The Orange and Alexandria Railroad was one of the earlier American railroads. The first section was completed between 1850 and 1854 connecting Alexandria through Orange to Gordonsville, Virginia. Building the line required right of way through several miles of Ravensworth and agreement with the three affected owners: Anna Maria Fitzhugh, Henry Daingerfield and Mary Caroline Goldsborough.
Today’s view (in Google Maps)
The map below shows the affected owners’ parcels and the portion of the railroad between Alexandria and the crossing at Bull Run. To speed construction and minimize cost, in many places the route followed the contours of the land. Thus it deviates in several places from the roadbed of today’s successor, Norfolk Southern Railway. This becomes visible at higher zoom levels in the map. (Source: Orange & Alexandria Railroad route © CK Gailey, volunteer, Fairfax County Park Authority, used by permission; not to be used without permission of owner, CK Gailey.)
View Orange & Alexandria Railroad in a larger map
Apparently, getting to agreement to buy land for right-of-way and support facilities wasn’t difficult in most cases. Jack Hiller points out in his historical essay, “Henry Daingerfield and the Origin of Springfield” that “…the majority of landowners permitted tracks to cross their property without charge in the hope that their land values would increase.”1 In the case of Mary Caroline Goldsborough, she received one dollar token payment in keeping with the claim in the deed (Q3:154) that “…passage of said Railroad will increase the value of her property and be otherwise beneficial to her.”
Within Anna Maria Fitzhugh’s land a station was built to serve her 8500-acre plantation. Ravensworth Station was a private depot – likely a siding with a small shelter and area for loading and unloading of materials. It was located between the public stations within Henry Daingerfield’s Springfield Farm to the east and Silas Burke’s land to the west.
About 1905, the railroad tracks were relocated to their present alignment, and the station also moved. These images from 1885 and 1945 maps show the two locations and roads accessing them. The circular road segment in the upper right of both images marks the location of the Ravensworth Mansion.
Today’s view (in Google Maps)
The original railroad roadbed survives within Lake Accotink Park as part of the Lake Accotink Trail. The approximate locations of the original and replacement stations are marked on the map below, as is the location of the Ravensworth Mansion (burned in 1926) near Braddock and Port Royal roads.
The railroad was a frequent target during the Civil War. Events in and bordering Ravensworth involving the railroad are commemorated in several historical markers:
- Orange and Alexandria RR: Strategic Target – Historical Marker Database record
- Burke Station raid – A Look Back at Braddock record
- Original Accotink Creek bridge in Lake Accotink Park – Historical Marker Database record also A Look Back at Braddock record
- Lake Accotink Park entrance lies on the right-of-way of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad – Historical Marker Database record also A Look Back at Braddock record
- Springfield Station – Historical Marker Database record
- Fairfax Station – Historical Marker Database record, also Matthew Brady photo of devastation in A Look Back at Braddock record
- Clara Barton, Angel of the Battlefield – Historical Marker Database record also A Look Back at Braddock record
- St. Mary’s Catholic Church – Historical Marker Database record also A Look Back at Braddock record
- Jack Lewis Hiller, “Henry Daingerfield and the Origin of Springfield,” Yearbook, The Historical Society of Fairfax County, Virginia Volume 29 (2003-04), 11. ↩
- U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: NWDNS-111-B-185; Series: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, (Record Group 111); Photographer: Brady, Mathew, 1823 (ca.) – 1896; Coverage Dates: ca. 1860 – ca. 1865; https://catalog.archives.gov/id/524604 ↩