Old # 30
- Even though Engine 30 wasn't part of the FJG's golden age, I'm intrigued
that an FJG engine could also have run within a mile of my house here in
Virginia. While helping my daughter with a term paper, I looked up #30's
pre-FJG career on the Washington and Old Dominion.
The W&OD was a branch line that linked towns as far west as the Blue Ridge
mountains to the national rail hub at Potomac Yards in Alexandria. Up
through the mid-1930s, it provided steam and electric interurban freight and
passenger service like the FJG. But the depression diminished ridership to
the point that passenger service was discontinued, cutting many of the small
towns off from the city. As the war loomed closer, there was a building boom
around Washington, and the W&OD's freight business began to pick up. At the
same time, political pressure was brought to bear to resume passenger
service, which the railroad grudgingly agreed to.
To service its new business, the railroad needed to expand its rolling stock
and convert to diesel. With a loan from one of the big railroads (the C&O
?), the W&OD purchased 3 identical new cab-in-center "midget diesels" from
GE. FJG #30 began life as W&OD #47 (serial number 15041), propitiously
delivered in December, 1941.
W&OD#47, along with her sisters #48 and #49 chiefly hauled construction
material during the war. Ironically, much of this was sand, gravel, and
concrete from a huge quarry in Fairfax, since filled with construction dirt
from the Washington Metro system and covered with tract houses. Although the
W&OD histories do not mention this, I would be surprised if W&OD#47 did not
haul material for the Pentagon, which was being built within a half-mile of
Potomac Yards at this time.
After the war, the midget diesels were used like utility infielders. Ames
Williams' The W&OD has photos of sister #48 pulling a short string of
passenger cars, one of which is made out of an old interurban, through rural
junctions that were densely-settled suburbs 20 years later. The only photo
of W&OD#47 shows her pulling a hopper car through Alexandria when she was
brand new in 1941. It is on page 61 of Rails To The Blue Ridge by H.H.
The postwar years were as cruel to the W&OD as the war years had been kind.
The wartime boom in Washington had actually made carrying passengers
profitable. But even though many of the fatrming towns it served were
blistering up with tract houses and turning into the "inside the beltway"
that Rush Limbaugh fulminates about, automobile traffic was pushing
ridership back to depression levels and siphoning off freight business. The
W&OD began selling off its rolling stock, including the 3 midget diesels. In
a way W&OD#47 stayed closest to homewhe4n she moved north in 1950, as her
twin sisters went to Washington State and Mexico.
Although the W&OD last ran trains in 1968, it became immortal when its
roadbed was converted into the immensely popular W&OD Bicycle Trail. You can
see the trail, which runs 35 miles from Alexandria to Leesburg, at