Virginia Bound…

First, some quick updates on this past spring: We have been working with industrial furniture. Rescued an old Science class table and gave it some Sandberg Creative love. It now lives in Dallas, TX. Spent the early spring selling old school lockers and keeping a few for my own studio. Spare time has include finishing up on some random art pieces. (Industrial-Joman Teapot) (Small problems #1)

Early June, I took a planned research trip to Virginia. It was an overdue trip as my list of subjects and places in Virginia had grown to excess by the time I set out. After a couple of days and several hundred miles in my travels, I met up with a friend from college, Manda Remmen and we went on a mission to check out some of the sites photographed by O. Winston Link. (our most alluring part of the mission was trying to identify the bell tower from Link’s sounRural Retreatd piece “Rural Retreat.” We found a good candidate but will have to dig deeper.  I took many reference photos along the way as I was also researching architecture along the Pre-1964 Norfolk and Western Railway mainline. After a quick tour to the start of the Bristol “Virginia Creeper” line and miles of trekking along  highway 81, we finally found where Elvis had stopped to pee. We toured around Emory and Henry college, where my friend teaches art. They actually still have been using the original N&W depot for various administrative departments. After some local fare, we settled down to discuss the days findings. In the morning, I took off on a rambling trip toward Roanoke. At Roanoke, I checked out the Virginia Museum of Transportation. This museum, with VERY DEDICATED staff and volunteers accomplished the highly complicated (and expensive task) of restoring a steam engine to operate pretty much as it was built through their fireup611 campaign. I have to admit that I am a bit nostalgic about the locomotive Class “J” 611 as I have childhood memories attached to this engineering marvel. The VMT was one of my most anticipated stops on the trip but I was somewhat let down. Overall, I liked it and am very glad that I went. On the other hand, I felt like many of the exhibits were very aged. I believe that at one point I found a “click tape” label on one of the older displays. If they do another capital campaign, I would love to direct the exhibits department to help create a modern, interactive group of exhibits for all ages. I understand how funding streams work, and wish that they could uncover other streams to help bring other areas of the museum up to the quality of their steam program. For instance, the children’s area which was located at the far end of the railroad platform in dirty sand by an old storage shed. No one would even be able to see their children if they were brave enough to let them stay there. I would have felt more comfortable allowing my kids to play on splintered, rusted railroad detritus than the out dated playground equipment that was present.

After a long day at VMT, I was pushing time but decided to squeeze my visit to the O. Winston Link museum back in to my itinerary. After entering the former Norfolk & Western Depot and paying my entry fee, I walked down the glass walled staircase to the museum on the lower level. upon entry, I was welcomed by a floor-to-ceiling 20-foot black and white wall print of one of Link’s prints wallpapered down the hall. How glorious! This museum was done right! multiple prints, physical exhibits, sound pieces and collections. It was refreshing to see a museum that I felt like I new the artist by the end. I was traveling with him emotionally on a 6 year journey of time tables, late nights and friends that trusted in him the passion that he was trying to document.  After visiting, I do feel that it may have been skewed toward adults, and a bit safe as museums go. I would have loved to see a digital room with props that kids and adults could attempt to light and photograph. Overall, it was well done and very much worth the last minute addition to my time in Roanoke.

After a bit of BBQ, I began my journey up highway 80 toward Front Royal, VA just outside of D.C. The morning held a unique experience that would flood back childhood memories. Months prior to my trip, I had purchased tickets to ride the Norfolk and Western Class J #611. As a child, the Norfolk & Western/ Norfolk Southern would use this rescued locomotive to carry the brass on summer trips around the Eastern half of the U.S. As a child, when we heard the 611 was coming through, we would head several blocks across town to my Grandparent’s house by the Decatur to STL mainline. We would wait for hours until we could hear the distinct bellow from the “Queen of Steam” and listen to it build until it broke out of town and barreled south across the prairie. These feelings boiled back up into me as I waited at 6:00am for the newly restored 611 to pull into Front Royal.FullSizeRender

Nursing a hangover from a convenient club across from the depot, I sucked it up and searched for a location to get a decent video. I began to hear the distinct low notes of the J’s whistle as it was rounding through town toward the station.  It would be a fine time to note that a high-pressured “Modern” steam locomotive that was built to operate 20 car trains at 80mph, has very little in common with our childhood sense of a “choo choo.” As a J approaches you, the breathing of such a beast becomes alive to you. the “chuffs” of it’s enormous cylinders feel like small explosions. The soot and steam inundate you as it slowly powers by you and a blast of the whistle is enough to cancel out the speaker in your cell phone. As the cacophony of pounding, hissing, vibrating, and squealing passed behind the parking garage I hustled down to my car, the Ohio, and boarded. In a few minutes we began moving. It was anti-climatic as riding behind a Class J was just as smooth and quiet as a modern Amtrak. I would forget that I was riding behind a 75 year old piece of American forged machinery that could shake the fillings out of your teeth if it were not for the occasional glimpse of the locomotive out of the window when gliding around the Appalachian curves.

Next month, I will be talking about another kind of steam: the STEAM kind. so put on your teacher/Learner hats and check back for the new programs that we are currently developing at Sandbergcreative that may be coming to a Learning Center near you!

 

Peace, Art, & Education

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