Sunday, September 23, 2012

Railroad Bridge, Fredericksburg, VA

Railroad bridge across the Rappahannock River
I stopped in historic Fredericksburg, Virginia, on my way to visit my son this past weekend. Traffic along I-95 made it dark before I got to town, so I made sure to rise with the sun the next morning in search of the fanous Rappahannock River railroad bridge.

It's a concrete, eight (or so) span open spandrel arch bridge. The bridge is in active use by cargo and passenger trains; there is a beautiful Amtrak station just a block west of the bridge. It's a wonderful river crossing in its on right, but this is not the bridge that made Fredericksburg famous.

This bridge is very near the former site of an earlier bridge -- a bridge that was instrumental in one of the most one-sided battles in the Civil War.

Mural of the bridge on a Fredericksburg wall
In December of 1862, Union forces, desperate for a victory, were looking for a victory against Confederate forces entrenched in and around Fredericksburg. Blocked by the Rappahannock River, a tributary of the Potomac River, the two sides stared at each other until the Union Army could deliver sufficient pontoon bridge segments to build a bridge across the river -- which the army proceeded to do, under continual fire from the Confederates.

The pontoon bridges prior to the Battle of Fredericksburg (ca 1862)

The Union army, encamped on the east side of the river very near George Washington's boyhood home, crossed the pontoon bridges, taking heavy losses, and entered into close combat with the Confederates among the streets and homes of Fredericksburg, eventually making a concerted effort to break the fortified lines on Marye's Heights.

They failed and were forced to withdraw. Union losses were twice those of the Confederates, a bitter loss that shook the North's already fragile support for Lincoln's War.

A riverboat idles at Fredericksburg's City Dock as geese fly overhead
Fredericksburg today is an arts center for the area and home to the University of Mary Washington. It has a thriving night life and is extremely bicycle-friendly -- many of the city streets encourage bicyclists to use the entire right lane.

It also sports the second largest mall on the East Coast, the Central Park Mall, which makes travel on the outskirts of the city problematic during shopping hours.

Bridge from the pumping station
Beautiful bridge, beautiful city.


  1. Aye, your pictures do reveal a beautiful town. Greatly appreciate the included historical information.

  2. Hi! I love your pictures, I was just curious what location are you at that you can see the train bridge? Is it one of the Sophia Street Addresses?
    I live semi close to Fredericksburg and would love to find it!
    Thank you!!

  3. Yeah, the park on Sophia Street. The one with the paddle boat :) I tried getting a picture from the other side without much luck. There's a regular old bridge north of the railroad bridge, but it was partially hidden, at the time, by trees. I waited in the park until a train came by :) I was gonna get that bridge with a train on it.

  4. Hi! is your picture of the bridge available to purchase as a print or download? My husband grew up in Fredericksburg and I've been looking for a great shot of the bridge since we wont be returning any time soon and I love this one. thanks