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From: Jim Dent jdent1 AT optonline DOT net
Date: Sat, 30 Sep 2006 19:32:44 -0400
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From the Delmarva Daily Times
Renovated train station to open
Open house and book signing at 4 p.m. tomorrow to mark event
By CAROL VAUGHN
Jay Diem Photo
The old Bloxom railroad station, which was within a week of being
destroyed back in 1988, will be opened to travelers again during a
Sunday ceremony at its new home at the Cape Charles Museum.
CAPE CHARLES -- The Bloxom railroad station was within a week of being
destroyed back in 1988 when Tom Noonan happened to come upon it. On
Sunday, the restored station will open to travelers again, this time as
part of the Cape Charles Museum.
Fittingly, the station's first opening since its restoration is a
book-signing and short lecture by "Eastern Shore Railroad" author Chris
How the building went from near-oblivion in a Bloxom field to a
showpiece in Cape Charles is a story of both serendipity and skill.
The station, built in the early 1900s as a stop on the New York,
Philadelphia and Norfolk passenger line, sat abandoned for years where
it had been moved back from the railroad tracks at milepost 48.8 in Bloxom.
Noonan was driving the back roads in northern Accomack County when he
saw the boarded-up clapboard building. Asking around, he found out that
it was owned by Kellam Energy and that they were about to sell the land
on which it sat. The station was slated to be burned down within days.
Noonan, recognizing the building's historic value, arranged to dismantle
it and remove it from the land.
"I went up there every day for a month, taking it apart piece by piece,"
he said Thursday, recalling the effort.
Noonan and his wife make a hobby of collecting historic buildings and
have restored dozens, including church buildings, banks, railroad
stations and their current project, an old telephone exchange office.
One of the buildings he owned at the time was an old general store in
Nassawadox. He stored the dismantled Bloxom station there until
circumstances dictated he sell the store. Then the pieces were
transferred to another spot, the old bank in Capeville.
Along the way, Noonan tried to raise interest in rebuilding the Bloxom
station in Nassawadox, but he was ahead of his time, he said.
Nowadays, with talk of excursion trains being run on the Shore, the
project might have succeeded, but at the time, not many people saw the
value of an old railroad station.
In 1999, when he knew he would have to move the station's lumber yet
again from Capeville, Noonan decided to donate it to the Cape Charles
Museum, which had the land to accommodate it and hopefully, the ability
to attract funding to restore it.
Cape Charles is a railroad town and the museum also is home to two
railroad cars from the old line -- a baggage car and a caboose. Its
holdings include hundreds of historic photographs, many of which Dickon
used in his book.
Noonan's hopes for funding the station's restoration were realized. The
museum was able to get two transportation enhancement grants from the
Virginia Department of Transportation, totalling $185,000. Some of that
money also went to restore the two railroad cars. The town of Cape
Charles also contributed $5,000, and the museum spent another $15,000
from its capital fund.
But the Bloxom station when it was donated really was no more than a
pile of lumber. All the museum had to go on was an old photo.
That's where the skill of Cape Charles architect Leon Parham came in.
Parham has done many historic restorations, but generally does not start
from quite so little, he said. To compound matters, some of the wood had
suffered fire damage, not unusual in old buildings heated by coal.
"We pulled it out and put it together like a jigsaw puzzle," said
Parham, who donated his work. Spreading out each piece of wood on the
back lawn of the museum and arranging them in the order they would need
to be reassembled, he numbered each one and drew up a plan. "It was
time-consuming and interesting," he said. Parham spent dozens of hours
on the project.
Some of the new lumber needed to complete the building was donated by
Jim McDaniel, who had it from when he built his house. The actual
construction was done by Cape Charles contractor Tom Bonadeo.
While the outside of the building is authentically restored, the
interior was done not as a restoration, but to suit the needs of the
museum, which plans to use it for meeting space and for events like
their popular fall Oyster Roast and spring Shrimp Boil.
"It's a nice, open room" with dark stained tongue-and-groove wainscoting
and plaster walls, according to museum board member Virginia Savage.
Among things changed from the station's original plan is the removal of
a partition that originally separated by race travelers waiting for the
train, Savage said.
Museum board president Marion Naar is looking forward to landscaping the
restored Bloxom station. The museum plans to create a garden around the
station next spring in memory of David Flora, a dedicated museum
volunteer and former town councilman who died in 2003.
Said Parham of the museum's new incarnation, "It really is a treasure,
and it could have been lost. It's a treasure both historically and in
terms of its use to the museum."
Sunday's open house and book signing will be from 4-6 p. m. The event is
free with light refreshments provided, and copies of Dickon's book may
be purchased at the event for $20, or people can bring a previously
purchased copy for signing.
Also Sunday, beginning at 5 p.m., the Northampton County Chamber of
Commerce is hosting the "Bacchus by the Bay Wine Tasting" at the museum.
Proceeds will benefit the Cape Charles Historical Society. Tickets for
the wine tasting are $30 and may be purchased at the door or from the
Cape Charles Chamber of Commerce office. Call 331-2304 for more information.
The museum is looking for any photos of the Bloxom railroad station's
interior and for any original fixtures or equipment from it. Naar also
would like someone to take on a project to build a scale model of the
Cape Charles railroad yard, which could be housed in the station.