October 2016 Article

This Month's Article: October 2016
The N&A revisits "Fairville" and the movie, "Virginia"

Early in the beginnings of this historical society, we featured an article on the movie, "Virginia" and the fictional town of "Fairville" in our 'This Month's Article' series (January 2010) where the story of my own family history was revealed.  My Grandmother and Grandfather on my Father's side were extras on the platform in the real town of Howardsville, Virginia where the opening scenes of the movie were filmed.  My Mother's Father was Section Gang Foreman for the C&O at Howardsville and he was also present that day, but behind the camera's view.  Since that article was published, we've searched for a film copy of the movie and only recently found a source and made the significant purchase of 4000' of film on two 16mm reels.  While the original film was on 35mm film stock shot in Technicolor with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, only the first 13 minutes or so really matter to our story.  Those first few scenes of Fred MacMurray in character as Stonewall Elliott at the depot with his screen daughter 'Pretty' Elliott (played by Carolyn Lee) in his arms and the local townspeople including my Grandparents in their Sunday finery.  I really loved seeing my Grandmother's white shoes and especially since I only have vague memories of her when I was little.  This was the first color rendition of any members of my family and they were in a major motion picture at that!  Upcoming though was the arrival of Madeleine Carroll who, as Charlotte Dunterry, graciously stepped off the Nelson & Albemarle Railway combine and onto the platform capturing everyone's attention. 
Now as far as the historical society is concerned, the real star of the film at this point is the mournful sound of the steam whistle as N&A #9 approaches with a boxcar and combine in tow.  Unfortunately, the digital transfer of my film couldn't include sound and this great sound is lost for me until a better digital transfer can be attempted.  It's important to note that the arrival of the Nelson & Albemarle Train led by it's mainline steam locomotive really starts the story of the movie.  **  See Silent Clip Here  https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6Qw7o7Yn_frdXg1T1ZkLUtIZGc/view?usp=sharing or PASTE THE URL in your browser. **  Number 9 was a Vulcan-built steam tank engine with a 2-6-2T wheel arrangement.  It had been lettered specifically for it's brief appearance out on the C&O mainline miles from it's home base operations between Schuyler, Virginia in Nelson County and it's technical interchange with the C&O at Esmont, Virginia in Albemarle County.  Esmont, having been the original depot planned to portray "Fairville" was passed over because of the wonderful scenery in the area that blocked too much sunlight!  Sadly, Esmont is out and Howardsville goes in (along with my Grandparents!)   In the film, it's a beautiful site as the N&A comes into the town of "Fairville" and conversation picks up betwee
n Stonewall Elliott and the engineer.  Sadly, this is the only time we see the train in the film.  Now that we have a film copy, a long process that converted the first 15 minutes of the epic onto a digital format that can be easily edited for still shots to be shown on this site was completed.  For now, we have the arrival of the train (albeit, the silent film version) for those who would like to view it and the detail from this film copy while superior to any of the conversions we've seen done in the past (as many of those were taken from the TV screen when the film was broadcast) remains in Black & White as the color copy of the film was not of high quality as we would have liked.  Please comment on your thoughts on this copy as it is only the beginning.  With the first digital transfer complete, the two reels of film are being forwarded for film conversion to digital from projection equipment that was originally in a television studio for projection/broadcasting just this type of motion picture.  It's expected to yield a new digital image with the Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording (mono) intact, though the color quality is wholly dependent on this film and we know that the colors have faded.  Hopefully this will be an even better quality for viewing.  For now, we have our silent film version and the quality taken directly from the film to digital process is much better than the 'shot from the TV screen" versions.  Enjoy this as much as we have in locating, purchasing, converting, and sharing the film with you.  When we have our next digital transfer complete, we'll share that with you as well.

Send email to NelsonAlbemarle@comcast.net if you have any comments or questions or wish to contribute to future articles. Copyright 2016 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.