Recently, a friend was visiting me from Maryland and wanted to go to the Virginia Museum of Transportation. I was keen on doing that since I had heard Bev Fitzpatrick speak of the museum a few months earlier. We went for our visit on a cloudy Saturday afternoon. There were a fair number of folks wandering through the exhibits, but not so many that it seemed crowded.
The O-gauge model trains brought back some memories—I sold my Lionel train to buy a baseball glove I had admired at Jennings Shepherd. The bus and car collection was terrific and I imagined the street car was the one I used to ride with my mother. The story about the Claytor bothers was fascinating.
But the memories came flooding back when I saw the refurbished 611 engine. I was standing in the old train station looking east toward The Shops, hoping for an early view of the Powhatan Arrow. The train would take me to the farm of my beloved grandparents, John Weaver and Dora Perdue Hager. It was in Brush Fork, West Virginia, a little spot between Bluefield and Princeton. I loved it there and I rode The Powhatan Arrow every summer to Bluefield, where my grandfather would pick me up and “carry” me to the farm. “Here it comes! I see it! It is great! Look how big it si!”
Can you imagine that my Mother felt comfortable putting me on that train and sending me by myself at age 7? She did—it was a different time, a truly lovely time. She put her trust in the Conductor, who promised to faithfully watch over me, a promise he kept. I made the trip for 6 summers and a few time at Christmas, although my parents went along on those trips. Those gave me an opportunity to display my knowledge of train conducting.
My mother often came for the last two weeks of my summertime on the farm. I was always a little disappointed because it meant summer was coming to an end and, more importantly, I would not get to ride home on that wonderful train. Somehow my father’s Buick was not that much fun.
- Michael Smith