Bluemont Junction began operation in 1912 as a part of the newly formed Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Railway. The station was a busy transfer point for passengers and freight from Alexandria and Georgetown to points west, ending at Bluemont, Virginia - a popular resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains. During the peak years of passenger service, from 1912 and into the 1920s, trains ran between Georgetown and Bluemont Junction every 10-20 minutes. Passenger service ended in 1951, but freight continued until 1968 when the W&OD went out of business. The W&OD Trail from Sherlington to Purcellville follows the former railroad right-of-way.
(Key points of the junction indicated on the illustration):
Trains from three directions met at Bluemont Junction. A triangular pattern of tracks joined at a "Y" (wye), so that freight trains could reverse direction. Electric-powered passenger trains could go backwards and forwards so they did not need to be turned around on the wye. The wye was also used as a holding place for freight cars. Look for a railroad tie from the wye along the side of the dirt road.
The Junction connected two routes - a former steam powered line between Alexandria and the town of Bluemont in Loudoun County with an electric trolley service between Georgetown in Washington, D.C. and Great Falls, Virginia.
Electric Power House
Trains that traveled to and from Bluemont Junction were steam powered until about 1913, when overhead electric wires were added to provide power for the engines. Electricity was generated by the railroad's power plant in Rosslyn and transmitted through a series of transformers like the one housed here. You can see the remains of the building foundation - it's the concrete pad to the left of the soccer field. The railroad converted to diesel power in the 1940s.
The wood building attached to the power transformer house served as a passenger and freight depot. From this building a dispatcher also controlled rail traffic, first by telephone and later by radio.
Passenger service was handled by one or two car trains that used self-propelled electric coaches known as "combines." Some combines also carried mail and baggage.
(Reverse Side of Marker):
In much the same way as the Metro's Orange Line is today, the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Railway was an important transportation link for Arlington County and the surrounding area. Like Metro's Rosslyn Station, Bluemont Junction connected two routes. When the station opened in 1912, the railroad operated both freight and passenger trains.
Loudoun County was a major supplier of milk to the Washington area. And for decades, the railroad was the quickest way for dairy farmers to get their perishable product to market. Beginning at dawn, the train picked up milk cans all along the route from Bluemont, Virginia to Rosslyn. The evening milk train returned the empty cans.
Passenger service peaked in 1919. Almost from the beginning, the W&OD faced growing competition from autos - more convenient for commuting and weekend excursions. In 1941, the railroad stopped running passenger trains. Service, however, was revived in 1943 as a war-emergency measure to conserve gasoline. After the war, patronage fell off again, and passenger service permanently ended in 1951.
Carrying mail was relatively more profitable than carrying passengers. Some of the cars had both passenger and mail compartments. But in 1951, the railroad lost its mail contract. The U.S. Post Office switched from trains to trucks for short-distance hauls.
After World War II, the heavy freight business flourished. Now diesel-powered W&OD trains carried building supplies for new housing and highways in Arlington and eastern Fairfax County. The late 1950s brought another boon to the railroad - the construction of Dulles Airport. The W&OD was the closest railroad to the massive construction site. To do the hauling, the railroad beefed up its equipment, road beds, and bridges. Freight revenues reached an all-time high in 1959.