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Nostalgia & History > W&OD Railroad

Date: 07/16/03 12:57
W&OD Railroad
Author: Aces

Anyone beside me ever heard of this road?
Washington and Old Dominion was in business in northern Virginia for many years. It's power in later years was steeple cab Electrics. The line ran from Alexandria, Va. To Bluemont, Va., a distance of about 65 miles. Its eastern end connected with the RF&P and Southern at the east side of Potomac Yard. The line crossed over all of Pot.Yard on a steel trestle that ran on an angle, NW to SE. The line through the Del Ray section of Alexandria on the west side of Pot Yard was an ascending grade from about Glebe Road to US Route 1, where it gained enough altitude to cross over Pot Yard. This railroad was 1/2 city block away from the front door of my boyhood home. I have a few tales to tell about the W&OD, but as they will take awhile, I'll hold off 'til tomorrow. One thing I will tell you is that on its east bound runs, it carried a very heavy load of freight, headed for its intechange with the big boys on tne east side of Pot yard. I can see it now. Pulling so hard that its headlight was nothing but dim feeble glow in the dark. More than once it had to double the hill. This fact boded no good, but more about that later.
Ace S

Date: 07/16/03 13:22
Re: W&OD Railroad
Author: njmidland

I got to the W&OD too late. I remember seeing them take down the bridge over POT yard. Over the years I have hiked/biked a lot of the W&OD trail - especially west of Dulles.

Date: 07/16/03 14:06
Re: W&OD Railroad
Author: GPutz

Anyone interested in the WO&D should go to www.wodfriends.org. They sell the book "Rails to the Blue Ridge" by Herbert H. Harwood, Jr. It give the complete story. Gerry

Date: 07/16/03 22:28
Re: W&OD Railroad
Author: rs36

Also check out http://www.geocities.com/pem20165/index.html for some photos and video. Click on the picture on the video page and watch the interurbans roll!

Date: 07/17/03 08:03
Virginia Creeper
Author: twinbrook

Yes, I remember the W&OD. I remember the bridge over Pot Yard. There is also a book about the railroad by Ames Williams.

Date: 07/17/03 08:44
Re: W&OD Railroad
Author: dharris

Actually, its power in later years was diesel, which replaced the electrics. I ride on the W&OD a few times a week- now a rail trail. A number of the stations are still in existence in Vienna, Reston (known as Sunset Hills at the time), Herndon, Hamilton, and Purcellville. The only railroad that ever had a grade crossing across an Interstate (I-95).


Date: 07/17/03 09:31
Re: W&OD Railroad
Author: piedmontsouthern

As I was born and raised in Alexandria, I certainly remember the W.& O.D. I had a summer job scorekeeping the baseball games of the Alexandria Junior Major League. This was in 1963-1965. The stadium was at the corner of Monroe Street and Jeff Davis highway right next to Pot Yard. Sitting atop the score keepers box behind home plate, I could see the freight crossing the Pot Yard trestle every evening.
In 1967-68, a high school buddy and I covered the entire railroad from Alexandria to Purcellville. I took photos of all the stations and caught a few trains out on the line. I only wished I had taken slides. They were the old 3 1/2" square Kodak Instamatic prints.

Dale Latham

Date: 07/18/03 06:57
Re: W&OD Railroad
Author: CSXvet

Yep, a small and obscure but very fascinating railroad. How many other railroads during their lifetimes have operated:
(1) William Mason-built woodburners
(2) "Normal" 4-4-0s, 4-6-0s, and 2-8-0s
(3) Multiple-unit electric interurban cars
(4) Ex-New York elevated Forney steamers and elevated coaches
(5) City streetcars (which originally operated both on overhead wires and undergound conduit)
(6) An interurban RPO car and a parlor car
(7) Electric freight locomotives, both home-built and commercially built
(8) A 1933 Budd-built gas-electric streamlined motor train
(9) Three 1920s-era gas-electric cars
(10) 1937 Evans Auto-Railer buses (for maintenance)
(11) Diesels ranging from GE 44-tonners to ex-WWII US Army units to C&O and B&O units

Date: 07/18/03 08:29
Re: W&OD Railroad
Author: rs36

CSXvet wrote:

> Yep, a small and obscure but very fascinating railroad. How
> many other railroads during their lifetimes have operated:

> (11) Diesels ranging from GE 44-tonners to ex-WWII US Army
> units to C&O and B&O units

I knew about the Whitcombs and others, but which B&O units served on the W&OD?

