ECW Weekender: The Confederate Military Railroad—Manassas and Centreville, VA

During the winter of 1861, Confederate forces in the Manassas and Centreville area built the first-ever railroad dedicated for military purposes. Using stolen rails from the B&O Railroad and building a small bridge over Bull Run, Confederate engineers were able to quickly build a supply route for Gen. Joseph Johnston’s army at Centreville. Though only active for a few months and built without much grading, there are still vestiges of this railroad and places to visit that relate to its history. 


City Of Manassas

Civil War Trails marker located near the corner of Church and Center St. (38° 45.075?N, 77° 28.401? W).  with a few minor inaccuracies. The Confederate Military Railroad (CMRR) began here at Manassas Junction, where supplies were shipped to the Confederate army via the Orange and Alexandria RR and the Manassas Gap RR. The CMRR spur ran through what is now downtown Manassas and followed the basic path of modern day Mathis Ave. The famous Manassas Junction still exists though the CMRR here is now gone.

CMRR-HistoricalSignConfederate Military Railroad Marker and Existent Railbed

Marker located on Compton Rd., near the intersection with Confederate Ridge Ln. in Centreville,  (38° 48.747? N, 77° 27.366? W). Behind the tall interpretive marker can be found the still-existent railbed of the CMRR.  Though on private HOA property, this portion of the CMRR can be easily followed through the cuts and fills.

Terminus of the Confederate Military Railroad Marker


Marker located at the end of Old Centreville Rd., near the Centreville Methodist Church (38° 49.533? N, 77° 26.3? W).  Near this marker was the terminus of the six-mile-long CMRR. Here, supplies could be easily unloaded to supply the thousands of men who were encamped and manning the expansive forts on the heights of Centreville.

The CMRR is mostly overlooked today. It was innovative in 1861 and shows that necessity spurs ingenuity. Mostly forgotten today by local residents, travelers, and Civil War tourists, these few spots offer a glimpse into a notable technological achievement.

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