Video Feature: Three Days in April – Norfolk Southern Refurbs Main Street Tracks

Who needs the History Channel today?  Turn off the TV, grab the kids and your raincoat and see history in the making.   Today in downtown Berryville I had the privilege of watching poetry in motion (was that the name of a song?).  Farmers, gardeners, and those of us with wells are most grateful for the rain.  But, the employees and subcontractors working in this damp, wet, rainy, weather with the Norfolk Southern railroad, sure did not want it.

I was able to stand on the porch at the Berryville Farm Supply and stay relatively dry while I witnessed the uprooting of a railroad track buried deep in the ground.  Wow, I stood in awe of the logistics of the operation.  The whole process went like a well-choreographed dance.

Norfolk Southern track crew prepares to replace Main Street railroad crossing in Berryville, Virginia - Photo J. C. Coon

My father was a Civil Engineer, a Soils Specialist.  I am not exactly a stranger to roadwork as back in the day, I was able to go with dad to his job sites in the wilds of Alaska.  I still marvel at the skill of those who operate steam shovels (at least as a little girl they were still called steam shovels).  One comment on the porch where I was standing was that a skilled operator could pick up a stick of butter.

In tandem, the two steam shovels operators picked up about a 50 foot section of track and ties from the middle of Main Street and moved it about 150 feet, north up the track.  Now I know where the saying ‘Smooth Operator’ comes from.

It made me smile to watch them work.

Now, mind you, all the time those two operators were doing their job, there were at least six other teams doing something else.  One shovel was loading broken up asphalt in an awaiting dump truck, another backhoe operator was digging a hole, one backhoe operator was putting stone and soil into a trench, one team was working the electric box, one team was taking bolts out of the track to prepare for the next move.  One guy used a high powered saw and cut 2 feet of steel off the end of a rail just as easy as hubby cuts a 2 x 4!

These were just my 30 minutes of observation. Can you imagine the weeks and months that went in to planning for these three days?  Detour signs, rerouting, scheduling staff, scheduling trucks, stopping trains (Really? stopping trains from as far away as Ohio, New York and Georgia, mind boggling).

A target date was set and all were working toward these three days in April 22, April 23 and April24.

What is it they say?

“The best laid schemes of mice and men…”

Looks like Mother Nature had other plans.

But once the show starts, there are no intermissions, no waiting, no hoping for good weather.

Wishing them a hot meal and a warm shower at the end of the day.  I am sure they would not turn down hot (coffee/tea/cocoa) and cookies.



  1. Thanks J.C. for the report. After church, I too went up to watch the transformation. Before, entering the ministry, one of my many jobs was with the railroad. It was hard work and often involved a sacrifice of time away from the family. I spoke to several from Atlanta, Roanoke, Bluefield and other distant locations working on this project.

    One aspect of the project involved removing the Color Position Light and replacing it with a new signal light. The old light had been guarding the siding for many years and witnessed the transition from steam to diesel engines. I wish the town had attempted to secure its donation. Absent the station, it would be the only historical piece for the town.

    Before closing, I have to say that the siding location along the old Woodmark Drive would be the perfect location for a commuter rail station to DC. A thirty minute ride to Shenandoah Junction and the train would be on the mainline into Union Station in Washington. Think of the economic growth that an active station would bring to Clarke County.

    • Another View says:

      In 30 minutes, I can get halfway to D.C. I can be downtown in an hour. Why would I take a train 30 minutes to begin my journey?

  2. Seriously, AV…you really seem like you’re trying to be the new crank case of the CDN folks. RW ain’t going to be happy about that.

    A light rail commuter station up to the MARC lines is something that might have some merit, given this place’s status as a bedroom community for points East.

    • Our view differ in many ways (Me and AV), but I understand where AV is coming from on his/her viewpoints. To have a commuter train to DC that comes through B’ville would be so cool, but how many pickup and dropoff times will there be to choose from, and how much would it cost are 2 MAJOR considerations if I were to take the train rather than drive in to DC.

