• Eastern end of abandoned Dahlgren line to become a trail

  • A general discussion about shortlines, industrials, and military railroads
A general discussion about shortlines, industrials, and military railroads

Moderator: Aa3rt

  by RailVet
Early in WW II the Navy built a line from Fredericksburg, VA, east to its base at Dahlgren ("Dog Grin"), VA. It fell out of use in the post-war years, but later the RF&P reopened the western segment from Fredericksburg to Sealston, while the Navy continued to operate an isolated rail system on post into the 1990s (now abandoned). Some parts of the abandoned route still have rails on the ground, although trees have grown up between them.
Blazing a trail in King George

A former state legislator from Woodbridge plans to turn an abandoned rail bed near Dahlgren into a trail for hiking and biking, a project nearby landowners have resisted for the past 10 years.

David Brickley, who was a delegate from 1976-98 and served as director of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation from 1998-2002, said he "acquired the rights" to the 16-mile right of way in December from former King George Planning Commissioner Joseph Williams. He hopes to open it to the public by June.

Supporters say the trail, dubbed the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail, will strengthen the county's economy, connect the community and preserve land for a much-needed place to exercise and enjoy nature.

"I've always believed that this was a diamond in the rough. It would be a great loss to the citizens of Virginia if it were chopped up and not developed as a rails to trails," said Brickley, who recently started a nonprofit organization named after the trail.

But John LoBuglio, who lives near the site, said county residents "overwhelmingly" oppose the trail because of potential side effects such as crime, pollution and noise.

Brickley said he hopes the trail will one day extend to Fredericksburg, where officials are developing plans for a network of interconnected trails in the city.

These days, Virginia boasts 27 rail trails, according to the Rails to Trails Conservancy, an advocacy group in Washington. That includes the W&OD Railroad Trail in Northern Virginia, which attracts 3 million people a year--more than any such trail in the country.

Nationally, 1,396 rail trails exist and 1,200 are being developed.

"I would characterize the popularity of rails to trails as something that's been steadily growing in interest," said Jennifer Kaleba, a spokeswoman for the conservancy.

Eventually, Brickley wants to transfer ownership of the trail to the state, but he said he may need support from the county Board of Supervisors to do so. In 2000, the board agreed to delete all "rails-to-trails" references from the county's comprehensive plan.

"Nothing would please me more than to be able to have a real working relationship with King George County government," he said.

The Virginia Outdoors Plan still lists the former Dahlgren rail bed as a potential "multi-use trail" that could provide links to the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and the state's Caledon Natural Area in King George.

"We are of the opinion that good trails make good neighbors," said Nathan Lott, a spokesman for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.

In 2002, then-Del. Albert Pollard sponsored a bill that would have enabled the state agency to develop a hiking and biking trail at the site. But the bill died in committee.

The rail bed cuts through land owned by the Northern Virginia Shooting Facility, and the club's 325 members are concerned, said LoBuglio, the gun club's president.

"The trail runs behind our range," he said. "We're just worried that somebody may not be seen back there."

About half of the club's shooting range couldn't be used if the trail opens, he said. Brickley said this is the real reason LoBuglio and others don't support the trail.

"Any other issue they want to use is a red herring," he said. "I look forward to sit down and talk with them and see if we can find a solution."

LoBuglio wants supervisors to ask DCR officials to remove mention of the Dahlgren trail from the Virginia Outdoors Plan.

Supervisors Chairman Steve Wolfe said the board doesn't plan to get involved at this point. He wouldn't say whether he supports or opposes the trail, but added, "There are a lot of people in the county that do support it."

Still, Brickley said the board's decision to scrap the trail from the comprehensive plan could hamper his efforts to turn the property over to the state. The board expects to vote on its latest draft of the comprehensive plan next Tuesday.

DCR spokesman Nathan Lott said local government support is important "but not an absolute requirement."

"As a rule, we do not want to step on localities' toes," Lott said.

For now, Brickley said he hopes to round up volunteers to mark the trail's perimeters and clean up brush in the area, before opening it. He isn't yet sure where visitors will park.

"I don't plan to do any major renovation and construction," he said.

Citing the 57-mile New River Trail State Park in southwestern Virginia, he said he's convinced King George denizens will embrace the trail once it has been established. The New River Trail initially faced a lot of opposition, he said, and one woman even guarded it with a shotgun.

"You'd be hard pressed to find anyone from the citizenry or local government that ever remembers saying a bad word about the park," he said.

In predicting the success of the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail, Brickley borrowed a line from the movie "Field of Dreams." "Build it and they will come," he said.

Jeff Branscome
The Fredericksburg Lance-Star
March 28, 2006

  by CarterB
During what period/s did Dahlgren ship/recieve large guns by rail?
Were any of the rail mounts or fixed large shore artillery guns shipped into/out from Dahlgren during WW's I and II? When was the last shipment/s of such large guns to/from Dahlgren? Any photos at Dahlgren of above?
  by TB Diamond
Had occasion to visit the U.S. Navy Surface Weapons Center, Dahlgren in October, 1997. Security is very high at the base and the tour was arranged through the base security office. The base PR manager served as guide. The tour was quick and there were restricted areas that were "off limits". Photography was strictly forbidden and cameras were not allowed within the base perimeter. During the quick tour I was amazed to see a large caliber railway gun on the base, pointing out over the Potomac River. The gun was painted grey and appeared to be in good condition. It did not appear to be a display piece. To see a WW I/WW II era weapon on the base in the 1990s was quite a surprise.
  by RailVet
I visited with a small group led by the base public affairs officer in May 2001. Fortunately things were less restrictive and we were able to take pictures of rail equipment, to include the big gun. By then the last of the motive power (GE centercabs) had gone. I think one unit went to the Delaware Coast Line to serve an industry and another went to the state rail authority in Moorefield, WV, to haul work trains. Would welcome inputs from anyone with news about them in their post-military lives.

  by CarterB
Is the rail gun that is at Dahlgren still on its rail carriage? What caliber? Am I to assume it was a WWI vintage gun?
  by TB Diamond
In 1997 the gun was on its rail carriage and appeared ready to fire. These guns were in use in some coastal defense forts through WWII, but were decommisioned shortly after the war. Hence my surprise at seeing one on an active military base as late as 1997.

  by Legio X
It could be a 14" or 16" former naval gun, by the sound of it....
  by TB Diamond
According to Lewis in SEACOAST FORTIFICATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, U.S. railway guns used in coastal defense facilities came only in 8" and 14" caliber. The 8" version consisted of a Navy 8" gun mounted on a Army-designed railway cariage. The 14" Model 1920 combined Army and Navy WW I designs including a Navy gun tube.