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Celebrating 180 years of Louisa rail history

Posted on Thursday, December 14, 2017 at 5:00 am

A Buckingham Branch Railroad train chugs into the town of Louisa. In 1837, the first passengers to ride on the rail line traveled from Richmond to Fredericks Hall.

Railroad and history fans will celebrate an important milestone in Louisa County’s development next week. They will remember the day 180 years ago when the first trains arrived.

The Louisa County Historical Society has invited the community to hear a presentation by former railroad engineer Bob Harvey on the dawn of the railroad age. The event will be on Dec. 20 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Tavern on the Rail restaurant on Fredericks Hall Road. The cost is $10.

“The place we now know could never have been were it not for that transportation marvel,” Jim Marstall, the society’s president, said.

The first Louisa Rail-Road Company train huffed into Fredericks Hall Depot from Richmond on Dec. 20, 1837. The train left the capital city at 9 a.m. and returned that evening.

“Who ever expected to see a railroad in Louisa?” a writer asked in his coverage of the event in the Richmond Enquirer. “Who could have predicted, that in our day an improvement would be made, which would transport us over so much space, in so short a time? Fifteen or 20 miles an hour, with as much comfort on a winter day, as if we were sitting at our own fireside in our parlours?”

The fare from Fredericks Hall to Richmond was $2.75.

The train line was later extended to Mineral, Louisa and Gordonsville. Passenger use ended in 1971, but the rail line continues to see regular use by CSX, which now owns the line, and Buckingham Branch Railroad, which leases it to serve local businesses.

Those interested in attending the celebration should make a reservation by calling the society at (540) 967-5975. The restaurant is located at 81 Tavern Road, Mineral.