In the years before motor vehicles came to dominate transportation, business was never better for the Washington & Old Dominion Railway. Demand for passenger and freight service boomed, while the W&OD's owners balked at spending the money necessary to keep the line running smoothly.
The increasing dissatisfaction of the workers coincided with a campaign by the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railroad Employees to unionize area rail workers. In the spring of 1916 many W&OD employees joined the union, and, on April 5, they called a strike.
Demands included recognition of the union, adoption of a 10-hour work day with overtime, and a wage increase for conductors and motormen from $3 to $4 a day. Negotiations involved such prominent figures as American Federation of Labor President Samuel Gompers and legendary labor organizer Mary Harris "Mother" Jones.
Union members were fired. Rail cars were vandalized and derailed (see below). W&OD owners hired armed private detectives to protect company property. By the end of the year the strike was called off, but labor troubles plagued the railroad for many years to come.
Credits: Background photograph - Courtesy Thomas Underwood. Photograph upper right - Courtesy Milton Riley Family. Exhibit planning and design - Jane Hanna, Leesburg, Va. This wayside exhibit was made possible through a grant from the Virginia Recreational Trails Fund Program of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.