Manassas Gap Railroad, Independent Line
By: M. Callahan
In order to transport agricultural products from the Ohio and Shenandoah Valleys to markets in Northern Virginia, the Manassas Gap Railroad was begun during the 1850’s. Quick access to the “Breadbasket of Virginia” became the mission of Alexandria merchants who were afraid of losing the crucial wagon trade they had established over the previous fifty years. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad already ran a line to Winchester through Harper’s Ferry. To avoid paying enormous rail rental charges with the B&O, these merchants decided to build the Independent Line of the Manassas Gap Railroad. It would run 34 miles starting at Bull Run, passing through the city of Fairfax and then east near the village of Annandale, onto Indian Run Valley and into the rail yards of Alexandria.
The filling and leveling required for construction of the rail bed was basically completed. And then the money ran out. Unfortunately, the rails themselves never left Alexandria but the rail beds did become significant earthworks in Civil War battles and skirmishes in Annandale and Fairfax. What remains today is 1,870 feet of railroad bed, two historic culverts, and substantial masonry work. Had the railroad been completed, the line would have run just north of Columbia Pike across what is now property occupied by the Fire Dept and the old Annandale Elementary School and westward through the Annandale Community Park. (see masonary work pictured above) The closest rail service ever came to Annandale was the Burke Station.
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