• Names of rail lines in Northern VA?

  • Discussion pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Discussion pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Moderator: therock

  by starionwolf
I forgot the name of the big rail lines that travel near Alexandria. I can see a rail line going from Manassas to Alexandra. This might be the Pacific line. I think CSX owns the north/south line coming from Richmond. I think both merge west of the Alexandria VRE / Amtrak station at King Street near Van Dorn. I can see the station from the MetroRail station.

One of the lines is the Potomac line. I don't know which one.

I think there is a CSX transportation station somewhere nearby because the CSX trains stop at the Alexandria station. Or maybe the conductor is taking a break? I know there is a Potomac Yard north of King Street.

I can see the big signals north of the Amtrak / VRE station too.

Someone please correct me. :)

  by hutton_switch
There is no "Pacific" line near DC. I think you would find a lot of upset local railfans if UP were to get anywhere near here.

The line between Alexandria and Richmond used to be known as the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac, but that was absorbed by CSX in the '80's. The rail line coming from Manassas and connecting near Van Dorn Street with CSX is Norfolk Southern. From Van Dorn on into DC is all CSX.

Potomac Yards north of Alexandria no longer exists and has been gone for more than 10 years now.

FYI, VRE comes from as far as Fredericksburg on the old RF&P, and also comes in from Manassas on Norfolk Southern.

Sounds like you need to get an updated map.

  by starionwolf
Thanks for the information. I thought Potomac Yards is the name of a rail yard. It seems that there is a Retail Center or shopping center in or north of Alexandria with the same name.

I will look for a new map.


  by hutton_switch
starionwolf wrote:I thought Potomac Yards is the name of a rail yard. It seems that there is a Retail Center or shopping center in or north of Alexandria with the same name.
Potomac Yards WAS the name of the rail yard. Owned by the RF&P, it served the Southern Railway, Pennsylvania Railroad, and the B&O in the old days.

After the rail yard was abandoned and demolished, it was seriously considered as a potential site for the replacement stadium for the Washington Redskins. Jack Kent Cooke, the owner of the Redskins at the time, lost out to the politicians, the NIMBYs, and other parties who opposed the construction of a stadium and the attendant traffic problems it would bring. Not to mention that the stadium was quite close to the flight path of Reagan National Airport as well as the airport itself. (Isn't it interesting that NIMBYs could focus on something like a stadium as opposed to our beloved railroads?) So Cooke built his stadium in Landover, MD, nowadays known as FedEx Field.

When the stadium proposal died, the land site where Potomac Yards was located became a huge shopping center as you mention, plus lots of townhouses were, and are being built, and there is also some other commercial/semi-industrial development on the site as well.

You live in the DC area, as I note from your location. Take a trip across the 14th street bridge when rush hour isn't in progress, come down U.S. Route 1 through Crystal City, and see what replaced Potomac Yards. I remember the yards very well, and took a tour of it shortly before it closed down.

  by walt
That stadium situation has some ironic elements. The Redskins would much rather have built their stadium in Northern Va., since they are essentially a Virginia based operation. The Commonwealth government was all for the Potomac Yards location, but local Alexandria interests managed to kill that proposal. This led Cooke to choose the Landover, Maryland location, which was favored by Prince Georges County, but not by the Baltimore interest dominated Maryland State Government.--- As we all know, the stadium, originally called Jack Kent Cooke Stadium was ultimately built at Landover. It seems that, at least with regard to the Redskins and their stadium, local interests trumped the State positions in both Maryland and Virginia.----- Verrrrry Interesting!

  by starionwolf
Thanks for sharing the interesting and historical data. I hope I can ride an Amtrak train from D.C. to Baltimore on a weekend. I wonder if I will see any CSX Transport trains alone the way. :) I think the tracks diverge north or north east of D.C. I really need a new map. lol

I can't think of any more questions.


  by RailMike
A few more points about Potomac Yards.

-- There used to be two express tracks along the west side of the yards that were used only by (owned by?) Amtrak, and by VRE in its earlier years. You had to traverse a double grade crossing to get into the yard, since the express tracks also ran alongside US-1 for part of the way. Then about 8 years ago, right about the time the shopping center was being built, someone had the idea to place the through tracks on the east side of the yard site instead. Not only would the route be straighter and shorter, but no grade crossings would be necessary. (I think there are also 3 tracks there instead of two.) Once this new route opened, the old through tracks were ripped up -- in a matter of hours according to one report. Today there is a curvy asphalt trail where this line used to go.

-- The scope of the yard may be appreciated by observing the still-standing US-1 overpass, which, while still crossing the thru tracks, now mostly goes over nothing.

-- The W&OD used to have an overpass diagonally across the yard. The humongous bridge piers were still standing until redevelopment several years ago.

-- The entire rail yard was under wire! A few catenary poles still remain between there and DC, but no overhead wire remains. I thought I saw some insulators still attached to an overpass.

  by BaltOhio
One very minor correction to RailMike's excellent post: Pot Yard wasn't entirely electrifified. Basically, only the north half of the yard was wired -- whatever was necessary for PRR trains to & from the north to get in and out. This meant essentially that the southbround departure yard and northbound receiving yard had no wires nor, of course, did the southern aqpproach.

Before the Crystal City development, there was a flyover arrangement at the yard's northern approach to separate the freight and passenger tracks, but this was eliminated when the layout was realigned to accommodate the real estate development.

The W&OD had both north and south connecting tracks at the east end of its long trestle. After its Rosslyn branch was abandoned, its shop was also relocated at the east end of the trestle in a new prefab steel building which, I think, is still there. NS retained the southerly connecting track and the right-of-way east of the yard to serve the PEPCo generating plant. (This stretch of track historically had always been owned by the Southern.)
  by RailVet
The W&OD shop building, constructed after the Rosslyn Branch was abandoned for I-66 construction, was demolished decades ago, perhaps shortly after the railroad itself was abandoned in 1968. If you know where to look (at least the last time I was there), you can see where the building's vertical steel beams were truncated at ground level.
  by va08creeper
The shop building survived the abandonment of the railroad by quite a few years. After the railroad ceased, the shop building was used by a truck firm to repair tractor trailer trucks. The final straw that I heard was that the building had developed a (or more than one) natural gas leak that could not be fixed and so the building had to be torn down. As I recollect, this was sometime in the 1990s perhaps as late as 2001. My notes on the exact year are buried at the moment.

David Guillaudeu