Friends, one of the questions that I’ve asked myself over the years is why I and many others build models. A few years ago it occurred to me that, as a research psychologist, I know how to go about answering that question. If you’d be willing to help me out, I have a survey online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DNX3QKB. If you, too are a model builder and could spare about 30 minutes to complete the survey, I’d really appreciate it.
This is me. For what it’s worth, I’m a 50-something-year-old psychology professor at Shepherd University. My specialty is human memory and cognition and I very much enjoy learning how and why humans remember (or forget) the things they do. I’ve got two great sons. The oldest has his own apartment nearby and the youngest lives with me half the time.
This site is the result of a long evolution in my approach to railroads, both prototype and model. My family had property in Louisa County, about 4 miles east of Gordonsville and about ¼ mile from the Doctors Road grade crossing. To reach our property we had to pass through Gordonsville. I always wanted to stop and take photos of the C&O passenger depot in Gordonsville — it looked very impressive and “railroady” to my 12-year-old eyes — but I never could get my folks to stop. I also used to walk from our place to the grade crossing on Doctor’s Road. That’s where my interest in the C&O was born. As the photo below shows, it’s still a pretty isolated place (though there’s now a general store just out of view to the right). In 1970 it looked a lot more like my model of it, shown in the photo on the right. I’d spend hours there, doing whatever it is kids do when they’re alone with no toys. And then, sometimes, a train would come through...
I still have hazy memories of C&O trains roaring past. Big blue diesels with C&O on their flanks in yellow. Long strings of freight cars followed at last by a blue caboose. Sheer heaven. At least, I think that’s what I saw. Sometimes I could swear I saw yellow cabooses. It’s all kind of hazy now and I’m not really sure. I really wish that just once it had occurred to me to take my little Kodak Instamatic camera with me. I also seem to recall that the Gordonsville depot was gray when I saw it, but in all the pictures I ever seen it was white. As Barbara Kingsolver once wrote, “Memory is a complicated thing...”
I built all kinds of models when I was a kid. Lots of planes and cars and some railroad models. I even had a layout that my Dad built me on a sheet of plywood. When I hit high school, I gave up on model railroading and spent my time learning to play folk guitar and being rejected by girls. I was in my late 20’s when I finally got back to the hobby. I originally intended to be a free-lancer, but my fictional railroad was going to have strong ties to the C&O and an interchange in Gordonsville — I wanted to model that station. It took about 12 years of constantly making up stronger and stronger relationships between my fictional railroad and the C&O before I realized that what I really wanted to do was to model the C&O as I saw it in the early 70’s. So, I combed through all my C&O sources and culled out whatever I could find on the Piedmont Sub. After having done that, it seemed that it might be fun to share it with everybody else. So, in 1997 I put everything I had online. That was the origin of this site. I’m also hoping to make contact with others interested in the C&O in central Virginia. I hope you enjoy the site. Stop back often — I always add more material as I get it.
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