Driving into town on a rain splattered spring morning, Clifton Forge looks like dozens of other small towns scattered about the mountains of western Virginia. The only clue to the town’s past is a small sign pointing the way to the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Heritage Center.
Clifton Forge was once a booming railroad town. In the early 19th century, a settlement grew up along the Jackson River between Slaughter Pen Hollow and Smith Creek which eventually became known as Clifton Forge. Read more
Railroads have long been known for doing things their own way. Often, this is quite contrary to the way things are done in other industries, and is perhaps even contradictory to logic. “Peculiar” would be a good word to describe the idiosyncrasies of railroads. But this is part of what endears the railroad to those of us afflicted with the love of the steel wheel upon the steel rail.
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
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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