The Richmond and Petersburg Railroad was chartered in 1836 and opened in 1838. It was originally built between Manchester, Virginia, across the James River from Richmond and the north bank of the Appomattox River across from Petersburg. The single track railroad initially extended 22.15 miles, and included a siding to Port Walthall.
River bridges into both Richmond and Petersburg were added after the Civil War. In 1898, the Petersburg Railroad was merged into the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad, and the resulting corporation was renamed the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad of Virginia.