Tuesday, July 31, 2007


A, and J, and Y, one time drove on gilded rails;
Drove on rails that traced the dales that trembled as they assailed.
"Where are you going and what will you find?" the old moon asked the three.
"We've come to pull the coal and kind that live in this beautiful valley.
Cars of iron and steel have we," said A, and J, and Y.

The old moon laughed and sang a song as they rocked on the gilded rails.
And the fires that sped them all night long shook the hills and dales.
Now the little stars are the coal and kind that live in the beautiful valley;
"Load your cars wherever you wish. Never afraid are we!"
So cried the stars to the steam engines three - A, and J, and Y.

So all night long their cars they loaded with the stars from the twinkling dome.
'Til out from the skies went the gilded rails bringing the steam engines home.
'Twas all so pretty a drive it seemed as if it could not be.
Some folks say 'twas a dream they dreamed of driving those rails so free.
But I shall name you the steam engines three - A, and J, and Y.

Now A and J are resting at home, but Y is still abroad.
And the gilded rails that traced the dales are worn where these giants trod.
But close your eyes and think a bit of the sight that yet may be
When all have come home o'er rails and dales, and share each other's company
Where were born the steam engines three - A, and J, and Y.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Going home

The Nickel Plate locomotive #763 has been on constant display at the Virginia Museum of Transportation, and its former self, the Roanoke Transportation Museum for more than forty years. Yesterday, #763 backed away from the museum and headed down Norfolk Southern's main line, ultimately bound for its home in Ohio.

The museum offered half-price admission for the day, not only to bring some extra bodies in the door, but also to be fair to people who showed up expecting to have full access to the rail yard, finding most of it cordoned off with caution tape.

We won't waste any more time with text. Here are some photos and a video from the day. Enjoy.

*Note: As of 7/27, we are having technical difficulties in uploading photo and video content. As soon as these issues are resolved, this post will be updated with the appropriate media.*

Friday, July 13, 2007

Transform and roll out

As we mentioned some time ago, #763 is leaving us for greener pastures. The date of this move will be Tuesday, July 24th, starting around 10:00 am.

This is shaping up to be an exercise in rolling stock logistics. There are quite a few pieces of equipment stacked behind #763 that will need to be pulled out first before the Berkshire can move. To add some confusion, we'll be moving around several other cars and locomotives, too, as #763's departure will leave a 100' gap in the line. At present we're considering moving more than one locomotive into its place underneath the Claytor Pavilion.

The questions of interpretation and relevance come up. The museum's collection prominently features a lot of rail equipment from Virginia, but there are also some odd balls that never ran here, such as #763. Among these, we have another Nickel Plate engine in the collection that fits that description, along with one of the original motorized mules used on the Panama Canal, and a set of three mining cars used in a mine in New Jersey. While each of these pieces tells a story of its own, we once again have to ascertain their role in Virginia's transportation heritage. Those pieces needing the most care and protection, and which hold the most significant roles in Virginia's rail history are the items that logically should be under cover.

This is likely to be an all-day affair, so if you're going to be in town, you won't want to miss a rare event like a moving steam locomotive on the Norfolk Southern main line. The engine will be pulled east to Norfolk Southern's shops for an inspection. As soon as it has been cleared, it will be pulled out of town to Ohio to be restored to working order. We'll have photos posted from the move to post here, so be sure to check back.

If you're coming to see this take place, we strongly recommend calling the museum first to make sure that the event is a go. Because Norfolk Southern is providing the crew and equipment to make all of this possible, and because it's their main line we'd be occupying for a few hours, if they have other business needs that day, the event may be postponed. Please call the museum at (540) 342-5670 for that information.

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Monday, July 2, 2007

We're still here

July is a peculiar month for Independence Days. We employ the plural form here because in addition to the United States, Venezuela, Peru, Belgium, and Argentina all celebrate their Independence Days in July. Moreover, Canada became a nation in July, and Idaho and Wyoming became states. So July is a month full of anniversaries of new beginnings. Your Virginia Museum of Transportation has an odd sort of anniversary coming up, too.

It was a dark and stormy night in July, you see, when Mother Nature visited the First Bank of VMT, withdrew 10,000 square feet of roof and deposited 1,000 gallons of rain water. This shut down the museum for two weeks in the heart of our busy season. At nearly the same time, our former Executive Director resigned under controversy about misappropriation of funds. Many of our volunteers jumped ship, and we couldn't really blame them.

But, here comes July again and we're still open. On a personal note, this comes as a bit of a surprise to this blogger, and to many people, I have no doubt. In the past year, we lost our roof and our director, our Director of Education resigned, a man ran into our building with his truck, we had to call the bomb squad not once, but twice, saw our phone and internet lines cut for more than a week, had a small electrical fire in one of the walls, had a burglar break into the museum looking for cash, and discovered the ugly reality that was our exploding debt.

That's a lot of doom and gloom for one paragraph, so let's not belabor the point. In the same year, we've repaired that roof, hired a new Executive Director, paid off every penny of our debt, developed new and healthy relationships with other transportation museums and organizations, seen our volunteer corps grow in size from a handful to dozens, acquired a miniature locomotive for kids and adults to ride, and opened a brand new gallery showcasing automobiles from nearly every decade of the Twentieth Century.

The point is, we're still here. That makes it an anniversary worth celebrating.

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