Friday, October 1, 2010

The Rare and Remarkable Cars of Lynchburg

From rare antique touring cars to Edison2’s innovative, prize-winning Very Light Car, the Virginia Museum of Transportation celebrates Lynchburg automotive achievement on Saturday, October 23

The City of Lynchburg holds a unique place in Virginia’s automotive history, which the Virginia Museum of Transportation will celebrate on Saturday, October 23. Visitors will have the opportunity to see the Very Light Car developed by Lynchburg-based Edison2, which recently won the $5 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, as well as two rare antique vehicles built in Lynchburg in the early 20th century. To honor the city’s heritage, all Lynchburg residents will be admitted to the celebration free with ID. Admission for all other visitors will be discounted to $5 per person, tax included, for the day.

The award-winning Edison2 is a Lynchburg-based automotive innovation company led by Charlottesville developer and racing entrepreneur Oliver Kuttner. The Very Light Car, developed by the Edison2 team, was the only vehicle to survive the grueling Mainstream Class of the X PRIZE, in which cars were required to seat four passengers, travel at least 200 miles on a tank or charge, and meet stringent performance, handling and emissions standards, all while achieving over 100 MPGe. Based on the design principles of the Very Light Car, Edison2 seeks to develop a new market segment in the auto industry: lightweight, safe, aerodynamic cars that fit the wide-ranging needs of consumers.

The day also marks the grand unveiling of the Museum’s newest exhibit, an extremely rare 1923 Piedmont touring car. The Piedmont Motor Car Company was the only company chartered in Virginia to ever mass produce cars. The firm built an estimated 1,500 cars between 1917 and 1923. Today, only three are known to exist. The 1923 Piedmont has been donated to the Museum by the Star City Motor Madness Committee to become the centerpiece of the Museum’s car collection as its only Virginia-made car. For the celebration event, the Museum’s vehicle, which is in its original condition, will be joined by a second—a fully restored 1919 Piedmont—on loan from Steve Puckette of Forest, VA.

Additional antique automobiles that once might have shared the road with the Piedmont will be parked in front of the Museum, courtesy of the Roanoke Valley Region Antique Automobile Club of America. Also on display will be the car designed by the Virginia Western Community College’s Baja Team which was the top finishing team among community college competitors and the top finishing Virginia college at this year’s SAE International Mini Baja Competition in Rochester, NY. Additional activities are planned throughout the day. For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit

The Museum gratefully acknowledges the generous assistance of Edison2, Advance Auto Parts, BB&T, Chas. Lunsford Sons & Associates, Wells Fargo Bank, WSET, the Lynchburg Museum System, Steve Puckette, the Roanoke Valley Region Antique Automobile Club of America, VIRginia International Raceway, and Virginia Western Community College.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fall 2010 NRHS Rail Excursions

This fall, the Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society is offering two remarkable day trips, perfect for savoring the colors of the region’s autumn leaves. The Chapter is hosting two roundtrip Amtrak train excursions: the first on Saturday, November 6 to Danville, VA, and the second on Sunday, November 7 to Bluefield, WV. With trips only offered one weekend each year, tickets are expected to sell out well before the excursion weekend.

Both trips originate in Roanoke from the former Norfolk & Western passenger station in Downtown Roanoke, now home to the O. Winston Link Museum and the Roanoke Valley Visitors Center. While on board, passengers can relax and enjoy the comfort of roomy Amtrak coaches. Seats in privately owned deluxe dome and lounge cars are also available.

On Saturday, November 6, the excursion will travel via Moneta and Chatham to the beautifully restored 1899 Southern Railway Station in historic Danville. Passengers will have the opportunity to visit the Danville Science Center located at the station, or enjoy shuttle transportation to visit Civil War sites around Danville, the “Last Capitol of the Confederacy.” Food options will be available. The train will return to Roanoke on a slightly different route via Altavista, Lynchburg and Bedford.

