Member Articles

Blue Ridge NRHS

“If you will just remove your luggage for the evening, I’ll be glad to take your car from this point on.” I remember thinking that the last time someone in a noticeable uniform said that to me, I was checking into a hotel I later discovered was far too expensive for a Presbyterian minister to afford. Nevertheless, my three fellow Florida vacationers and I all bailed out of my Mercury, grabbed our necessary overnight items in a scurry, and headed inside. The scene could be commonplace, except that this was no exclusive downtown hotel with valet parking. We had arrived at Sanford, Florida, the terminus for our overnight spree back to our Virginia homes.

Union Station. Washington, D.C. June 3, 2005. Open knuckles rushed together. The draft gear did its best to cushion the rather substantial blow. Meanwhile, I couldn’t help but think to myself just how flexible an Amtrak customer has to be these days – literally. That the holster misjudged his distance-to-coupling was but one of a handful of bumps along our way up the Northeast Corridor, our bumpy meteor flight over the seaboard.

 The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway's 2004 season ended on Thursday, December 30. This was the 13-mile tourist line's seventh year carrying passengers between Blue Ridge, Georgia and Copperhill, Tennessee, along the banks of the Toccoa River in northwest Georgia. It was a record year passenger-wise, but it remains to be seen if it was a profitable year.

My earliest childhood memories are of steam locomotives struggling up the long hill behind our house near Pittsburgh, PA, on the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Panhandle Division mainline that ran westward from Pittsburgh to St. Louis. The unfamiliar sounds of whistles and staccato exhaust were foreign and frightening to me, particularly when they woke me at three o'clock in the morning. The railroad behind our house was a great mystery, a place of strange noises made by strange beasts at all hours of the day and night. 

Usually our machines simply do what we build them to do. But every now and then, they remind us how to live.

Throughout the early 80’s, the New Orleans chapter of the NRHS coordinated with the Southern Railway to operate several steam excursions between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi – a 225 mile roundtrip.   Like many in the hobby, I owe my deep love of trains to my father, and during my younger years we greatly enjoyed our riding together on these wonderful day-long steam marathons.

Reprinted from the December 2004 Blue Ridge Dispather

   It is probably sate to say that everyone reading this publication whom considers his or herself a railroad enthusiast has at least thought about working for the railroad. Even non-railfans have entertained the vision of being in the engineer’s seat of a long freight or first class varnish. When most people discover my intense enthusiasm for railroading, they often ask “With your knowledge and enthusiasm for railroading, why aren’t you working for a railroad?” When I completed college back in the seventies, putting forth an effort to achieve railroad employment was a priority. Resume’s were mailed, contacts were contacted and a positive gungho attitude prevailed. All I received in the mail were those typical corporate “Thanks for your interest in our company we will contact you if we need you.” I never landed a job with a railroad but I did with the federal government many years later.

{reprinted from the October 2005 Blue Ridge Dispatcher}

 A few years back I commented that one of the most common subjects I hear discussed at model railroad events and prototype rail fan functions is the future of the hobby and attracting more new members to keep organizations such as the NRHS vibrant and progressive. Last fall a Roanoke Chapter member voiced a parallel concern for his Chapter since many senior members of being called home by the Creator and with age and health issues preventing others from doing what they once could. National Director E. Norris Deyerle of our sister Blue Ridge Chapter, NRHS, expressed his personal concern on this issue within the pages of the Blue Ridge Dispatcher, June, 2005, edition. I personally do not have an answer to this issue, but I will offer some commentary.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002, dawned cold and rainy in north Georgia. I was up at 5 a.m. for the one-and-a-half hour drive north to Blue Ridge where I would meet Carl, the Georgia Northeastern Railroad engineer I would be working with that day. I had taken a day off from my full-time job in Atlanta to work on the weekly "log train" the GNRR ran between Blue Ridge to Tate, 42 miles south.

It was another beautiful autumn weekend on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. We made history this weekend. Well, at least we made local history. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution might not find it that remarkable. We ran our train (two engines and six passenger cars) south from Blue Ridge, Georgia to the tiny community of Cherry Log, GA. It was the first passenger train to stop at Cherry Log in over 60 years, and even then, Cherry Log was only a flag stop. Trains only stopped if passengers needed to board or disembark. However, unlike those trains of old we came to Cherry Log with 200 passengers and they were all getting off.

I received my first Lionel model train in 1954, the year my sister was born. The day Mom arrived home from the hospital, I came home from school to find a new baby sister, two diesel engines, several freight cars, and a caboose. I immediately suspected that something was up.

It was unfortunate that I received the train the same day I met my sister for the first time. It forced me to make a decision, a choice that no seven-year-old should have to make. Should I go see my new sister or my new train? The choice was simple; I played with the train.