July 2009 Article

This Months' Article - July 2009
Living in the Midwest, it is difficult to attend Railroad Collectibles events without struggling over the fact that there is not likely any Nelson & Albemarle Railway collectible items up for sale.  This is likely true even on the east coast in Virginia where I'm from as well as due to N&A's being a shortline with limited publications (i.e.: no public timetables) and no dining car china!  So this month I'm featuring RR Collectibles vendor, Douglas Wornom.  The story has a twist or two, so let's jump back about 3 years ago and I'll tell you what transpired.  My wife and I noticed the sign on Randall Road in St. Charles (where we live) that a RR Collectibles show would be at the Kane County Fairgrounds.  Now, my wife is a wonderful woman who recognizes my passion for the Nelson & Albemarle Railway.  We went to that show and she started talking to the vendors and amazingly found 3 photos of a N&A diesel switcher!  It really made my day as I wasn't expecting ANY results.  Jump forward to the middle of June this year and as I'm driving by the fairgrounds, I notice that there's a new LED sign out in front advertising the upcoming weekends event for RR Collectibles.  Sunday afternoon, after a hectic week of oldest daughter's med school graduation, awards ceremonies, and family dinners, my wife and I stopped by to see what was being offered this year.  And while the show was much smaller than I remember, my only plan was to enjoy the show and look around rather than do any searching for N&A memorabilia.   As we were getting ready to leave, my wife stopped to talk with a show promoter and I drifted over to one of the vendors with many photographs, postcards, and other collectible items.  He finished speaking with a customer and turned to me and I rattled off my usual remarks - I'm looking for a small, shortline railroad, the Nelson & Albemarle in Virginia.  Do you have any photo's?  Imagine how startled I was to hear the vendor say, "Nelson & Albemarle?, sure, I've heard of it - even rode it once, but I don't think I have any photo's."  I could barely contain myself as I asked for more details and sure enough, he had ridden the mixed train in the combine up from the C&O RR connection at Warren to the only place on the line with a hotel - Schuyler.  It was no surprise to hear him talk about his reception by the locals there.  As small town, back-woods folk, they were naturally suspicious of a stranger in town walking around and looking about.  It was downright unfriendly!  Doug Wornom is about 76 years old now and the N&A shut down in 1963 (about 46 years ago) and stopped using steam on the mainline in the early-50's (about 56 years ago).   This trip must have been made when Doug was MUCH younger and he traveled to Virginia, rode the N&A, and had his first experiences with the folk over in Schuyler at the end of the line.  I certainly enjoyed hearing the details about riding in the combine and the tank engines on the property as well as his remarks on the hotel and not-so-friendly people.  It was better than a photograph could have ever been and if I'd thought of it quick enough I chould have made a donation to his general well-being just for the story.   It got me to thinking about the personal histories (now frequently called Oral Histories) and collections of memorabilia that people gather throughout their lives.  My vendor acquaintance, Doug Wornom, is just such a person.  So, I salute you Doug as you share your stories with others at these events and sell your collection of memorabilia to those of us looking to enjoy our favorite railroads and document those memories for others to also enjoy.  So, while certainly in the midwest now, Doug has made the travels to be in Virginia at a time when he could ride the rails I so admire that have long since been removed.  I have his address now and will likely send him a card in the very near future thanking him for those few moments of taking me back into a time I can only dream of - when tank engines roamed the soapstone quarries along the line between Nelson & Albemarle counties that gave this railway it's name.  I certainly got my monies worth for admission to this year's RR Collectibles event in St. Charles, IL at the Kane County Fairgrounds.
Doug has a large collection of photographs, postcards, etc. and can be reached via mail or phone for inquiries on YOUR interests at the following:
Douglas Wornom
1413 N. Harlem Avenue, Apt. A
Oak Park, IL  60302-1261
Phone: 708-383-7290
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