B&O's Alexandria Branch

The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was the first railroad to serve our nation's capital, Washington, DC, beginning with a branch from Relay, MD in 1835.

However, the B&O would soon face competition from the largest railroads of the day, including the Pennsylvania Railroad, who was given exclusive access to the Long Bridge over the Potomac River between Washington and Alexandria, VA.

Thus the B&O built the Alexandria Branch, a 12.5 mile line from Hyattsville, MD to a place on the Potomac called Shepherds Point, where a car ferry would haul traffic over the Potomac, and connect with Alexandria.

Image: USGS Historic Topo Map via Virginia Places

Once B&O got access to the Long Bridge, the ferry was no longer necessary. During World War II, threats of sabotage to the Long Bridge prompted the creation of a second bridge over the Potomac, this one a relocated GTW bridge, simply named the "Emergency Bridge", which once again connected the line to Alexandria. This connection was demolished shortly after the war.

The line nonetheless continued to serve industrial areas as the Shepherd Branch, such as the Saint Elizabeth Hospital Complex and the Bolling Air Force Base.

Image: Mike Schaller via Trains Magazine.

Finally in 2001, the southern end of the line was abandoned by CSX.

Thanks as always for reading!


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