Virginia Rail Express

Virginia Rail Express operates two routes serving commuters between Fredericksburg, VA, Manassas, VA, and Washington D.C.

Predominately there to serve these commuters the timetable is structured around inbound morning services to bring people into Washington and outbound evening services to take them home again. Exceptions to this are one morning round trip on the Manassas line from Washington D.C. to Broad Run Airport departing as train 321 6.25am from Washington Union and returning as train 332 7.50am from Broad Run Airport, a one way lunchtime train to Fredericksburg, train 301 departing Washington Union at 12.55pm and a lunchtime round trip to Broad Run Airport train 325 1.15pm from Washington Union, returning at 2.45pm from Broad Run Airport as train 336. Finally train 327 3.45pm from Washington Union forms train 338 at 5.10pm from Broad Run Airport. Some of these services are limited stop trains serving only Washington Union, Alexandria, Manassas and Broad Run Airport stations. Schedules can be checked by visiting the official website of Virginia Rail Express.

Ticketing on VRE is also troublesome if you are not a regular user of the service or the holder of a North American credit card. The only possible way to cover all VRE services during the day is to concentrate on the stations of Alexandria, Crystal City, LíEnfant Plaza and Washington Union. Staffed ticket offices are available at Alexandria and also at Washington Union although this latter ticket office takes some detective work to find, as it is located in the Grayline coach tours sales office on the concourse of the parking lot above Union station. Alexandria station is an Amtrak staffed station and the ticket office has the capability to sell you all the tickets you will need for a full day on VRE therefore I would suggest making your way to Alexandria with a pre planned list of moves and buying your tickets from the helpful staff at this station. Both Crystal City and LíEnfant Plaza stations only have ticket machines and these do not accept credit cards issued outside North America. Indeed one regular VRE commuter on her evening return home wished to purchase a 10 ride ticket from one of the machines and it would not accept her card either. These temperamental machines are not user friendly in any way. VRE train crews are unable to issue tickets to passengers on board the train and it is not advisable to travel without a ticket. Penalties are high and no excuses will be accepted. Plain clothes transit police operate on VRE trains with the power to issue $150 on the spot fines for travelling without a ticket.

VRE has a mixed roster of motive power and rolling stock, some leased from other railroads. Of note are four ex Amtrak F40ís leased from Railworld Leasing, a company set up by former Wisconsin Central supremo Ed Burkhardt. Staple motive power for VRE are a batch of former freight engines rebuilt by Boise Locomotive in 1991 and designated RP39-2C along with two General Motors EMD F59PHI locomotives which have been leased from Sound Transit in Seattle. VRE operates eleven daily diagrams although the requirement for locomotives seems higher as during our visit on 28th October 2005 one train was worked by a pair and another was topínítailed.

Full roster details are as follows:-

BL RP39-2C V01 V02 V03 V04 V05 V06 V07 V08 V09 V10

VRE locomotive V01 waits to depart LíEnfant Plaza with an evening train to Manassas. Picture courtesy of Steve Bates.

BL RP40-2C V20 V21

ALST GP40PH-2 V22 V23 V24

GM F40PH V30(ex Amtrak 403) V31(ex Amtrak 392) V32(ex Amtrak 364) V33(ex Amtrak 365)

GM F59PHI V40(Sound Transit 903) V41(Sound Transit 904)

Leased by VRE from Sound Transit, Seattle GM F59PHI V41 approaches Crystal City with train 325 to Broad Run Airport. Picture courtesy of Steve Bates.

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