National N Scale Convention

Most every year Barb and I make it a priority to visit a different part of our country with our friends of the organization known as the N Sale Enthusiast. This year the convention was held in Roanoke, Virginia. We had never been to that part of the state, so we knew it would be another trip of fun surprises. But what is ‘never’ a surprise, is the amazing time we have with now ‘lifelong’ friends we have made over the years at these events. This year, as usual, we met several folks that were attending their first NSE convention, so more friends to add to the list.

The surprises I’m talking about are the unexpected finds during the journey in-and-around the convention. This year we flew to Washington DC, rented a car, and drove down to Roanoke. Virginia has a lot to see, and history enough to go far beyond a week, but we gave it a good try with the days we had. The first stop on the way south was the Civil War battlefield of Chancellorsville, who just a few weeks prior remembered it’s 150th anniversary and is known for the place that Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded. After leaving the battlefield site, we traveled west on small country roads, heading for the Shenandoah National Park. We had been there before but thought it would be nice to drive a portion of the famous Skyline Drive. An ‘unexpected’ happened on the way to the park, because the road we took brought us past Montpelier, which was the home of James Madison who was our fourth president. We had to stop and see this amazing, and beautiful place, as it helps paint the picture of the lifestyle of a president who was born there, grew up there, brought his bride there, and ultimately died there, while all the time making a huge difference as president. We never made it to Shenandoah that day.

The next ‘unexpected’ came the following day. We still had a day before the convention was to formally begin, so we decided we’d go to Appomattox to see the place where Lee surrendered to Grant and the four years of the Civil War ended. So off we went! Now friends, I am very good with maps, so can I blame the road signs in Virginia for a wrong turn? We were traveling on beautiful country roads, but we were going the wrong direction! We decided to stop for lunch and ‘correct our course’ in the town of Lexington. Our food server told us she was there to attend the Washington and Lee University and went on to say that Robert E. Lee had been the president of the college after the war, and that he, and his family, were buried in crypts in the basement of the chapel. To her, the information was matter-of-fact and like everyone knew that, but for us it was an ‘exclamation point’ and we determined right then that Appomattox had to be postponed! We visited Lee’s Chapel. It was a very solemn place with the reposing statue of Lee on a casket sitting behind the platform of the chapel, which I remembered from photos. We saw where the famous general was interred, and I can say that it was one of the highlights of this trip! We finally made it to Appomattox on our trip back to DC, and it was certainly worth the effort for a person interested in the American Civil War.

You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with trains, and I can tell you that it has nothing to do with them. But, when we head to our train convention every year, we have learned to expect the ‘unexpected’. Now I will leave you with just one more, but very surprising to me. It is so easy to ‘come to love’ the Norfolk Southern Railroad, and that was really unexpected indeed.

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Lowell Smith

A native of Portland, Oregon, Lowell Smith married his church choir sweetheart Barb in 1978. After a lifetime of rail-fanning, Lowell and Barb ventured out in 1992 to launch a new business in Portland, Oregon. Read more

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