Editor’s Notebook

Gadsby’s Tavern – C&O Railway Heritage Center – Clifton Forge, Virginia – 2011
You leave the Pennsylvania Station 'bout a quarter to four
Read a magazine and then you're in Baltimore
Dinner in the diner
Nothing could be finer
Than to have your ham an' eggs in Carolina*

I never ate in the dining car of a train during the heyday of passenger train travel. I regret that. But I can imagine sitting in the dining car with a salesman going to the next city; a mother and a small boy; a family going on vacation; a soldier returning home. The passengers may be lonely or bored, excited to be going someplace new, or just happy to be going home.

I imagine sitting at a table in the diner with a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. surrounded by other travelers. People come and go and the world slips by the window. I'll be home in the morning. 

In 1932, the C&O inaugurated the George Washington as its flagship passenger train with service between Newport News, Virginia and Cincinnati, Ohio. Three dining cars built in 1922 were refurbished for the George Washington. Gadsby's Tavern is the only car that survived. The C&O Historical Society owns the car and has restored it to its original 1932 appearance.
For a moment as I stood in the door of this old dining car, I could imagine what it might be like to eat dinner here with the sound of the rails beneath my feet. I almost expected a porter to come through the door on the other end of the car. But I was all alone and the car was still and silent, a ghost of railroading's past.

Edd Fuller, Editor - Text and photographs Copyright 2017

 *Chattanooga Choo Choo - Mack Gordon/HarryWarren

Editor’s Notebook

A Christmas Memory

Kansas City Southern rail yard, Vicksburg, Mississippi – December 24, 2007  – Photo by Edd Fuller
At daybreak, I arrived at the Kansas City Southern rail-yard in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The morning was clear and cold. A yard worker coming to work with a styrofoam cup of coffee in his hand stopped and we chatted for a few minutes. The yard foreman, he said,  was not in yet, but he thought it would be OK if I walked around and took some photographs. Steam rose from his cup and I could smell the coffee as he walked away. 

About an hour later, the yard foreman came over to where I was shooting and asked if I would come to the office with him and sign a release form. From the windows of the office in the old interlocking tower, I could look down over the entire yard. One diesel locomotive was starting to switch some cars, but otherwise, all was quiet. It was Christmas Eve, 2007

Many years ago my wife's grandfather worked for the Illinois Central Railroad in this same yard. Although I never knew him, I thought about all the Christmas Eves that he reported to work here, steam rising from the waiting locomotives, and the smell of coal smoke lingering in the clear morning air.

Thanks to all our readers and contributors for supporting The Trackside Photographer this year. This Thursday, December 22nd, "Christmas in the City" by Bob Hughes will be the last article in 2016. And please join us on January 5, 2017 to start the New Year.

Have a Joyous Christmas Season and a Safe and Prosperous New Year!


Edd Fuller, Editor

Editor’s Notebook


The Squirrel and the Crow

A Thanksgiving Fable

One chilly November morning, a gray squirrel was gathering food for the winter. He was a very gray gray squirrel, for he had seen many seasons come and go, and he knew just where to hide his winter food, safe from nosy groundhogs and thieving bluejays. Soon the winter snows would fall.
Presently, he came to a road that runs through the wood. He stopped on the edge of the road, flicking his tail nervously. Just then, he heard a loud voice, coming from high above, and he looked up to see a shiny black crow high on a branch overhead.

"CAW! Be careful friend, for a dangerous menace hurtles up and down this path, and it flattens any creature that gets in its way." The crow was hungry and quickly made a plan. "Wait, and I will watch  and tell you when it is safe to cross, for I have keen eyes and from my branch I can see very far."

The squirrel settled on his haunches beside the road. He arranged his tail into a question mark over his back and waited. He waited for what seemed like a very long time before the crow spoke again.

"Get ready!" the crow cawed and spread his wings. "Now! Now! Now!"

But the gray squirrel, instead of starting across the road, turned and looked up at the crow. "Thank you, kind crow!" he called, but his words were drowned out by the roar of a big black car that hurtled down the road just as he spoke. The disappointed crow flew off  and the gray squirrel scurried safely into the woods on the other side of the road.

Back in his warm den, the squirrel ate a feast of hickory nuts and some red berries that he had saved special to celebrate the beginning of winter. Then he burrowed into his nest and arranged his tail to keep his feet warm. The light was fading and he listened to the sound of the wind in the trees.

It is a good thing to always give thanks, he thought to himself and soon he was sound asleep.

Edd FullerText and photograph copyright 2016

Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the United States, and The Trackside Photographer will be taking the day off. Please check back on December 1st for the next new article.

