Richmond’s Historic Train Tracks
Watching trains roll by is a hidden pleasure, and one that Richmond indulges. Elevated lines run east and west along the northern bank of the James River, and a vein of rails cuts northward through downtown. A more self-conscious city might have rerouted the iron trestles, which draw a thick, rusty base on every Richmond cityscape. But the tracks also offer ready access to a historical narrative of regional industry, still visible as engines laboriously pull hundred-car loads of coal toward Norfolk’s ports and, days later, return empty, climbing westward into the Appalachians.
There are other bits of Richmond rail history, from the city’s claim to the only active triple crossing (three tracks stacked, one above the next), to its status as the first U.S. city with an electric trolley-car system. Yet I enjoy simply watching the trains lumber along, appearing and disappearing as they bend around buildings, clattering rhythmically overhead as I walk to work or jog by the canal in the evening. During a sleepless night, in a sentimental mood, I gain comfort from their distant baritone hum—a city’s respiration, and a reminder that I’m not alone.
– Derek Gleason, 3 year resident of Richmond