The Washington Bridge and the Alexandria Railroad

February 7, 1867


There was a disconnection of trade and transport between the city of Washington and the other cities the railroad would connect to after the bridge over the Potomac river was destroyed. After the decision to remodel and rebuild was made, decisions on where the terminuses would be located and to what cities they would benefit became the main question.


The destruction of the railroad bridge across the Potomac at Washington is an event not at all surprising to those who were familiar with that model of a bridge. It was but a poor apology, and the public becoming somewhat uneasy as to its safety, the company sought to quiet their fears by getting a certificate from Mr. Ellicott, the well known engineer of Baltimore. That certiticate has been for some time advertised in the National Intelligencer. It appeared, indeed, in that paper after the bridge had gone. Even this certificate is a poor bolstering up of the structure ; for the most that Mr. Ellicott says is that the bridge had been stayed with trussels, (that had been deemed necessary,) was stronger than when first built, and was "perfectly secure for the passage of trains required for the local and through business of the road"-i.e., for such light business as was ordinarily required of it. We take it that the loss of this bridge is a proof of the impolicy of trusting to the power and energy of a company which has a road only seven miles long, at the end of which is a very long bridge. A very enduring and strong bridge could not be expected from such a concern. There is decidedly too much bridge, and too little railroad. If we consider this fact in its true light, we must condemn the effort to give to that road the monopoly of way from Alexandria to Washington, and compel all roads seeking connection with the Baltimore and Ohio railroad to stop at Alexandria and use that short road as a portage. It would be a great hardship to subject lines hundreds of miles long to the whims, caprices, and exactions of a brief road like that. Such diminutive corporations are always inefficient, conceited, and unreasonable. On Tuesday the bill incorporating the Potomac Railroad Company was amended by fixing its terminus at Alexandria, and thus cutting it offten miles from its proper terminus and subordinating it to the little Alexandria railroad of seven miles long. The intelligent and polite member from Alexandria made a warm appeal in behalf of that city, aud represented the injury likely to be done by allowing the Potomac road to "pass by" it, as very considerable. We doubt not in his own liberal mind he sees the public inconvenience of cutting off long lines of railroad ten miles from their termini ; but he no doubt represents the desires of his constituents. Let us hope that the good old town of Alexandria will cut loose from a policy so narrow, and like Petersburg and Richmond, remove restrictions from connections, and let the traveller go on his way comfortably and free from the annoyance of shifting trains, and the terrible porters and hackmen of towns. Above all, let able companies go on to their proper connections in Washington, and the Potomac will be bridged in an enduring manner. The opposite policy will never benefit Alexandria.
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Walker Black




“The Washington Bridge and the Alexandria Railroad,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed November 26, 2022,