine Creek, Pennsylvania Route 82, and a railroad line.  The town was the home of Lukens Steel Company, a company founded by Charles Lukens. What is great about Lukens Steel?  It was the first steel company to produce steel hulls for ships.  It went on to produce steel for major projects like the Walt Whitman Bridge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the two World Trade Center Towers in New York City, New York.  When Charles Lukens passed away, his wife, Rebecca, took over the company making her the first woman in the United States of America to be a part of the iron industry and the first woman in the United States of America to be the chief operating officer of an industrial company.  Another accomplishment is that the company is the longest commissioned steel mill in the United States of America.

The Old Steel Factory of Lukens Steel

The original site of the Lukens Steel Company became the home of the National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum.  Here, you will see how the company came about how steel and iron are made and the many uses.  You can even get a tour of the different homes to include the home of Charles and Rebecca Lukens.  A visit to the National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum in Coatesville, Pennsylvania is a must see for anybody who is into the steel and iron industry.

Some of you are saying, “This is wonderful.  It is amazing to see the many accomplishments of the steel and Iron industry, and they chose this town to have the factory.  There is a problem.  As you can see, there is nothing about the railroad here.  Therefore, you will not see me here either.”

You are very mistaken.  The National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum has so much to do with the railroad.  The very first thing you will see when you enter the parking lot is a train with a steam locomotive pulling cars with steel items.  That is just the beginning.  This is the National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum at the former shops of the Lukens Steel Company.  What are rails made of?  They are made of steel, and they made rails for many railroads through the United States of America to include the Union Pacific Railroad and the New York Central System, and the steel was used to build the diesel locomotives, for steam locomotives from the boilers to the wheels, and to build the rolling stock.  Also, in the museum, you will see displays on how the railroad was used for the transport of steel products.  If that is not enough, you have model locomotives and rolling stock on display.  Lukens Steel Company is a major contributor to the railroad industry, and the railroad still serves the company as the company serves the railroad to this very day.  While you are at the museum, you may be fortunate enough to see a train go by.

The National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum was established to pay tribute to the steel industry in a town that was built around the industry that has been nicknamed the ‘Pittsburgh of the East’.  Along with the museum, there is also a monument dedicated to those who died at the World Trade Center in New York City, New York on September 11, 2001, consisting of steel from the factory that went to New York… and was brought back home.

Steel from the World Trade Center in New York City, Part of a Memorial

The National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum is in the original office building of the Lukens Steel Company at 50 South First Avenue in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.  It is just off Pennsylvania Route 82 and U.S. Business Route 30, and five miles south of U.S. Route 30.  It is open Monday to Saturday from 10:00am to 4:00pm.  Tours of the museum itself and the grounds are self-guided, but there are guided house tours that do require walking and crossing the street plus climbing stairs.  (Some of the houses are not handicap accessible.)  Parking is on site.  You can get information on admission and tours at https://steelmuseum.org/.

A Model of the Railroad at the Steel Factory

Are you up to visit the National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum?  There is much history about steel, and there is much history about the railroad.

A Model of the New York Central System Number 5343

Gaithersburg, Maryland

Old Train Station, Gaithersburg, Maryland

The town of Log Town in the U.S. state of Maryland was established 1765 as a small agricultural town of farmers on the ‘Great Road West’.  The town became famous for a large oak tree on the main road, and, in 1850, was named Forest Oak.  The town was centered on the ‘Great West Road’ until 1873.  What changed?  The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had arrived.

The Old Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Freight House

Area farmers were able to ship their produce to other towns.  It was named and incorporated as Gaithersburg in 1878 after Benjamin Gaither, a man who had built his home next to the oak tree.  The town grew around the railroad as a freight house and train station were built in 1884.  Gaithersburg became a summer getaway spot from Washington D.C. as the railroad was a means to escape from the big city.

As the years went by, Gaithersburg grew.  Today, it is a suburb of Washington D.C., and the farms that surrounded the town were taken over by tech companies as the region is one of the largest tech regions in the nation.  The ‘Great West Road’ is now Maryland Route 355.  As for the station and freight house, there is no freight in the freight house, and it now houses the Gaithersburg Community Museum, and the train station no longer serves passengers, well, it does.  It houses a coffee shop for commuters to downtown Washington D.C.  There is also a small park that features a steam locomotive Number 14 from the Buffalo Creek and Gauley Railroad, Caboose Number 904152 from the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, and a self-propelled passenger car from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  Amtrak, unfortunately, does not stop here with the nearest stop in nearby Rockville, but you can still watch the Amtrak and CSX Trains roll by.

Number 14 of the Buffalo Creek and Gauley Railroad

The next time you here about Gaithersburg, Maryland, think of it as a suburb of Washington D.C. that was transformed by the railroad.