A bit of history has been lost in preparation to build a new self storage facility in the East Falls Church area in Arlington County, Virginia. A section of a 1926 railroad trestle was demolished to make way for a five-story self storage building. The trestle is known as the Benjamin Elliott’s Coal Trestle.
Joseph Elliott started the first known coal business in the area of East Falls Church. Benjamin Elliott purchased the coal yard from Joseph and built the existing coal trestle.
Built in 1926, the Benjamin Elliott’s Coal Trestle was part of the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad (W&OD). The W&OD was a short-line railroad that ran between Alexandria to the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It transported goods and provided freight and passenger service.
The trestle was used to process coal, oil, and other fuels for delivery to local residences and businesses in the between the years of 1926 through 1968. In 1951, the railroad company stopped passenger service and only carried freight. In1968, the railroad closed its doors and stopped delivering freight.
During the following years, the railroad company sold sections of its rail line to the state’s highway department and some to the state’s electric and power company. Over time, the tracks have been removed and the trestle is currently the last remaining visible rails of the W&OD Railroad.
Near the trestle, there is a pedestrian and bike trail. However, the area is so overgrown with foliage that it hasn’t been easy for people to see the trestle. The steel rails are rusty. The timbers are deteriorating. Until earlier this year, old oil fuel tanks were parked in the “bins” (spaces between the piers). The area is derelict.
R. Shreve LLC owns 20 percent of the property where the trestle is located. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority owns the rest. Earlier this year, Shreve was working with the county’s site plan process to build a mixed-use development on the property. The county started a study of the trestle as a possible local historic site.
But the study was taking a long time. Too long.
So, last week, Shreve notified the county that it was going to demolish the trestle and build a storage facility. (The zoning allows that type of a business to be built on the property.) Shreve then proceeded to remove the trestle and donate the rails to the parks authority.