      We all have issues that we are passionate about. I have a hard time accepting the fact that some parents seem to not care about what their kids are up to or where they are all the time. I think everyone should be held responsible for their actions and accept punishment due, I don’t like things being swept under the rug just to protect some people over others. Like I’ve said before, I was born about 250 years too late. But that’s all another thread!

    • Another View says:

      Hmm. I can be at the White House within an hour, hour and a quarter any day of the week. It makes no sense economically to either build a commuter line that will take longer than that, and cost more, or to take a commuter option of more length and expense.

      Moreover, I suggest to you that if it was economically feasible, and there was a demand, a private entity would have already implemented it. That one has not speaks volume about its wisdom (or lack thereof).

      • goodgracious says:

        who knew you’d be against mass transportation. You have to speed big time to get to DC in an hour. You’re wasting gas and money, but typical.

        Yes mass transit is generally a bit slower. So relax, read a book. Ponder all the ways the government is destroying your life. Chill.

      • The only way you’re gettin’ to the White House in 60-75 minutes is if you’re runnin’ a radar detector as you fly down 7 and the toll road.

        It’s all about priorities. Seems that you’re of the mindset that you ought to get there NOW and not dilly-dally. There’s plenty of folks who might consider it, if it were thoughtfully presented. I agree that there are some serious logistical issues that’d have to be addressed (sharing of the rails, timing with the MARC trains, etc.), but to just curtly dismiss it like you did – while not out of line with your typical bluster on here – makes you look…what was that word you used the other day…oh, yeah…churlish.

        • Another View says:

          NO, I am practical. Economical benefits would come only if a train were cheaper and quicker. It would be neither.

          Indeed, the Washington Metro is a sparsely used system, as people living in Alexandria, Arlington, Bethesda and Washington, D.C. prefer their cars to public transportation. The Metro, the VRE and the MARC all have low ridership and require heavy public subsidies. Where is the money coming from?

          And I don’t use a radar detector. But if I’m in the left lane, I am moving along. So please get out of my way if you are out for a leisurely drive. Thank you!

          • Fly on the wall says:

            “Cheaper and quicker” – ah, yes, those quintessential American ideals, and perhaps two of the fundamental reasons why mass transit has not been seen as the benefit it could be ever since Ike built the interstates.

            Utilizing such a system requires folks to undergo a paradigm shift in what they define as the “costs” of their commute. Certainly, hop in your car, fly down the road, burn that gas, and put wear-n-tear on your vehicle as you get from Point A to Point B and back as swiftly as you can – all while idling in traffic, getting tense with other tourons and inconsiderate drivers, etc. It might put you home sooner, giving you more time to spend with your kids, or spouse/significant other, etc.

            However, you might define the “costs” as the ability to let someone else drive or run the vehicle (in this case, a train), and the time spent riding could be spent updating Facebook, or checking the weather or stock reports, or read a book or enjoy the passing scenery. Would it take longer to get to your office? Perhaps. Would it only work if your office were located in DC/NoVA near a Metro line? Yes, most likely. Would such a setup only work if you didn’t need to boogie home unexpectedly one day for some reason? Yes, but such would be the case if you shared your commute with others in a car, too.

            So, AV, for you it probably doesn’t make sense [redacted]. For others here, it might make sense and might be worth a look.

          • Another View says:

            Only if it is a purely privately funded enterprise. No public funding!

        • Right Winger says:

          Uh, you can make it in about an hour if you leave early enough. Don’t waste time and money on that toll road and rte. 7 though. 66 moves pretty well around 5 am.

  3. Just adding to the conversation . . . I suspect that there would be a market for the train. Yes, it would probably only have one outbound and inbound time, similar to Frederick, Maryland. Unlike AV, not everyone can make it to DC in one hour. The train option might be advantageous to our economic development and the tax base. I know we are just dreaming but if the infrastructure investment would help, why not explore the idea?

    I suspect that the real limitation to the project would be the cooperation between two railroads, CSX and NS. Particularly hesitant would be NS, which is lengthening the siding in order to run mile long freight trains from the north to Atlanta and points south and would not want the hassle of a passenger train on its line. Blessings.

