Lorton and Occoquan Railroad

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Lorton and Occoquan Railroad
Locale Lorton, Virginia, United States
Dates of operation 1911–1977
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Headquarters Washington, DC

The Lorton and Occoquan Railroad (L&O) was a seven-mile railroad line running between the District of Columbia-operated prison (see also Lorton Reformatory) at Lorton, Virginia and the wharf at Occoquan, Virginia across the Occoquan River separating Fairfax County and Prince William County. The line operated from 1911 until it was decommissioned in 1977, and most of the rolling stock was sold in 1980, and was powered at various times by cable, steam, and diesel.

Uses[edit]

The L&O was used variously for prisoner transport, as well as freight for hauling coal to prison-industry sites and removal of finished products and waste.

Prisoner transport[edit]

Prior to decommissioning, the Lorton and Occoquan Railroad was used to transport prisoners to and from the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad line at Pohick Creek, and between sites within the Lorton Reformatory grounds—primarily between the workhouse and the brickyard and other prison-industry facilities. Although as many as 60 prisoners at a time were aboard trains running along the prison line, no guns were permitted aboard and no shots were ever fired from the train. The railroad maintained two civilian employees to operate the line—an engineer and a track manager—as well as 19 prison inmate workers.

Freight transport[edit]

In addition to prisoners, the railroad was used to haul coal to the prison brickyard and to transport finished brick out of the prison. Also, prior to the extension of sewer facilities to Lorton by the Fairfax County Water Authority, even sewage was hauled by trains out of the prison.

Trackage and rolling stock[edit]

The main stretch of railroad was only about four miles long, but four spurs increased the overall length to approximately seven miles in total. In response to prison overcrowding, the District of Columbia purchased ten hospital cars in 1970 that were surplused by the United States Army and parked them on a spur, in order to house additional prisoners without building permanent facilities; however, the hospital cars were heavily vandalized and security was difficult to maintain in the cars, leading to their abandonment only months after they were placed in use.

In 1977 the railroad ended service as road transport became cheaper than the costs of maintaining and operating the specialized Lorton and Occoquan line. When the engines were sold in 1980, a company in Alabama refurbished them and one remains in service on a tourist line in West Virginia. The trackage was mostly covered by pavement or recycled for scrap, but portions remain visible along various areas of Lorton.

External links[edit]