After critical delays in the literary Round House (as well as the CreateSpace Printers), Last Train From Cleveland, a story of a journey by a railyard engineer, roared into Roanoke (via Roanoke’s Woodrum Field and UPS air) just in time for the official book launch at the Virginia Museum of Transportation. With heightened expectations and after a night of resignation to no books, they did arrive at the VMT. What a surprise.
As many grandparents, parents and excited children waited nervously outside the VMT at 10:00 last Saturday morning, there was an air of expectation about the treasures they would see inside. Was the desire to actually ride a train? Or was it the chance to see up close all things railroad? Maybe it was the many exhibits about transportation in the Old Dominion that would hold their attention.
One young man summed it up beautifully; “I’m here to see Six E-Le-ah-v-n”, which roughly translates from Southwest Virginia speak to merely “6-11”, the classic stream-lined 4-8-4 steam engine that hauled passengers on the famed Powhatan Arrow or the Pocahontas for many years of steam passenger service.
With our book launch tables and displays set up just under the signs and information about 611, everyone headed to see “611” on display, passing our table on their way. It was also the “path” to ride one of the classic N&W Heritage diesels running on Saturday and Sunday for short trips up the siding toward the 5th Street Bridge.
Of particular interest was the location of the book talks! Ideally, it was a rail coach, formerly used by the N&W for teaching safety courses to the distant reaches of N&W personnel. In this coach were quarters for the “instructor” whose duties included instructing courses and showing training films. The Safety Car was actually a converted “Club” car, but now seats 48 people in tiered theater-style seats. The sixteen millimeter projector booth now holds a single small DVD player!
With visitors mostly from the Roanoke, Virginia area, there were at least other visitors from places as far away as Birmingham, England and points east.
The big draw to the Safety Car was support for the railroad’s Operation Lifesaver Program which features messages for children and adults about walking around, near, or across railroad tracks and paying attention to moving trains. Drivers and teens are so occupied with texting and cell phones; they seldom see the approach of a train until it’s too late.
The Safety car also featured a film about the restoration efforts of the old N&W “611” which is a dynamic and amazing story in and of itself.
After two days at the VMT, I have a greater appreciation for rail fans, their families and their children. We look forward to a return visit during Rail Fan Days set for a weekend in early May, 2014. I also appreciate the efforts of the VMT to preserve the history of transportation in our fair State.
VMT has also decided to carry Last Train From Cleveland in its online catalogue at www.shop.vmt.org and on its book shelf.
I am indebted to the staff at the VMT for the gracious support and assistance this past week weekend. It is one of the best groups of volunteers I’ve ever had the occasion to work with. It was suggested that the VMT consider hosting a “Railroad Writers Workshop” in their unique and interesting facilities.
“Last Train From Cleveland: The Story of a Railyard Engineer” (2nd Edition) will be available on Amazon.com on September 16, 2013. It is also available from the www.shop.vmt.org.