Some of the C&O S2s would later be leased to the Atlantic & Danville RR in 1960-61, with numerous other units from the C&O, N&W, and SAL.

A little more history on the 65T Whitcomb 54.
The unit was purchased by the Nello L. Teer Construction Company of Durham, NC in 3/52, and used for a project at Camp LeJune, NC. Once completed, the Teer company leased 50ft of track at the Durham & Southern shops in Dunn, NC, on which to store the unit. In the Spring of 1955, the unit was loaned to Becker Sand & Gravel Co. for use at the Senter plant, near Lillington, NC. Unit was returned to the D&S on May 27, 1955, and returned to storage. The D&S mechanical people became interested in the unit, and conducted some tests with it. The 54 left Dunn, NC, on NB train 12 on 11/16/53, making it the first diesel locomotive to operate over the D&S Rwy. The trip to Apex went relatively smooth, however, the number one engine failed on the return trip, and there was trouble getting the tonnage over the grade at Holly Springs. The unit was returned to storage, and was inspected by people from the Celotex Corporation in 12/55, for possible purchase. The unit was found to be in poor mechanical condition, and would eventually be sold to Cuba in 7/56.

Date: 07/18/03 10:52
Re: W&OD Railroad
Author: CSXvet

The two last operating units on the W&OD were both B&O. First to arrive was SW-1 #8413, which came sometime in the spring of 1968. This was replaced in June 1968 by S-1 #9155. The 9155 was the last operating unit on the W&OD. (By then all of the W&OD's own units -- the two GE 70-tonners and the oddball CLC-Whitcomb #55, were out of service.)

The reversion to single 600 hp units is a story by itself. It came about because the C&O, which owned the W&OD and was trying to abandon it, intentionally shut off about half of the railroad's business. What happened was that the C&O had found itself mired in the longest and most controversial abandonment case the ICC had ever handled. So to speed up the process, it devised a way to cripple the railroad while still staying within the law. The ICC didn't have jurisdiction over traffic that moved strictly within the state, and the bulk of the W&OD's business came from the trap rock stone quarry east of Leesburg and was destined to road and other construction projects in northern Virginia. So the C&O simply cancelled all the intrastate tariffs, effectively removing all the stone business. From then on the line needed only a single 600 hp unit to handle what business was left. (The W&OD's own GE 70-tonners were out of service by then.)

Date: 07/18/03 11:30
Re: W&OD Railroad
Author: Aces

Wow, I'm impressed that so many of you know about the W&OD. It is absolutely correct that it it's last years the W&OD used diesel power, but in the time frame I was referring to, 1933 - 1941, steeple cab electrics were the motive power.
As I stated earlier, the ascending grade from about Glebe road to Jeff Davis Hwy, US Rt. 1, where the bridge over Pot Yard began, created an ever increasing embankment through the eastern side of Del Ray. In the winter when it snowed fairly heavily, the W&OD embankment made a very good grade to sled ride down. You had to travel to the west side of Del Ray to get natural hills to ride down, like Mt. Ida ave. As a little kid, I couldn't go that far.
My best friend back then was one Roger Toy. His dad was a boilermaker for the Southetn Railway in the shops in Alexandria. We got into a lot of mischief, as boys will, but nothing too serious.
As mentioned in my first post on this subject, the evening eastbound journey of the W&OD train was a heavy train that struggled to make it to Pot. Yard. This fact was duly noted by Roger and me. An idea blossomed. What would happen if the rails were really slick? We saved our pennies and dimes and soon had the price of a three pound can of Crisco. With this slick stuff in hand, we waited 'til dusk then greased both rails as far as three pounds would go. It went a LOOONG way.
Then we waited. Soon we could see the eastbounders headlight. Dim, and dimmer as it struggled up grade. Whizz! the wheels spun, the headlight flared brightly and the train came to a pretty quick stop. The crew climbed down, cursing the #@*&#$@ who did this. Sanding produced only short gains before more spinning and flaring headlight stopped them again. Our bedtime was fast approaching, but we hated to leave. Leave we finally did but long after, from my bedroom, I could hear the cursing and clamor as a crew did their best to remove the Crisco fouling their track. I was told that it was about mid-night before the train reached the Pot Yard trestle.
I guess it was true, but I don't know for sure.

