Several years ago, I lost patience waiting around for a train to photograph and started to pay more attention to the landscape that the tracks run through. I became absorbed in the things that surround the railroad, and that the railroad alters and defines as it passes through. So absorbed, in fact, that trains occasionally rumbled by un-photographed.
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.
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