DC Rail History

Major Railroads Serving Washington, DC in 1950

Exterior Union Station
Union Station - Washington, DC

Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area is steeped in railroad history. The first railroad came to town before the Civil War when the Baltimore & Ohio arrived. There are literally hundreds of volumes information on the rich and storied history of railroading in this area. Our library is a focal point for our Chapter’s information on Washington D.C. area railroads. We have also compiled some information here that is of general interest.

We welcome contributions of information and pictures to this section.

Wreck of the Federal

THE FAMOUS UNION STATION TRAIN WRECK We are often asked for more information about the most famous train wreck in Washington, D.C., which took place

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Photo by Art House

C&O at First Street Tunnel – Amtrak was about a year old when this picture of Train No. 50, the eastbound James Whitcomb Riley, was taken as it was  to enter the First Street Tunnel at the south end of Washington Union Station. The train had originated the day before in Chicago and unlike today’s successor train 50, The Cardinal, it ran daily.

The power is C&O E8-A No. 1471 (the former C&O 4026), an old hand at bringing C&O route passenger trains into Washington from the south and midwest.