On Sunday, November 7, passengers will enjoy mountain railroading at its finest, traveling through remote reaches of the Virginia countryside en route to Bluefield, WV. Always a favorite, this excursion will feature spectacular scenery as the train climbs Christiansburg Mountain, follows the New River for 38 miles, and passes through the Narrows of the New River before climbing the final grade into Bluefield. Several dining options will be available In Bluefield only a block away from the train station.

Tickets are $145 for adults and $95 for children in coach. Dome class tickets are $275 and lounge class is $215. For more information or to order tickets, call (540) 774-0611 or visit

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Beautiful Shenandoah

The Fall 2009 NRHS Excursions are over, and hopefully everyone had a good time. I was not able to make either trip, but was able to get some photos of the Sunday run up the Shenandoah Line. The trestle movie is at Stoney Battery Road, and the bridge photos were taken at Natural Bridge Station, VA. Three GE Genesis units for power, and 17 cars consisting of 6 privately owned cars and 11 Amfleet coaches. The one car with the flat spot on the wheel made it easy to tell when the train was on the approach as it went over a bridge. You could hear it for miles!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Too long without an update, so here goes. The "Lost Engines of Roanoke" are lost no longer! VMT received the M2c 1151 and a tender,and the Baldwin DS44-660 #662. The M2 1118 and a tender are going to the Portsmouth (VA) Railroad Museum. The other Baldwin, #663 is at the Roanoke Chapter of the NRHS's 9th Street facility, and they traded the M2 1134 for their tank engine with Will Harris. Will also got the flat car with a tender body on it. All the tenders had been converted to tankers for MoW service, and the two larger ones were used until 1970.

Most of you know that the 917 went to Ohio last year, and it has been cosmetically restored as an attraction for a roadside resturant in Bellbrook, Oh.

Some answers for Mike, who had a few queries about the 1151. 1) The 1151 is sitting outside the fence because that is the only place we could put it for now. Two of the tracks inside the plant are in dire need of repair, and can hold no more rolling stock, and the other three tracks are full. It would have taken a large amount of engineering to get the cranes inside the fence to place the 1151 on the track due to ground conditions, and overhead restrictions. We are not too worried about someone wanting to 'tag' the engine because the paint will just help to preserve it. As you observed, there is not much left to take off of it, so that's not a problem either, but we did secure the cab and the auger space on the tender to eliminate the bums moving in. 2) The Southern Auto-Guard car that used to occupy the spot where the 1151 sits is now at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. We gave it to them because it never ran in Virginia, and they can do a better job (they have the room) of displaying it. 3) We did receive many parts that were removed from the 1151 many years ago, but the rods and pumps are sadly mostly gone. It may look bad as it is, but can be cosmetically restored without too much trouble. The guys over at the NRHS can do miracles with steel, and are in the process of doing a cosmo on the 1118 for Portsmouth. They will also do a cosmo on the 662, and maybe later we can get together and do the 1151. It will just take a while longer to round up, or manufacture parts to make it whole again. But for now, enjoy the view of the inside of the smokebox, because not many times do you get to see that. We will keep you up to date on the progress of the cosmo of 1118, but it will be some time before it is done. I give them at least six months, then it has to be trucked in two parts and put back together, and the finishing touches put on.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Return

Two announcements to make today. One, the VMT Blog is once again in active status. It has been a long while since the last post, and we apologize for that, but now the time has come to get serious about this medium. We'll be posting on a regular basis with more of a bent towards the news of the transportation world, be it happenings at the VMT, or things that happen on the mainline, the airways, the highway, or the high seas.

And since we are now in that mode, here is announcement #2. The "Lost Engines of Roanoke" are on their way to freedom from the scrap-yard where they have been ensconced lo these fifty plus years. As some of you know, old #917 was liberated last year, and is now a roadside attraction in Ohio. Steam engines #1118, 1135, and 1151, along with diesels 662 and 663, and two tenders and a flatcar will be coming out by September 30, 2009, to make way for the Carrilion Hospital/Bio-Med Center expansion. The old mill is currently being demolished, and is about 70% down, and as soon as a temporary surface can be put down, work will commence on removing the Lost Engines. In the meantime, we have a couple of photos to share with you taken in the early springtime, before the vegetation takes over.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Twice

‘Tis the season both to shop for Christmas and to make those end-of-the-year charitable contributions. Here is a way you can do both kinds of giving with one stop.

