This undated photograph, captioned "Mahone, the Builder," portrays a young, clean-shaven—though elaborately coiffed—William Mahone and likely was made before the Civil War. Several years after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute in 1847, Mahone decided to become an engineer, remarking to a mentor at VMI that "Internal Improvements seem to be the order of the day far and wide." He was right. A rage for public-works projects such as toll roads, plank roads, canals, and railroads gripped Virginia at the time. In 1849, Mahone began work with the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and subsequently worked on the Fredericksburg and Valley Plank Road and the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad. By 1853 he was chief engineer of the Norfolk and Petersburg, and in 1860 he became president of the rail line.