    • jennifer says:

      Hope to meet you soon Mr. Van Welton. You are a very positive guy, and you are absolutely right. I don’t know anybody who can get past Chantilly in an hour on a good day. I would take the train for sure.

  4. Downtown DC in 60 minutes says:

    AV, I have to call bs on downtown dc in 60 minutes. I have been commuting from Berryville to Tysons for 20+ years 6 days a week and the only time that you make that trip in less than 60 minutes is on a Saturday or Sunday (or prior to 2001). Leaving Berryville at 6am during the week days seldom results in less than a 60 minute travel time unless there are no accidents in Loudoun or the greenway/toll road is wide open without accidents. And no I do not drive in the right lane! I have a lead foot like the rest of the drivers going from or coming to our quaint community of Berryville. You run 70+ mph up the mountain and 75+ mph down the mountain to avoid getting run over by those so eager to rush to the “city” or make the quick exit out of the city

    • It takes me an hour and a half from the east side of Winchester to Independence Ave. From Berryville, I’d shave off 15 minutes. Of course, that’s on a good day with no accidents and leaving at 0400;)

  5. Another View says:

    It’s not BS, I do it all the time. DC in an hour/hour and a quarter.

    Tysons Corner on the other hand is a different animal. I make no representations as to driving in that mess, as I generally avoid it.

    I cannot speak to your driving or your time, but we are clearly driving to different places, and perhaps at different times. Similarly, you cannot speak to mine, for the same reasons.

  6. Ah Jes Luv Jurassic Clarke says:

    And don’t forget – we need the approval of the B’ville clown council – they of the famous pharmacy zoning debacle. Let’s see here now. . . does anyone on the council own a railroad? Or a florist?

    I got it!!!! Build a railroad from the heart of downtown to CVS in Winchester – absolutely brilliant – oughta be good for 5 or 6 full round trips a day with no subsidies required. Have Winchester transit run a shuttle from CVS to Smalt’s Florist Shop and life would be good again.

    Anybody notice what a ghost town downtown is turning out to be lately? Juss wunnerin’.

    • Stonebroke says:

      That’s what we all want! Nothing Downtown or on the outskirts of town. I hope everything else closes downtown so we can get Berryville the way everyone wants it! I love Winchester!

      • Clarke Life says:

        Good point Stonebroke. Everyone is against growth in Berryville but yet constantly complain about EMPTY STOREFRONTS…… Don’t Loudoun Clarke…. LOL

        More money to Winchester and Frederick County. I bet they just sit back and lick their chops at us down here….

  7. life is good says:

    With a side trip to Martins I hope!

  8. Sam Card says:

    When I was in third grade in 1969, I enjoyed listening to two elderly ladies named Virginia and Catherine Page. They lived on Church Street in the brick house next to the yellow house, which is the “Lost Dog Bed and Breakfast” today.. They showed me their FORD model A car and reflected fondly on the good old days of riding a train to New York City from Berryville. They reflected on the joy of riding a ferry from Baltimore to Norfolk on the Chesapeake Bay. Today, I enjoy the scenic high speed ferry rides between Provincetown on Cape Cod to Boston, Massachusetts and Salem to Boston. Approaching Boston Harbor from sea with the views of the skyscrapers is spectacular. Ridng ferry boats to Seattle in Puget Sound has outstanding views of snowcapped Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains. Time away from the steering wheel of a car gives time to engage in conversation, read the newspaper or look at the scenery. Years ago, it must have been quite a scenic train ride for passengers from Berryville to Roanoke on the Norfolk and Western railroad. Prior to the Civil War, passengers and freight were aboard the daily trains on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between Winchester and Harpers Ferry. Commuter trains to Washington, D.C. from Winchester could be a good idea. It is a beautiful train ride beween Harrisburg, PA and Pittsburgh, PA on AMTRAK. The mountain and desert scenery is incredible on the AMTRAK train from Denver to Oakland, California.