The VMT museum gift shop, Destinations, offers a great selection of special items for the transportation aficionados in your world. In addition, every dollar you spend there helps the museum.

Destinations stocks a delightful variety of gifts: T-shirts, sweatshirts and caps for the grownups and the young’uns. Calendars, mugs and clocks. An electic selection of videos, dvds and cds.

You’ll find puzzles, games and and throws (including one featuring the J611). A variety of toys including colorful, large wooden trucks that children can both assemble and then operate.

There are Christmas decorations and key chains. Badges and playing cards. Prints and posters and postcards. Magnets and maps.

And how could we forget the books? Books with rosters of locomotives and rolling stock. Books of railroad timetables. Coffee-table-sized picture books about trains and other types of transportation. Histories of various railroads in Virginia, the South, and across the U.S. Books that entertain or inform or inspire or all three.

The VMT museum store features products made in the USA. When you purchase one of our Made in USA products, you are helping the museum and helping to keep jobs in America.

Shopping for a child? Think beyond Thomas. We carry a line of beautifully made wooden engines and cars that are totally compatible with Thomas and Brio. Made in the USA and painted with lead-free paint, they are painted to look like real train cars. Children who are thrilled by the trains that rumble through Roanoke can now have the same NS or CSX cars on their home track.

Come on by. Or call the gift shop at 767-4651. Or roll on over to: You can ord-er items and have them shipped to your address. Make your trip to the VMT gift shop a challenge. See how many people on your Christmas gift list can be taken care of with one stop.

Destinations is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 1-5 pm. Come in VMT’s main entrance and turn to the right. You do not have to purchase museum admission just to shop. Of course, if while you're there you find this irresistible urge ....

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Collections and Connections

This and that:

The Messimer Collection has had its grand opening. Housed in the front of the museum, near the gift shop, the exhibit displays an abundance of Greyhound bus memorabilia covering three-quarters of a century. The exhibit also includes Trailways items, a full size front of an Abbott Trailways bus and photos of local transit buses provided by the Commonwealth Coach and Trolley Museum of Roanoke.

Located in the same area is a new display celebrating Roanoke’s “other” railroad, the Virginian Railway. Though much smaller than the Norfolk and Western, the Virginian competed neck-and-neck with the N&W hauling West Virginia coal to Norfolk. The two railroads merged in 1959. This area is not finished. We plan to do a formal opening once the storyboards are completed and mounted.


VMT is in negotiations with two other Virginia museums regarding the N&W locomotives at the Virginia Scrap Iron and Metal Company property. Hopefully the remaining vintage steam locos can be salvaged through a cooperative effort. We’ll keep you posted.

This week the museum unveils the Jim Hyams serigraph collection. Serigraphs are prints made using the silkscreen process. The result is highly detailed paints of an almost photographic quality. Afterward the screens are destroyed, limiting the print run to a small number, sometimes only one.

The collection is being displayed at VMT in conjunction with the Roanoke Arts Festival and will remain there through the end of the year. The transportation-related serigraphs were produced by some of the premier artists in the genre.


Soon we will feature a locomotive cab inside our building. Norfolk Southern donated the cab after converting an SD-40 diesel electric into a “calf,” a unit that cannot be operated solo but is lashed together with other locomotives to provide additional power. The six-axle SD40 was manufactured by General Motors' Electro-Motive Division beginning in 1966 and became the best-selling locomotive of all time.

The cab should be in place early in 2009. It will allow visitors to experience the inside of a diesel loco. In the future we hope to add a locomotive simulator to our collection.

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