|A closer view of the west side of the Wilkes Street Tunnel, showing the descent below street level.|
|One of three historical markers on the brick wall leading to the tunnel. This marker discusses the various Alexandria railroads. The marker concerning the Wilkes Street Tunnel, including its Civil War history, is faded and barely readable.|
|A marker showing the U.S. Military Railroad roundhouse in Alexandria, which was actually located at Duke and S. Henry Streets.|
|An even closer view of the opening of the west side of the Wilkes Street Tunnel.|
|The interior of the Wilkes Street Tunnel. The City of Alexandria refurbished the tunnel in 2007-08 and added the steel beam reinforcements overhead. (See here for more details on the project.)|
|The east side of the Wilkes Street Tunnel.|
|U.S. Military Railroad construction workers in front of the Wilkes Street Tunnel (courtesy of Ft. Ward Museum and Historic Site)|
Once again, Alexandria does not disappoint. What I think is going to be just another run to get ice cream with friends and family, turns into yet another historical discovery. Although the Wilkes Street Tunnel is a small and out-of-the-way site, it is a place well worth visiting. Trust me. You will feel the past all around you as you walk through the tunnel and emerge on the banks of the Potomac.
Note on Sources:
For more information on the early history of the Wilkes Street Tunnel, check out this page from the website of Historic Alexandria.
Alexandria: 1861-1865, in the Images of America Series, by Charles A. Mills and Andrew L. Mills contains many period photographs of the railroad in Alexandria during the Civil War.
Information on the O&A R.R. can be found on this extremely detailed site run out of Northern Virginia Community College.