Southern Railway Depot

post cards130 The depot in the early 1900s
Manassas history is closely tied to that of the train.  The town grew up around the railroad and many famous events in our past enjoy a direct connection to the different lines that operate here.  Having a rail line meant needing a depot, but Manassas did not have a permanent facility until three decades after the Civil War when the Richmond and Danville Railroad Company constructed a small log structure just east of the current depot.  As train service expanded, the need for a larger building arose.  In 1904, the Southern Railway, the new owner of the line, constructed a large brick building to handle the increased volume of trains passing through the area.  Unfortunately, a devastating fire in 1914 destroyed the building.  The Southern Railway quickly rebuilt and this is the depot still in use today.

The third depot is a classic example of segregation architecture.  Built largely by African American laborers at a time when all public facilities were strictly segregated by race, the depot had separate waiting rooms for White and Black patrons.  The original architectural drawings of the building are clearly labeled as such. In addition to the waiting rooms, the depot had restrooms (for use by White patrons only), a ticket masters office, and a baggage room.
IMG_E0054_contrast. depot ground plan
Original plans show separate White and "Colored" waiting rooms
Waiting room
Women and girls in the Depot's White waiting room in about the 1930s.

For decades, freight trains of the Southern Railway rumbled through town on a daily basis, stopping to unload goods for local markets and pick up produce and other foodstuffs for transportation elsewhere.  These trains also carried the mail, and the arrival of letters and packages was a daily occurrence that connected Manassas to the world.  The Southern also offered passenger service, and soon people began use the train to commute to jobs in Washington, D.C.
Freight train  Speiden commuter ticket
(left) Freight trains came through Manassas every day. (right) A commuter train ticket used by Manassas architect Albert Speiden

Today the Southern Railway Depot is owned by the City of Manassas.  Inside are the offices of Historic Manassas, Inc. and the Visitor Center.  In addition, a small exhibit created by the Manassas Museum provides visitors with information about the history of the various rail lines that operated here.  Freight trains sill pass through on a daily basis, but no longer stop to unload.  A vibrant passenger service on Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express means Manassas’ love affair with trains continues to this day.

The James & Marion Payne Memorial Railroad Heritage Gallery
Located in The Manassas Railroad Depot at:
9431 West St.
Manassas, VA 20110

The gallery temporarily closed for upgrades.

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