Sunday, March 29, 2020
historic alexandria

Potomac Yard Railyard in Alexandria, Virginia #FlashbackFriday

Potomac Yard in Alexandria, Virginia in its heyday as a railyard

This Flashback Friday, with all the talk of a new Potomac Yard Metrorail Station on the horizon, we thought we’d take a look at the history of the Potomac Yard railroad yards.

Via The Library of Congress, the Potomac Yard railyard in its heyday was one of the busiest railyards in the Eastern United States, processing thousands of cars daily. The booming “Pot Yard” attracted thousands of workers, who largely settled in the areas of Del Ray and St. Elmo. These subdivisions incorporated as the town of Potomac in 1908, but were then annexed by the City of Alexandria in 1930. The Penn Central segment of the famous Tropicana Juice Train operated from here and the site reached capacity in 1937.

After the corporate mergers of the former separate railroad companies that used the yard to interchange freight cars, the need for Potomac Yard greatly diminished. It was determined by the Richmond Frederick & Potomac Railroad (RF&P) that the land was worth more than the need for yard switching. The Pennsylvania Railroad’s (PRR) old catenary was dismantled in the 1980s. The facility was identified as a toxic waste site in 1987. The RF&P finally decommissioned it in 1989. Plans for rehabilitation and redevelopment of the land have been a source of intense debate since then.

What are your memories of the Potomac Yard railyards?


Lee Hernly, Editor
the authorLee Hernly, Editor
Founder & Editor
Lee Hernly is the Founder and Editor of Port City Wire, Alexandria, Virginia's best source for hyper-local news, opinion, and events. I live in the Old Town Alexandria area with my fantastic wife and son Sam. Oh, there’s Serena & Bea too. I’m so excited to meet new readers and see where you are from! Please be sure to leave a comment with a link to your blog so I can check it out!

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My father worked out of this yard and Union Station for years. It was fun to park across Route 1 and watch the cars being divvied up. By the way, Penn Central was the merger of the Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads in 1968.

Dave Simmons
Dave Simmons

I myself started my railroad career at Pot Yard in july 1973 as a machinist for the RFP Railroad. Was a great place to work back in those days. Hard work for a good wage. I was laid off from the last years of the yards operation in nov.1990. I think the yard did’nt shut completly down till 92 or 93. After my furlough I went to work for amtrak in Wash. DC. in Dec.90 and worked their till Dec.4th of 2014 when I retired after 41 years.