HMI Poised to Put the Heritage Back in the Annual Railway Festival
In 1861, the First Battle of Manassas, also known as the First Battle of Bull Run and the first major land battle of the American Civil War, was fought near a railroad crossing called Manassas Junction. The Second Battle of Manassas was in and around Manassas on August 28-30 1862. This made Manassas Junction a strategic position of the Civil War, with rails leading to Richmond, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and the Shenandoah Valley. Despite these two Confederate victories, Manassas Junction was in Union hands for most of the war. A station has existed here since the original rail line was constructed by the Orange & Alexandria RR, playing a critical part of both battles, and the site of the first Military Railroad in the United States. Formerly a Southern Railway passenger station, the depot is now the signature icon of Old Town Manassas, acting not only as a busy stop for daily Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express commuter trains, but home to the Old Town Visitor Center and the James and Marion Payne Railroad Heritage Gallery.
Now in its 16th year, the Annual Manassas Heritage Railway Festival was originally created to celebrate and educate on the rich railroad history that Manassas has to offer. Over the year’s, the event has become known as “train day” to area families anticipating an entire day focused on the Railroad. With the approaching 150th anniversary of the 1st Battle of Manassas in 2011, Historic Manassas, Inc. is pleased to announce that, this year, a large scale Civil War weekend will surround the Heritage Railway Festival on June 5.
Beginning Friday, June 4, living history exhibitions will begin setting up on the lawn of the Manassas Museum as a part of the larger annual Manassas Heritage Railway Festival in Old Town on June 5th. Living historians, authors, and both Union and Confederate re-enactors will be present in camps for public inspection. Infantry, Artillery and Cavalry drill demonstrations are being planned throughout the day. Period sutlers vending Civil War memorabilia and provisions will be on site, and period music will include groups such as Evergreen Shade, South Fork and the Chantleers. A special performance by the Mosby Players with Jim Wass and Company will round out the evening, with music and instruction for a 1861 Period Community Dance from 6 to 8 o’clock Saturday evening.
This year’s Heritage Railway Festival will be held from 10am until 4pm around the Old Town Manassas train depot and the Loy E. Harris Pavilion on Saturday, June 5. Once again, the festival will feature elaborate model train displays, the much anticipated VRE Excursion Train to Clifton and back sponsored by Northwest Federal Credit Union at Signal Hill, live entertainment on the main stage featuring the Norfolk Southern Lawmen Band, a kids’ stage with both professional and local talent powered by Radio Disney, food concessions, rides, and vendors of “railroadania”. Admission to the Heritage Railway Festival and Civil War Weekend is free, and the Manassas Museum will also have free admission that day. There is plenty of free parking in Old Town’s multi-story parking garage, conveniently located next to the festival at Main and Prince William Streets. Bring the whole family and enjoy a wonderful day celebrating our area’s rich railroad history!
The Railway Festival signals the beginning of an exciting season of events and activities scheduled for Old Town Manassas. Sunday, June 20th is the 6th Annual Wine and Jazz Festival on Father’s Day, and “Celebrate America”, Manassas’ 4th of July celebration features one of the largest fireworks displays in Northern Virginia. For more information on these and other events in Old Town Manassas, please visit the community calendar on the HMI website at www.visitmanassas.org.