Station Number: 112
Code Number: 0168
Tel. Calls: HN
Doswell was originally known as Hanover Junction (though I’ve also seen it
called Sexton’s Junction on Lloyd’s
Official Map of Virginia from 1861. Click the link, search for Virginia, and choose #9). The name was changed
to Doswell in the early 1890’s in honor of Major Thomas Doswell. The first
Doswell in the area was James Doswell, a captain in the American Revolution. After
the war he returned to his estate, named Bullfield, to raise fine horses. His
descendants continued to raise excellent race horses and, as long as racing was legal
in Virginia, the Doswell track was well attended. One of James’ descendants,
Major Thomas Doswell, fought in the Civil War. After the War, he carried on the
family tradition as a breeder of fine race horses. He also owned a hotel (see below)
to put up railroad travelers and an excelsior plant. The Doswell home still stands on
the West side of U.S. Route 1, about a mile from the station.
Construction of the Piedmont Sub (as the Louisa Railroad) began in
Doswell with a connection to the RF&P. In 1850, the Virginia Central
(formerly the Louisa Railroad) desired their own line into Richmond. The
RF&P fought the extension, claiming that their charter gave them exclusive
access to Richmond from the north. The Virginia courts disagreed. From that time
on the C&O’s single track mainline crossed the double track main of the
RF&P in Doswell. At first, wooden gates protected the crossing; trains had to
stop and open the gates before they could proceed. A Virginia law also required that
trains stop and verify that the way was clear before passing through
the crossing. The RF&P installed a mechanical interlocking at the
crossing in 1904, electro-automatic semaphore signals in 1913, and
color-light signals in 1927. At that time, the junction was guarded by
HN Tower, built in 1929, which was staffed by the RF&P. Both
roads, however, paid the salaries. The tower was retired in September of 1958.
From then on the C&O's mainline was controlled from Richmond.
The C&O and the RF&P also maintained a joint passenger station at
Doswell. The original depot was destroyed during the Civil War and was
replaced by a temporary building (described as “commodious”) and water
station. In 1870 a permanent station was built that was itself
replaced in 1907 with a station that, to my eyes, bore a family
resemblance to the station at Gordonsville. The C&O retired the stock
pen in Doswell in 1926. The wooden station burned in 1927. Sanford Terry, resident of
the area, writes, “I rode my bicycle to Doswell to view the smouldering ashes.
Nothing was left of the old building except two brick chimneys.”
The burned station was replaced by the red brick, Georgian style one
pictured below. By 1970 passenger trains only stopped at Doswell
with advance warning from the station agent. Outbound freight traffic
in 1970 was mostly pulpwood and wood chips. A veneer company and an
excelsior plant were located in Doswell.
This is the C&O/RF&P station in Doswell. At one time it was in use
by CSX as offices. I assume that the Buckingham Branch still uses it as office space. This
image is from a postcard dated 1983. (From the collection of Larry Z. Daily)
This image is from a 1971 photo I acquired on eBay. (Photographer unknown. From the collection of Larry Z. Daily. )
The Doswell depot on August 21, 1977. (Photographer unknown. From a slide in the collection of Larry Z. Daily. )
The Doswell station area in May of 1987. (Photo by Norman Blackwood. From a slide in the collection of Larry Z. Daily.)
A Chessie work train passes the Doswell station heading east
through the diamond. (Date unknown, Keith Buckley photo, used with
Train number 41 The George Washington passes the Doswell station sometime in 1966. (From a slide in the collection of Larry Z. Daily)
The eastbound Sportsman passes Doswell in the early 1960’s. (Jack Spangler photo. Used with permission.)
This is the only image of the Doswell freight house that I own and it’s the best one I’ve
seen. The label on the back says that it was taken on July 2, 1971. (Photographer unknown. From the collection of Larry Z. Daily.)
The next three photos show HN cabin. This one is from a slide dated August 21, 1977. I suspect that it was
taken by the same person who took the photo of depot on the same date. (Photographer unknown. From a
slide in the collection of Larry Z. Daily.)
This image was taken in 1983. (Photographer unknown. From a
slide in the collection of Larry Z. Daily.)
I took this photo in 1999.
The single track line is the former C&O mainline and the double track is
the former RF&P line. (November 2001 photo)
This is a couple of shots of the abandoned excelsior plant in
Doswell. Excelsior is a shredded wood packing material made from pine
and it provided a substantial part of Doswell’s economy in prior times.
The beehive-shaped thing is, I believe, a wood chip burner. (1998
This is the remains of the gravel loader in Doswell. As far as I
can tell, dump trucks backed up a ramp on the other side of this
retaining wall and dumped their loads into waiting hoppers. (1999
Major Doswell ran a hotel near the railroad. According to my
sources, that hotel later became a general store. The antique store in the
top photo, which is located near the RF&P tracks across from the station,
was once a general store. I once thought that it may have been
Doswell’s hotel. Several people, however, suggested that I was wrong
and one of them pointed to the structure in the bottom photo. I have to admit,
it does look more like a hotel to me. (top photo 1999; bottom photo 2002)
Jack Bruce alerted me to what he thought looked like a set of
old bridge abutments just east of Doswell. He suggested that, perhaps, the line
used to run slightly south of its current location. Having now visited the area,
I have to agree. The old roadbed was even more apparent given the high water levels
from heavy rains that fell shortly before my visit. Photo A was taken facing west towards Doswell and
Photo B facing east. The C&O Valuation maps confirm that the track was realigned in August,
These maps were prepared from U.S.G.S. topological maps, C&O track charts dated 1963, C&O Side
Track Records dated 1937, a copy of the Side Track Records updated through the 1990’s, and
C&O Valuation maps, also updated through the 1990’s.
This map shows Doswell (as Hanover Junction) and the surrounding area in 1864.
This map of Doswell represents the track layout as of 1969.
Please note that, due to a huge volume of spam coming in on my email account, I’ve had to change my email address.
The new address is firstname.lastname@example.org (but remove the nospam and the dot before piedmontsub.com).
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