Park in the shadow of the capital
With the Washington Monument visibile from the park at the left, southbound CSX intermodal LO31 crosses over from Track 2 to Track 1 at RO on Nov. 6, 2011. Mike Schaller

Arlington, Virginia

A location to safely watch trains has opened near Washington, D.C. Arlington County recently opened Long Bridge Park adjacent to control point RO on CSX’s RF&P Subdivision. Arlington is at the south end of CSX’s Long Bridge across the Potomac River. This double track bridge was opened in 1904. The name “RO” comes from the tower built by the Pennsylvania Railroad when it built a branch from the south end of the bridge north to Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington. The Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad began at RO and the name has continued at the current interlocking even though the tower and branch are long gone. Arlington obtained the property west of the railroad next to RO and decided to create a park. The park’s design includes a raised esplanade that allows excellent views of the railroad and the surrounding area. The current park does not include the adjacent Twin Bridges Marriott site, but the county owns that parcel and will incorporate it into the park in the future. From I-395 the park may be accessed by exit 10A while northbound on and exit 9 while southbound.
icon_railroad_45TRAIN WATCHING
The esplanade is about 15 feet above ground and has a waist high railing. The wall of the esplanade is about 30 feet from Track 3, the closest track. Tracks 3 and 2 cross Long Bridge into Virginia and at RO Track 1 diverges from Track 2. The 3 track alignment continues for more than 10 miles south through the suburbs. Conrail removed the electrification to Potomac Yard in 1981, but several poles that held the catenary are still in place and plenty of trains still move here. All Virginia Railway Express trains pass by the park and all are powered by new MP36PH-3Cs. Amtrak runs trains throughout the day. Amtrak’s Silver Star, No. 91, is scheduled to run south at a time perfect for winter sun. CSX freights, including intermodal and orange juice trains, also pass by through out the day. Another nearby train watching location is the Monroe Avenue bridge (US 1). This bridge crosses the tracks 4 rail miles south of RO. From the bridge, you’ll enjoy excellent views of southbound trains with the U.S. Capitol building in the background. Just north of the bridge a track branches off to reach a coal burning power plant and Robinsons Terminal on the Potomac River. This track is owned by Norfolk Southern which uses trackage rights on CSX to deliver coal and other products. The power plant is supposed to close in 2012, so this track maybe removed soon. Across the river in Washington, D.C. another location to view the trains is the L’Enfant Promenade (10th Street Southwest). The tracks make a curve to reach the L’Enfant Promenade bridge and the U.S. Capitol is in the background. Afternoon sun will be behind those watching southbound trains, but winter shadows from buildings cover the tracks from October to April.
tracksideicon_frequencyRAILROAD FREQUENCIES
CSX, as well as tenant railroads Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express, use 160.410 for the dispatcher and 161.550 as the road channel. A defect detector is at Slaters Lane, 4 miles south. All trains call signals.
tracksideicon_famFOR YOUR FAMILY
Close to the park are the shops and restaurants of Crystal City and the Fashion Centre at Pentagon Center. Another shopping center is located on the site of Potomac Yard. Long Bridge Park itself has 3 synthetic soccer fields, an elevated platform away from the tracks, sidewalks and benches, and bathrooms. Roaches Run is a lagoon across the tracks and is visible from the esplanade that attracts ospreys and eagles. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is on the other side of the lagoon, and railfans photographing trains at the park might just be outnumbered by airplane watchers.
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