Ridin’ the Rails in Buckingham

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A view of the James from James River State Park

Swampy land leading up to the James in James River State Park

A flower

Cows along the James

Lily Pads in a small pond in James River State Park

One of the bad guys on the Buckingham Branch Railway.

Shooting the bad guys

Just another day in Virginia (photo by Col)

The train

The train again.

Shale near the tracks

The James

The James

The James

The engine

The road to who-knows-where took us to Buckingham County today.

We stopped at the James River State Park, featuring more than 15 miles of trails, plus canoeing, camping and fishing. We were directed by the ranger at the entrance to a route that would have given us a great observation deck view of the James, but we headed west instead of east. That meant we ran through a swampy path that let us see the river up close and personal.

The James spans the southern portion of the state, starting in the Appalachian Mountains and running nearly 350 miles before flowing into the Chesapeake Bay in Hampton Roads. Probably one of the important waterways in early U.S. history, it was used by Native Americans (they call it the Powhatan River), earlier settlers (i.e. Jamestown), adventurers pushing west, and soldiers in the revolutionary and civil wars. It became less important as a transportation route as trains chugged across the area.

After our run, we got to experience one of those trains as we took a three-hour excursion on the Buckingham Branch Railroad. Train enthusiasts might get a kick out of the story of how Bob Bryant bought the 275 miles of track in 1989 for less than $100,000 and managed to turn it into a profitable business. For us, it was a bumpy but fun ride from Dyllwyn to Clifton Heights on an open-air car mostly through woods and patches of shale Col wanted to gather for a backyard deck. There was a quick stop to view a hooky western show, complete with a shoot-out and a few dead bodies. Col posted a photo of assorted “dead” bodies to Faceback with the cutline “Just another day in Virginia.”

The turnaround was a bridge that went across the James. On the bridge, one of the guys policing the train let me get in front on him so I could snap a photo. He struck up a conversation with Col. On the way back, we probably learned more about the politics of the area than we really wanted to know, including an ongoing fight to stop a pipeline being built, a hazardous waste site that continues contaminate ground water, and those damn Yankees moving to the area to be close to Charlottesville, about 60 miles to the north.

The train runs tourist trips a few weekends in the spring and fall and also a Santa Train in November (maybe with an elfin shoot-out?). It starts out in the largest town in the county, Dyllwyn, population 477. The only store downtown a lit on a Saturday afternoon was the liquor store.

The county itself, founded in 1761, has a population of just over 17,000. It houses a large maximum security prison. And, while we did not visit, it is also the home of Yogaville.

117 runs down, 15 to go

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