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C&O Milepost 111.8
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. It is currently in use by CSX as offices. This view is from a postcard dated 1983. (From 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 permission)|
|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 photo shows #41 the George Washington crossing the RF&P at Doswell in September, 1966. (Photographer unknown. From a slide in the collection of Larry Z. Daily.)|
|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 photos)|
|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 photo)|
|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, 1947.(2002 photos)|
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.
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