Editor’s Notebook

Buchanan, Virginia – Johnson Family Residence – circa 1936

Place in Photography

“Place conspires with the artist. We are surrounded by our own story, we live and move in it. It is through place that we put out roots.” - Eudora Welty

This photo was taken by a member of my family around 1936. That is my grandfather in the middle with his hat on his knee. My mother is the blond-headed girl on the left, half in and half out of the frame. It would be another ten years before she would marry and I would come along.

Unlike so many family photographs that fill the frame with a person, this picture reveals the spirit of a place, and that is what makes this old photo special to me. The people in the photo are in context. Their life and the place where they lived it are visible. I knew this place. I remember sleeping in the attic room behind the dormer windows above the porch, and the rain on the tin roof.

The best photographs come when the photographer makes a connection to a place and responds to it. For us railroad photographers, that may mean backing up a bit to see the broader context, or going deeper to uncover the history and meaning of a place.

This came to mind recently while reading about two multiple-year photography projects.

Michael Froio wrote about his Pennsylvania Railroad project, From the Mainline, in an article which we published (here) on The Trackside Photographer last week . He writes:“My goal when I set out was to satisfy a curiosity, but what I think I have done is expand my use of photography to become part of a larger idea interpreting the social, industrial and railroad history in a creative and accessible way.”

And in the latest issue of Railroad Heritage, the quarterly journal of the Center for Railroad Photography and Art, Marc A Entze writes about his experience photographing an small Idaho short line over the course of a decade. In “To Fully Photograph a Place” (pp18-39) he tells how his experience with the railroad deepened over the years as his photography went beyond beautiful railroad scenery to find the soul of the place and the people who lived and worked there. The railroad is now gone.

My grandparents died in 1963 and their house was sold. A few years later, it burned down. Their place survives in a single photograph. I wish there were more.

 Edd Fuller, Editor
Your thoughts and comments are welcome

Editor’s Notebook

Orange County, Virginia
Orange County, Virginia
I love the smell of coal smoke. When I was a boy in the 1950s, my grandparents heated their house with coal, and that smell brings back many memories.

If there is no coal-fired locomotive handy, the next best thing is the working steam powered tractors at the annual Somerset Steam and Gas Pasture Party which I attended last weekend.

Steam power for agricultural use was introduced in 1849. A few years later, self propelled steam engines were available, but it was not until after the Civil War that steam power began to be widely used for farming.

Steam power increased the amount of land that could be farmed and began a revolution in farm labor that had been dependent on human and animal power for centuries. The massive tractors were able to plow and run threshing machines and corn cutters.

Because of their size and weight, often upwards of 30,000 pounds, the steam tractor was not suited for planting and cultivating. Horses were still needed for those tasks. In addition, the tractor was expensive to buy and maintain, and needed a knowledgeable operator. Farmers often pooled resources to buy a tractor which would service several farms.

After 1900, the use of steam power in agriculture declined, and by 1920, steam tractors were obsolete, replaced by the internal combustion engine.

The day in Somerset brought alive the technology of a bygone era, briefly visible through the mists of coal smoke and steam.

Edd Fuller

Editor’s notebook

Dunkum Store - Green Springs, Virginia - July, 2016
Dunkum Store – Green Springs, Virginia – July, 2016
At the crossing . . .
Grade crossings are among the most mundane aspects of the railroad landscape, but they are not without interest for photographers. 

So on a drizzly afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I decided to undertake a small project to photograph the grade crossings along the old Chesapeake and Ohio Piedmont Subdivision, which is not too far from my home. Chartered as the Louisa Railroad in 1836, the Piedmont Sub is the oldest section of C&O track. It extends from Richmond, Virginia to Charlottesville and the line is still in use today, operated by the regional shortline Buckingham Branch Railroad.

The old store at the crossing at Green Springs, Virginia has an interesting story to tell. Shortly after midnight, on April 15, 1914, Buck Dunkum was awakened by cries of "fire!" and looked out of his bedroom window to see his store engulfed in flame. Later that same morning, Victor Hall was shot in the head and lay fatally wounded in his general store, just across the tracks from the smoldering ruins of Dunkum's store. His wife, Elizabeth Hall, was charged with his murder and a sensational trial followed. 

Today, little remains of Green Springs. Rail passenger service ended in 1945 and the C&O demolished the Green Springs Depot and tore up the siding. Most of the other buildings, including the Hall house and store are gone. In 1914, Dunkum rebuilt his store on the original foundation and today it stands vacant next to the tracks at this lonely grade crossing.

Edd Fuller

We now have a Facebook page! Please take a minute to visit, like and share our page with friends.

The Trackside Photographer Facebook Page