Orange and Alexandria Railroad

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Orange and Alexandria Railroad
Map showing the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.jpg
1852 map showing the O&A
Firefly train.JPG
The engine "Firefly" on a trestle of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.
Locale Virginia
Dates of operation 1848–1867
Successor Orange, Alexandria and Manassas Railroad
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Previous gauge Originally built as 4 ft 8 in (1,422 mm)

The Orange and Alexandria Railroad (O&A) was a railroad in Virginia, United States. It extended from Alexandria to Gordonsville, with another section from Charlottesville to Lynchburg. The road played a crucial role in the American Civil War, and eventually became an important part of the modern-day Norfolk Southern rail system.

Antebellum period[edit]

The O&A was chartered by the Virginia General Assembly on May 28, 1848, to run from Alexandria to Gordonsville. Construction began in 1850 and was completed in April 1854, when it connected with the Virginia Central Railroad in Orange County.[1]

In 1854, the General Assembly granted permission to the O&A to build southward from Charlottesville to Lynchburg. O&A paid for trackage rights over Virginia Central tracks from Gordonsville to Charlottesville. In 1860, the southern extension was completed, including lucrative connections to the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad and the South Side Railroad. The O&A also connected with the Manassas Gap Railroad to the Shenandoah Valley at Tudor Hall (today named Manassas for this junction).

The railroad boosted Virginia commerce. Farmers could ship their products, produce and goods much more cheaply than before and could go any direction via the connecting railroad, while Alexandria became a thriving seaport and manufacturing center. Passengers could travel from Washington to Lynchburg in eight hours instead of enduring a three-day stagecoach journey.

American Civil War[edit]

1861 barricades on Alexandria's Duke Street, erected to protect the Orange and Alexandria Railroad from Confederate cavalry.

The O&A was strategically important during the Civil War (1861–1865) and was arguably the most fought-over railroad in Virginia.[citation needed] In connection with the Virginia Central, it was the only rail link between the capitals at Washington, D.C., and Richmond. An 1861 Union Army attempt to gain control of Manassas Junction led to the First Battle of Bull Run, and the junction traded hands numerous time during the war. Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson attacked it in the Battle of Manassas Station Operations to draw the Union into the 1862 Second Battle of Bull Run. The 1863 Battle of Brandy Station and Second Battle of Rappahannock Station were also fought near the railroad line.

The O&A depot and roundhouse at Alexandria were located in today's Carlyle/Eisenhower East area.


The railroad entered Reconstruction in dire shape, with much of its track ripped up and most of its rolling stock destroyed. In 1867, the O&A merged with the Manassas Gap Railroad to become the Orange, Alexandria and Manassas Railroad. Then in 1873, the company was consolidated into the Virginia Midland Railway, which was controlled by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. It later became part of the Richmond and Danville Railroad and, in 1894 became an important piece of the Southern Railway.

A cutoff between Orange and Charlottesville was incorporated in 1876 as the Charlottesville and Rapidan Railroad and opened in 1880; the property was sold to the Southern in 1914.

Modern times[edit]

In 1982, Southern Railway System joined the Norfolk and Western Railway to form the Norfolk Southern (NS) system. The former O&A tracks are also used by Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) operates commuter railroad service along a portion of the historic line.

The line from Orange to Gordonsville has been on long-term lease to the C&O Railway, which transferred to CSX, and now CSX subleases to Buckingham Branch Railroad, which operates it as the Orange Subdivision.[citation needed]

Among the traces of the original infrastructure are Hoofs Run Bridge and the Wilkes Street Tunnel[2] in Alexandria.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Netherton, Nan & Whitney Von Lake Wyckoff (1995). Fairfax Station: All Aboard!. Fairfax, Va.: Friends of Fairfax Station. p. 153. 
  2. ^

External links[edit]