Sometimes it’s what you don’t see on a landscape that reveals its stories. Over the 75-miles that stretch from Fredericksburg to the Chesapeake Bay, there are no cities and no railroad tracks. The short railroad leading east to the Potomac River at Dalgren was as far as the rails ever made it onto the Northern Neck.
The reason for the absence of rails and metropolises? It’s in the water. Several deep, navigable rivers lead far into the peninsula. These waterways became the road system for the region. With every waterside plantation a port of call, there was no need port cities. With the dawn of steam power came the rise of steamboats on the Potomac River and the Bay. Packet boats carried passengers and cargo from river to river, from home to job, and from Baltimore and Washington to riverside resorts—mirroring the type of transportation systems created by railroads across the rest of America.