In 1877, the Fredericksburg and Gordonsville Rail Road began operations, with narrow gauge tracks connecting to established railways running through Fredericksburg and Orange. A series of companies tried to make this railroad proﬁtable, including a company called the Virginia Central Railway, which upgraded the narrow tracks to the standard gauge in 1926. Still, insufﬁcient trafﬁc caused this part of the railway to be abandoned in 1938.
The surrounding landscape has its own history. During the winter of 1862-63, a Confederate winter encampment covered the hills north of Hazel Run. The Southern troops built small huts on the southern exposure of the nearby slopes. In the spring of 1863, during the Chancellorsville campaign, this cleared and level railway (without tracks) also proved an excellent covered way to rapidly deploy troops across the rough terrain.
When the Virginia Central Railway upgraded its tracks from a narrow gauge to a standard gauge, it replaced stone abutments with poured concrete piers, to handle the wider tracks. Note that the end facing upstream is pointed, like the prow of a ship.
A rail link between Fredericksburg and the Town of Orange appeared to be a critical need within Virginias network of railways, but never proved proﬁtable.
The cleared, but unfinished route is more readily remembered as part of a Civil War battleﬁeld.
Hut holes in the woods on the opposite side of Hazel Run are all that remain of a large Civil War encampment. The winter huts were of rude construction and locating them on a southern exposure was an attempt to derive as much comfort as possible from the sun.
On the afternoon of May 4, 1863, Confederate troops moved through this area along the graded route, preparing for an assault against Federal forces along Plank Road (State Route 3).