50th Anniversary Reflections

Blue Ridge NRHS

Roy Evans

From a former member - Roy A. Evans (1979-2006)

I joined the Blue Ridge Chapter back in 1979. I had been invited by a guy named Wayland Moore, whom I had met while helping with the Blue Ridge Model Railroad group that built the layout in the back of the original Trains Unlimited shop.  I didn’t know another single person at the first chapter meeting that I attended. Wayland came by to say hello and welcome, but that was about all the attention that I got that night. No one was rude, but I had never felt so out of place.

That was almost 30 years ago. God, how the time has flown!  In those passing 30 years, I have made many dear friends of those members of the chapter. These are friendships that I will value until the day that I take that last train pic on this planet, and pass on to the digital world afterwards. It used to be the Kodachrome world, but that is so 20th century (just kidding, Rick). I would not trade anything for these friendships that I have.

Lee Hawkins and I got acquainted while going through Lamaze classes with our wives during the days leading up to the births of our second children, and our friendship is a strong one. We have spent many, many Saturdays out railfannin’ and still do get out quite often.  I am very sure that if I had not met Tom Ledford, visits to Yankee Stadium probably would never have happened for me.  I am a big Yankees fan, but not of Manhattan driving. Now, Tom is another story. He becomes Abdul, Muhammad, Momar, and any other Manhattan taxi drivers’ names that you might come up with, once he exits the Lincoln or Holland Tunnels and hits the island. Rick Johnson, Skip Hansberry, David Leonard, Norris Deyerle, Lee, and one of my most favorite people ever, Marshall ”Pothole” Griffin,  were some of the best long distance trip mates that a man could ever ask for.

A great time was always had on these trips over the years, starting back in 1985. Place names like Hagans, Jasper, Watkins, Dante, Horseshoe, Benny, Lily, Altoona, Cassandra, Cold Spring, Breakneck Tunnel, Bayview Junction, Toronto, Nelsonville, Ashland, Huntington and Huntingdon, Hancock, Cherry Run, Sand Patch, and others hold a dear spot in my memories. Nothing could be any better than sitting in the Alley Cats stadium in Charleston, W. Va. and watching a minor league baseball game with great friends, with CSX and Amtrak trains running by only a few feet behind the center and right field walls!

Trips closer to home included ones to the RF&P with some of those aforementioned people along with Jeff Thaxton.  A day at Ruther Glen, when it was so cold that camera shutters were freezing! The group spent a lot of that day huddled close to the ground trying to keep the wind away and trying to stay at least a little warm. It didn’t work too well.

Another trip that I will always remember was one that Jeff, Skip, and I took down on the Seaboard System and down below Skippers, we began pacing alongside a southbound hotshot pig train at 86 MPH! The Volvo was in the wind! The engineer had his foot up on the side cab window as relaxed as he could be.  

A trip up to Allegheny and A Cabin in the extreme cold and snow enabled me to see my first unit in the brand new CSX TRANSPORTATION paint scheme, one of only two that I got to see.

The late 70’s and early 80’s brought out the best in steam with 611 and  1218, and then throw in 4501, 2839, 610, 614, 2101, 2716, 722, 750, and others that I am sure that I have missed.  Many weekends were filled with chases of these magnificent machines. I can even remember Rick Johnson being impressed with 1218 when it came into view for the first time around a curve a little west of Montvale.

Of course, there were some interesting times on these trips over the years. There was a flat tire on my 1976 Chevrolet Laguna on Rte. 622 at Haden on CSX.  There was another flat tire from a windshield wiper blade picked up in a bank parking lot at Troutville. An antenna was lost in a grouse that decided to fly over the car at the most inopportune time on our way up to Tuckahoe on CSX near White Sulphur Springs. Yes, it was stuck through the grouse the last time we saw it as the bird flew away!  

Another fateful trip occurred when the car decided to cut off at Opal. Va. While preparing to chase Savannah & Atlanta 750 over the “B” line from Manassas to Front Royal. We were able to push it into the Exxon station there, where the mechanic was able to finally get it started. We had to tape over the ignition switch, so that I would not turn the car off. It ran that entire day until I got home, and then remembered that the wires leading to the neutral safety switch on the column had come off, just as they had done a year earlier. DOH!

Then, there was Old Blue! Now, that was a railfan vehicle! Lee’s old Chevy wagon took us on many adventures, either with our kids in the back or a bunch of the guys. But, Old Blue had its share of misfortunes during these outings. Losing a tailpipe at OX Cabin (with Lee thinking it was a snake when he saw it in the rear view mirror), having to take out a thermostat and getting water from a creek near Hematite to refill the system, and having to get a new $ 73.00 battery in Kingsport after a day of not being able to turn the car off (I see a pattern here), only to have it cut off because Lee decided to move it to the other side of the road at Watkins. We found out what true hospitality was that day as we received a jump start in Pennington Gap at a Hardees, and later a man that lived at Watkins did everything in the world to get us back on the road after the car had died, including removing and checking the starter from the car, and later pulling the battery from his own car to get us back on the road.

Lee and I went to the first N&W Historical Society convention in Old Blue. It was held in Norfolk. On the way down, we decided to check a signal somewhere on the 52 mile tangent. As we crossed the tracks, the signal changed. Well, we thought we had something coming. But as we returned across the tracks, the signal changed again. Yep, it was Old Blue! The car was, in some way, changing the signal. We did it several times and each time with the same result.

Well, I guess that is enough of the reminiscing for now.  Garland has only so much room to work with.  I will always cherish the friendships made in the chapter, and will miss those of our group that left this world while still members. I still think of Henry Cake’s spill when I visit my brother-in-law down at Abilene, and when I pass the Bedford Moose Lodge. Pothole, Andy Ponton, Macon Carwile, Dick Myers, and others come to mind from time to time, especially ol’ Pothole. There will never be another like him.

I hope you have enjoyed my little trip down my memory lane. Due to my job situation, I had to drop out of the chapter, but I still consider every member a friend and I know more memories will be made in the future that will include some of those friends. I think that when it comes down to it, for me the trains were always secondary. The camaraderie was always primary, because we always had fun whether we saw one train or ten!