Monday, March 26, 2018

Petersburg's Railroads - Richmond and Petersburg Railroad

The Richmond and Petersburg Railroad was also being built at the same time construction proceeded on the City Point Railroad. This line connected the two industrial cities. However, many of Petersburg's influential citizens did not favor the line as they thought it would potentially take commerce to the larger state capital city rather than keep it in Petersburg. Some of those concerns were alleviated when it was determined that the southern terminus of the line would be on the north side of the Appomattox River. Therefore, any cargo moving north at least had the inconvenience of having to be ported across the river from Petersburg to Chesterfield County to get to Richmond. The Richmond and Petersburg line also provided travelers with a route to the state capital and north beyond. Other rail lines connected northern Virginia locales to Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston. It was not until 1861 that a railroad bridge across the Appomattox River was constructed in effort to increase railroad efficiency.

Like its fellow Petersburg lines, the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad published schedules in the city's newspapers. These instructed the various members of the community when different types of trains were departing and were expected to arrive. The mail train had a specific departure time, the freight trains had a specific departure time, and passenger trains had a specific departure time. In the same advertisements were information on fares. The fares, as one might imagine, varied depending on the distance traveled. As the above ad shows it cost $1.35 for an adult white traveler to ride between Petersburg and RIchmond. Children between five and twelve cost $.85; as did slaves who rode in the "Servant's Car." The ad also stipulated that "Servants will not be permitted in the first class cars, except when in attendance on infants or sick persons; in which cases the same fare as for white persons will be charged."

During the Civil War, the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad proved important to the Confederate army in its many attempts to shuttle troops between the front lines of the cities' defenses under attack by Grant's forces. The line was a particular target during the Bermuda Hundred Campaign in the spring of 1864. However, it received protection from a series of earthworks known as the Howlett Line that stretched across this strip of land between the James and Appomattox Rivers.

The Richmond and Petersburg line also suffered due to it being a single track, with few switch or pull off points for cars to pass going in different directions. Finally, its close proximity to the Union army's eastern front at Petersburg made the trains that ran on its tracks a target for that force's artillery fire. Despite the great effort to cut it, the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad remained active until Gen. Lee's men evacuated the two cities on the night of April 2, 1865.

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