The Triple Crossing – Richmond, Virginia - Atlas Obscura

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The Triple Crossing

Where three rails and three centuries of transportation meet. 


In the heart of Richmond, Virginia’s Shockoe Slip lies a must-see for every ferroequinologist (train enthusiast). Across the once bustling canal stands the nation’s only triple crossing of Class I railways, currently owned and operated by CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern.

The first and lowest line was built in 1859 to connect Richmond with shipping lines along the York River. During the American Civil War, the railroad served as a means to transport crucial supplies to the Confederate frontlines.

The second and middle line finished construction in 1900 to connect Richmond and Petersburg to the Raleigh and Gaston junction in North Carolina.

The third and tallest line brought rail history to Richmond in 1901 when it connected the city to Chesapeake & Ohio’s Newport News coal piers. Its completion marked North America’s first triple-crossing railway in the United States.

Although there has never been a genuine instance in which three trains have met at the crossing, there have been several staged meet-ups for photography.

Triple Crossing is not just significant for its rail history, but for its place in the history of all freight transit. Below the triple crossing sits the Kanawha canal, an 18th-century shipping lane which bypassed the James River. Above the rail soars the I-95, which now serves as a major roadway along the East Coast of the United States. Collectively, these three great feats of engineering create a stunning representation of three centuries of transportation.

Know Before You Go

The Triple Crossing is behind the flood wall, and across the canal. Entrance to the exact point is forbidden, however it can be seen from the canal, or by walking close to the flood wall where entry is permitted. Please do not trespass or disrupt operation of the railway.

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June 24, 2024

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