Date: 07/24/03 13:10
Re: W&OD Railroad
Author: wbaerr

As a boy, I was always "all eyes" as we passed the W&OD yard at Rosslyn in our car. There was always plenty of equipment to see, some on a siding very near the road--The Lee Highway.

On the fan trip with a gas-electric when passenger service ended, it broke down and many of us returned to Rosslyn by bus.

The staff at the shed at Rosslyn were always friendly, letting us look around and ask questions.

What good memories from what is getting to be a long time ago.

Date: 07/24/03 23:12
Re: W&OD Railroad - Adjacent to Pentagon?
Author: john1082

many years ago there was a rail line that ran on the Potomac side of the Pentagon, on the far side of what is now a roadway. Was this trackage served by the W&OD? If not, who did operate this trackage and where did it go?

Date: 07/26/03 16:37
Re: W&OD Railroad - Adjacent to Pentagon?
Author: CSXvet

The railroad that ran past the Pentagon was the onetime Pennsylvania RR Rosslyn branch. This branch left the mainline at RO (for Rosslyn) tower at the south end of the bridge over the Potomac and basically followed the Potomac northwest to Rosslyn. Part of it was built on the bed of the old canal that connected Alexandria with the C&O Canal in Georgetown. The line was always strictly freight and served some building supply companies in Rosslyn. Although the W&OD also terminated in Rosslyn, there was no connection between the two. The PRR's terminal was on the east side of town, and the W&OD ended just west of the Rosslyn traffic circle. I can't tell you when the Rosslyn end was abandoned, but I think the line remained intact as far as the Pentagon for some years longer.

Date: 07/27/03 15:39
Re: W&OD Railroad
Author: wbaerr

A few times the branch was used to load President Rosevelt on to his private car. The spot used was where the line went under the Memorial Bridge. Since it was "open air", this was changed to the siding into the Bureau Engraving and Printing, whcih had a freight dock.

Date: 07/29/03 07:55
Rosslyn Operator
Author: twinbrook

Parts of the Rosslyn Operator (RO) were reactivated for delivery of construction materials for the WMATA Blue Line in the early 1970\'s

Also, due to the line\'s proximity to the Pentagon, this is where the American Freedom Train (AFT) was stored during the Bicentennial celebrations in 1976. (Remember Southern Pacific 4449, the steam locomotive that pulled the AFT?) Anyway, I took the tour of the AFT when it was on the RO.

There is a mall on M Street NW in Georgetown DC. There is a museum in the mall. There is a photograph of the newly-built Key Bridge in the museum. The photograph also shows Aqueduct Bridge, which apparently included 2 lanes for automobiles and a single track railroad. According to the book about the W&OD written by Ames Williams, the railroad had a passenger terminal on or near 20th Street in DC. Also, the photograph shows 3 railroads. The middle railroad was double track and probably a trolley line. I figure that the railroad on the left (west) side was probably the Washington and Old Dominion. The railroad on the right (east) side was probably PRR\'s Rosslyn Operator.

It is a fascinating photo.

Date: 07/29/03 09:24
Re: Rosslyn Operator
Author: CSXvet

Yes, three (actually four) rail lines converged on Rosslyn. Going from east to west, they were:
(1) The PRR\'s Rosslyn branch (freight only),
(2)two branches of a suburban trolley operation that went under various names including the Washington-Virginia Ry. and the Arlington & Fairfax Ry. These terminated at the south end of the Key bridge east of the circle.
(3) The W&OD, which originally (1906-23) crossed the Aqueduct Bridge on a single track and ended at a small terminal at 36th & M Sts. at the north end of the bridge on the west side of the Capital Traction Co. (later Capital Transit) carbarn and office building. When the Key Bridge was opened,the W&OD was cut back to a new terminal building on the west side of the circle in Rosslyn and Capital Traction took over the W&OD\'s rights on the new bridge to extend its Georgetown lone to Rosslyn.

Date: 07/29/03 10:47
W&OD Next To Capital Traction?
Author: twinbrook

Wow. I had no idea the W&OD was that close to the Capital Traction car barn. I was born in 1952 and have only childhood memories of that building being used as a trolley facility. (The building later became "The Carbarn" restaurant. I imagine the restaurant owners had quite a time getting the place cleaned up enough to serve food.)

My only memories of the Aqueduct Bridge are of the stone supports that were left in the Potomac as ice breakers.

I do have memories of the streetcars (PCC cars) that went over Key Bridge. They terminated at the circle in Rosslyn. Buses went to the suburbs from there.

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