ARRIVAL: CHFR #2 at Winchester

Posted on September 16th, 2012, by Michael Rountree

The regular power for the Culpeper turn was unavailable (normally provided by Southern Railway), as there was a special movement off of the twice-weekly schedule. Accordingly, WP&P sent RS-11 #261 to trundle down the line south of Boyce and pick it up. I heard about this just in time to get down to Winchester Station and see the short train arrive. Incidentally, Winchester Station was just recently restored, and I think it looks kinda good!

Engine 261 arrival at Winchester

You can see that the ghastly cupola that some former station owner had added at one point in time is sitting on the dock, waiting for a flat car to arrive and haul it off I suppose. That thing totally changed the character of the old station, I’m glad it’s back to its original state.

A short train

This short train was just a pair of empty covered hoppers, perhaps needed for sand service up in Oxmore, once the line reaches there. More on that later. Then there were two long boxcars, one with the WP&P’s slogan and another that I saw before, when it first graced these rails. At the end was a bay window caboose, though not one belonging to N&W or SOU or anyone else that I recognized, for that matter. SOU does not keep any cabeese stationed in Culpeper and thus ordinarily WP&P would need to bring one light when it came to retrieve these cars. A few quick phone calls confirmed that CH&FR number 2 was laying over in Culpeper at the time, and indeed was part of the manifest! 261’s crew was confused a bit, thinking that they had a working caboose waiting at the other end, and thus left without dragging any red shack.

CH&FR #2, though, was operating as a passenger car, in essence. Its three passengers (two young men and a dog) were willing to share their space with Mr. Keith Pemrunning, the WP&P conductor.

At the station

After the train came to a stop, they all got off and started taking a look around the station. As old as she was, there has been some settling of the foundation, Keith explained. Soon, a very expensive process of lifting it will take place – a five-pronged crane will lift it up out of the hole that it sits in, some fill dirt will be placed, and then the entire station will be set back down, thus bringing the platform height up above the railhead. The boys were flabbergasted to learn that a heavy stone building like this could just be lifted as one piece, but Mr. Pemrunning assured them this was so.

One of the boys, lacking all manner of tact, asked why things looked so junky around here, but good Mr. Pemrunning just laughed and shrugged. “Boys,” he said, “You’ve reach the very end of the world out here! This is right where God is still in the business of creation, and if I took you any further up the line, well then, you’d fall plum off the edge of the planet!”

Naturally, this got their full attention.

They exclaimed that this was simply something that they had to see. Indeed, their whole purpose in making their cross-country trek was to see new and unique sights. Soon, both their mouths were moving too fast for Keith to follow, and even the dog started barking in chorus with them. So he gave in, and called in the yard switcher to help move the caboose.

I have heard rumor that the engineer of old #42 is, in fact, a zombie, but that might just be due to his taciturn nature. In any case, he just grunted when the boys said hello and waved, while he nudged the ALCo up and tacked on to the caboose. Keith then went to uncouple, but the eager boys raced ahead of him, saying that they knew what they were doing. After uncoupling, they all hopped on board, and engineer Sean tugged them back to the A/D crossover, then forward down the drill track past the yard lead. Keith was impressed that the boys knew all these terms, and that they even pointed out the cribbing on the right side as they passed by. These young men are real railroad men, he thought to himself.

Engine 42 couples on

All Aboard the end of the world express!

They followed the drill as far as it went, which it turns out wasn’t much further than the nose end of the train they just came in on. “That’s it boys, that’s the end of the line for the End Of The World Express!” said the conductor. The boys grumbled that they could have walked here. “I know, I guess that’s just my version of a joke. We railroad folk ain’t known for our wit, I s’ppose.”

In truth, it was more like the end of the track, as the world’s edge was a bit further west, and would require a hike. “Tracklayers will be out here soon, maybe if you’re lucky they’ll get to work before you have to leave,” Mr. Pemrunning said. “But if you really want to see the world under construction, then follow me, we’ll hike up the route as far as we can. It sure is a sight to see!”

Leaving teh caboose behind

Leaving the caboose behind, they all walked on the bare earth, which looked like it had a wood grain to it. “Yup, that’s real wood,” Keith explained. “Under all the bedrock, there’s strata of wood, if you can believe that. Not just flat pieces, either, sometimes it’s giant piece like scaffolds – we call ’em risers.”

Up The Line

The boys were shocked to see… nothing! In between the risers and the flat wood, there was simply empty air. “You boys are growing up now,” observed the conductor. “I think you’re old enough to learn that our world is built on nothing, nothing at all. Dig down deep enough and, well, you’ve dug too far. Let that be a lesson to you both.”

The World is Built On Nothing

Finally they found themselves at the end of the embankment, staring off into a black abyss. “Right about here, a big old steel bridge is gonna get built, one day. You’ll have to come back and see it, if you can.” Both said that they would love to.

When they got back to their caboose, Keith asked “You young men have a place to stay while you’re here?” They explained that the caboose was their home, as they roamed around. “I see,” Mr. Pemrunning nodded. “Shall I leave it parked here for you then? There’s a phone in the station if you need anything.”  He went on to explain that #261 and her train would be idling here, as well, since all her cargo had waybills through to Oxmore. “That line we just walked is actually the line up to the state line. Oxmore’s the last stop in Virginia, once we get that line built. Shouldn’t be long now.”

Goodbye #42

With accommodations agreed upon, they went out to #42’s engineer, who had nodded off. Keith told the boys to uncouple, while he instructed Sean to return #42 and himself back to the enginehouse. After bidding goodbye, the boys had some fun climbing over the panel-track turnout that was awaiting a crane, and they took turns rolling down the earthen embankment, which was of unusually soft soil.

And then, they remembered that NSN #2011 had been left with them. As they recollected, when seen before it had been used for the transport of some “adult beverages.” And yet, its doors seemed to be firmly locked. This left them with something to think about, all night long…

Beer in the Boxcar?

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