The railroad serving this train station was originally called the Orange and Alexandria Railroad (O&A). By 1860 it extended from Alexandria to Lynchburg. It was built primarily to get farm products to Alexandria and Washington and to transport supplies from these cities to the farms.
The Fairfax Station served the county seat of Fairfax, then known as Fairfax Court House. It was located 2 ½ miles outside of town because the residents did not want to be so close to the noise and smoke of the trains. Many families in the area donated some of their property for the railroad right-of-way.
The original Fairfax Station was built by Irish immigrants who, responding to ads placed by the O&A Railroad Co. in the 1850s, supplemented largely slave labor crews who built other parts of the line. Many the new Irish workers were hired by the company shortly after their arrival in the United States and settled in the area around Fairfax Station. The influx of Catholics led to the construction of St. Mary of Sorrows Church, built on land that had been donated by the Hamill and Cunningham families. The cornerstone was laid on September 19, 1858. The church was dedicated September 23, 1860.
During the Civil War, the railroad and station became strategically significant for the movement of troops and supplies. The O & A was the most direct route between Alexandria to Richmond. Consequently, many battles during the first 3 ½ years of the war were fought over and along this railroad, with the train station playing a supporting role. In August-September 1862, the Station was the evacuation point for wounded Federal soldiers during the Battles of Second Manassas and Chantilly.
New stations were built as prosperity returned to the area. In 1894, the line became part of the mighty Southern Railway. By the early 1900s, the rail line was double tracked. The last train station was built in 1903.
Fairfax Station's name was changed to "Swetnam" postal village on August 21, 1897 and then in 1918 it was changed to Faircroft. It finally became Fairfax Station in 1921 for good!
A young man, James Clarence Wyckoff, assumed the loan for the Burke general store when he graduated from high school in 1927 at age 16. Two years later he bought the Swetnam Store in Fairfax Station. While Jim Wyckoff was running the post office out of their general store, Lena was teaching at the local school, Fairview. Jim passed away in 1947 and Lena served as postmaster until retiring in 1971. Click here to learn more about the life of Lena Wyckoff.
The heyday of train travel was from the 1850s to the early 1950s. Automobiles and airplanes soon displaced passenger train travel. The trucking industry replaced short distance deliveries. Rail shipping focused on more economical long-distance routes. All these factors led to Southern Railway's closing smaller stations.
Fairfax Station, the last operating railroad station in Fairfax County, would close in 1973. 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."