Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Danville, Virginia. The Riverwalk Trail.

Monday morning,
Maxine, Carmen, and I headed down to the train station to pick up Danville's ever-expanding Riverwalk Trail.
This is a mural in downtown Danville depicting the Wreck of the Old 97. I was hanging out of Maxine's car at a stop light and the tree was in the way. The Old 97, a Southern Railway train known as the Fast Mail, was en route from Monroe, Virginia, to Spencer, North Carolina, when it derailed at the Stillhouse Trestle in Danville, September 27, 1930, killing 9 of the 16 people aboard. The 500 foot long trestle was severely damaged as the locomotive pulling two mail cars, one baggage car, and an express car vaulted off Stillhouse Trestle. The engineer, 33 year old Joseph A. Broadey, was operating the train at a high speed in order to stay on schedule and arrive in Spencer on time. The Fast Mail had a reputation for never being late. The train was substantially behind schedule when it left Washington and was one hour late arriving in Monroe. At Monroe, Broadey was instructed to get the Fast Mail from Monroe to Spencer on time. Normal run time from Monroe to Spencer was four hours fifteen minutes, at an average speed of about 40 mph. In order to make up the one hour delay, the train's average speed needed to be at least 51 mph. Broadey rapidly descended a heavy grade that ended at the Stillhouse Trestle spanning Cherrystone Creek. Broadey was unable to sufficiently reduce speed as he approached the trestle and the train derailed, plunging 75 feet into the ravine below. Southern Railway placed blame for the wreck on Engineer Broadey, denying that he had been ordered to run as fast as possible to maintain the schedule. The railroad also claimed he descended the grade leading to Stillhouse Trestle at a speed of more than 70 mph. Eyewitnesses to the wreck, however, stated that the speed was probably around 50 mph. In all likelihood, the railroad was partially to blame since they had a rather lucrative contract with the U.S. Post office to haul mail. The contract included a penalty clause for each minute the train was late into Spencer. No doubt, the engineers of the Fast Mail were always under pressure to stay on time so the railroad wouldn't be penalized for late mail delivery. One of the cars contained six crates of canaries. About 100 canaries fluttered in and around the wreckage, gaining freedom from their cages in the baggage car. The canaries were probably headed to coal mines to be used for safety purposes. All the canaries survived the wreck. This event has served as an inspiration for many songwriters and balladeers. I've always preferred Johnny Cash's version the best. Here's another account of the wreck which I thought interesting. And yet another account.
This is Danville's historic tobacco warehouse district.
Historically, the Dan River was a catalyst for industry. Now it lures walkers, joggers, bikers, skaters, and dog walkers along its 8-mile and growing scenic Riverwalk Trail. The recommended starting point is in historic downtown Danville, alongside a renovated tobacco warehouse and the active Amtrak station located in the Science Center. From here, you can cross the Dan River on a restored 1856 railroad bridge. If you turn left (west) the trail follows the river upstream for about a mile. This section is being expanded to follow the river up through Riverside Drive. If you turn right (east) the trail takes you on an enjoyable walk through parks and natural areas adjacent to the river - to Dan Daniel Memorial Park, to Angler's Park, and another segment to Danville Regional Airport.
Carmen and Maxine starting out on the Riverwalk Trail.
I like this bridge.
Enjoy the views from the Riverwalk Trail.
For some reason, I've always liked that name.
In the background is one of the old, abandoned Dan River Mills buildings. And here's a rather sad video of the implosion of Dan River smoke stacks.
Here's the Riverwalk Trail from July 28, 2008. Here's another post about it. And another from September 16, 2009.
Hope you enjoyed our walk.


Marion said...

Rosie, do you still have the photos - I think from the '70s - of the Abercrombie tanks afloat in the flood?

Hairball T. Hairball said...

Nice pics!

Sadly, my hometown is not nearly as picturesque as yours.

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Marion, there is an album.

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Hairball, Whar ya been????