Civil War to Today
The railroad serving this train station was originally called the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. By 1860 it extended from Alexandria to Lynchburg. It primarily was built to get farm products to Alexandria and Washington and to transport supplies from these cities to the farms. During the Civil War, the railroad and the Fairfax train station became strategically significant for the movement of troops and supplies. This railroad was the most direct route to get troops from Alexandria to Richmond, and both armies were inspired to plan attacks and defensive postures with the railroad always in mind. Consequently, many battles during the first 3 ½ years of the war were fought over and along this railroad, and the train station had a supporting role in all of these battles. No known picture exists of the original station, but it was described by soldiers traversing the area as a two story structure with the Station Master’s office above and the passenger waiting room below.
Serving first as a supply base for Union forces during the summer of 1862, the train station became a center for emergency treatment and evacuation of Union wounded to hospitals in Alexandria and Washington after the battles of 2nd Manassas and Chantilly in late August/early September 1862. Over 3,000 wounded Union soldiers were brought to the train station via wagons. It took several days to load these wounded soldiers onto the trains. Clara Barton and some friends came out to the train station to attend to the wounded while they were waiting to be loaded. Soldiers reported that the downstairs of the train station was used by surgeons to amputate limbs. Orders were given by Union transportation officials to burn the train station as the last train of wounded soldiers left the station area. The train station was set afire on September 2, 1862. Clara Barton became known for her efforts here, for her caring for the wounded throughout the war, and for founding the American Red Cross in the 1880’s.
The station subsequently was rebuilt by the Union troops after the Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg). By 1863, numerous buildings were constructed here as part of a union army supply base. A skirmish did occur between the train station and St. Mary’s Church on August 8, 1864, when the 13th and 16th New York Calvary units became engaged in a skirmish with the 43rd Battalion, also known as Mosby’s Rangers. The Confederates were riding up the road from the train station when they encountered the Union Calvary units which had established their position with their left flank at the church door. Hostilities ensued and the Confederates won the engagement, killing several Union soldiers and capturing many horses. See the Civil War Trails Marker in the parking lot of St. Mary’s Church for a detailed description of the battle.
As prosperity returned to the area after the war, newer stations were built to accommodate this expansion. By the early 1900s, the rail line was double tracked and the last train station was built in 1903, remaining in operation until the early 1970s. In 1894, the line adjacent to Fairfax Station became part of the mighty Southern Railway. As part of Southern, the rail station operated with great success until the late 1950s, when automobile travel and trucking began to take passenger and freight business away from the railroads. By the early seventies, the station no longer was profitable, and Southern Railway closed it down in 1973. It was the last operating railroad station in Fairfax County. It was saved by the Friends of Fairfax Station, Inc., turned into the Fairfax Station Railroad Museum, and it remains the County’s “Little Gem”.