The Manassas Railway Heritage Festival

Manassas Travel Blog

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May and June are the time for community festivals across Northern Virginia. Springfield Days was held the previous weekend. This Saturday, I drove out to Manassas, Virginia, for the annual Manassas Railway Heritage Festival. (Susan was at work, Julia was stage managing a show at the high school, and Drew was at orientation for his camp counselor summer job. So, I was on my own for this one.) I like trains, and so have been to this one in years past.

Manassas is about 30 miles (50 km) south of Springfield.  It celebrates an annual Manassas Railway Heritage Festival as the town owes its existence to the coming of the railroad. The town began in the 1850s as a settlement at the junction of a rail line from Alexandria to Charlottesville and a connecting line to the Shenandoah Valley through Manassas Gap.

Manassas Station (1914)
In fact, the community was then known as Manassas Junction. The Civil War Battles of First and Second Manassas (or Battles of Bull Run) took place nearby in 1861 and 1862. (I'll write about Manassas National Battlefield Park in a future blog.) They were among the first military engagements in which railway transport played a strategic role and made the name Manassas famous.

I arrived in Manassas in the afternoon, around 2:00 p.m. The festival did not appear as crowded as in years past nor were there as many exhibitors or participtants. It was a hot day, nearly 100F (37C), and an intense sun beat down on the scene. (Not as hot as Tulum two years ago, but very hot nonetheless.) Maybe the heat had kept people away or maybe they had come earlier in the day. (How hot was it? The sunblock I'd put on flowed off my forehead into my eyes.

Exhibits at Manassas depot
)

Virginia Railway Express provided their traditional 30 minute train trips to Clifton and back. These rides are a promotion for the commuter rail service and an enjoyable outing. A number of model railway enthusiasts had gathered to set up layouts of various sizes. It's always fun to see what they can create and what whimsical themes they can incorporate. The Norfolk Southern freight railroad company had sent its Exhibit Car to describe the role of railroads in contemporary commerce. Merchandise vendors and crafters were set up under tents. However, the most popular was a Boy Scout troop selling cold water and soft drinks!

Two performance stages were in operation. A band was playing at one stage. They had strolling guitarists playing instruments that had wireless connections to their amp.

Stationmaster's desk
I don't think I'd seen that before! (It gave a new meaning to "air guitar"!) At another stage, a performer was playing a steel drum and encouraging audience participation with maracas, especially children. (I almost found myself in a Twist contest there!)

After a while, I strolled a bit through Old Town Manassas for some shade. The restored 1914 Southern Railway Station is the anchor of Old Town. It's used as a visitor center and has historical displays. (It's still an active railway station, used by Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express trains.) Most of the buildings in Old Town are brick and were built following a severe downtown fire in 1903. Old Town is home to various shops and restaurants today. (There are those who don't realize there is an Old Town. A colleague of mine at work was once surprised to learn about its existence, as she had only seen the newer suburban Manassas sprawl from I-66.) The Manassas Museum is just beyond the station and contains displays on the town and its development.

 

X_Drive says:
I too love trains, especially model trains. I got to see a great one in Chattanooga on our trip. This sounded like fun. :)
Posted on: Jun 17, 2008
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Festival Banner
Festival Banner
Manassas Station (1914)
Manassas Station (1914)
Exhibits at Manassas depot
Exhibits at Manassas depot
Stationmasters desk
Stationmaster's desk
Excursion train
Excursion train
Exhibit Car
Exhibit Car
Model railway display pavilion
Model railway display pavilion
Model trains
Model trains
Model trains
Model trains
Model trains
Model trains
Garden Railway display
Garden Railway display
Vendor tents
Vendor tents
Performance Stage
Performance Stage
Playing wireless guitar
Playing wireless guitar
Audience participation at the Kazo…
Audience participation at the Kaz…
Twist contest
Twist contest
Center Street
Center Street
Main Street
Main Street
Manassas Town Hall (1916)
Manassas Town Hall (1916)
Manassas
photo by: Zagnut66