The Joys of Home: What's at 535


A Registered National Urban Wildlife Sanctuary


Our Little Cabin Home on the Hill


  •  Abert, the C&O railroad shanty


  •  Scenes


  • Wildflowers






  • Wildlife















Our  Little  Cabin Home on the Hill

 Measuring only ten feet wide by eight feet long, this small cabin was built by Aubrey in the back yard and moved by a chain come-along on wood rollers by Charlotte and Aubrey, about 150 yards into the woods overlooking Pidgeon Creek.  After being moved, a deck extension of six feet was added. The  structure's base and joists ae pressure treated wood  with the rest of the building be made of rough cut oak arranged in board and batten style.  The roof is tin over a plywood covering.  Three large screen covered windows an be opened.  Winter comfort is provided by a cast iron wood stove.  Adarondic chairs and a murphy bed are added  creature comforts  to this retreat so close to our home.


The Cabin is being moved about 150 yards into the woods.  During the move, Charlotte and Aubrey take turns resting.  Finally the move is completed and a large deck is added.


The Watch Box, Abert

by Aubrey Wiley

condensed from when published in Fall 2002 in Lynch’s Ferry,a Journey of History


     In 1942, the United States FBI learned of a Nazi plan to sabotage strategic railroad targets in the United States.  Two teams of highly trained saboteurs had been landed by German submarines along the northeast coast.  Fortunately, they were captured before they could fulfill their objectives, but nonetheless, terror was struck in the hearts of Americans and American businessmen as they realized how vulnerable America was.

      Interrogation revealed that their targets included locations on the Pennsylvania, New York, New Haven and Hartford, New York Central, Great Northern, and Chesapeake & Ohio railroads.  For the targeted railroad serving Lynchburg, the Chesapeake & Ohio, one of the results of planning-by-preventing was to construct, locate and man small structures, manned by watchmen around the clock, at railway tunnels, trestles and bridges.  Many were in use by the end of 1942.

     One of these structures survives, thanks to the efforts of  Aubrey Wiley, in Lynchburg, Virginia.  The Abert “watch box” was such a structure, and when built, it was located on C&O’s vital artery for coal and other export shipments, the James River Sub-division of the Clifton Forge district. Abert was at milepost 155, nine miles west of the C&O’s Lynchburg yard. The exact purpose of the structure for homeland security being built at Abert is unclear. In Abert, there are two windows, at opposite ends of the long dimension, and a door with a window.  In the blank back wall is carved, probably with a pocket knife, a small hole about four inches long by an inch high, for gazing toward the river, I expect.  The windows slide open to the top, are self-storing and have a heavy wire grate cover over each window.These railroad watchmen who worked twelve-hour shifts, seven days a week.  During their shifts, they would patrol in each direction, meeting their counterparts from other watch boxes.  A lineside telephone was nearby and it was their link with the outside world, via the railroad dispatcher. Abert’s old railroad telephone box is also nearby. The shanty’s company furnishings were spartan; a chair, table and stove.                                            

     After World War II, Abert and her sisters found a second life, again as shelter for employees.  The “track walkers,” or “bluff watchers” patrolled a section of track using a velocipede, but this time, they were watching for rockslides or other natural dangers. In the mid 1970's, C&O officials were planned the demolition of all these shanties to lessen the amount of taxes paid.  Being at the right place at the right time meant my obtaining permission from railroad  to obtain Abert. In the fall of 1977 it was trucked away and moved to the author’s home. In 2001 the structure was recognized for its potential and after long and careful planning, the next year it was moved out from deep in the woods into daylight once again.  Abert was tenderly placed in the  back yard, at the edge of the woods, and arranged as it would have been in service.  It has been cleaned and minor repairs have been made.  The interior of Abert is furnished as it could have been during its latter years of service to the C&O; an iron stove, a coal scuttle with tender box, a well worn, wood chair, an old caboose desk sitting on a small table, vintage company posters on the walls, company employee timetables, note paper with a C&O company pencil nearby, kerosene lanterns to used on track patrols, paperback western novels, a sardine tin, tobacco tin, soda bottles, tins of Prince Albert tobacco, soiled work gloves, a railroad cap and coat, and sheets of galvanized metal to cover the windows in case of an air raid. 

     In January 2007, an N&W Ry grade crossing warning light was placed beside the structure.


Seasonal Scenes Around from the Place

    A light snow highlights the roch garden under the backyard   Beech tree and frozen snow decorates the woods' trees.

Wildflowers Found at Our Place   

 Bellwort, Bleeding Heart, Bloodroot, Bluebead Lily, Bluets, Blue Phlox(Paradise), Blue Violet, Cancer Root, Common Mullein, Crested Draft Iris,   Dutchman’s Breeches, False Solomon’s Seal, Ferns(Bracken, Christmas, Grape, Maiden Hair), Firepink, Foam Flower, Fringe Bush,  Galax, Grape Hyacinth, Green and Gold, Hepatica, Heartleaf, Indian Pipes,  Jack in the Pulpit(Green, Striped), Lily of the Valley, Liverwort, May Apple, Minature Daisy (WV),  Perfoliata Bellwort,  Pinesap, Pussy Toes, Rattlesnake, Plantain,  Rue Anemone, Shasta Daisy, Showy Orchis,  Solomon’s Seal,  Spring Beauty,  Spiderwort, Star of Bethlehem, Toothwort, Trillium,Trumpet Vine, Virginian Blue Bells, White Evening Primrose, Wild Azalea, Wild Geranium, Wild Strawberry, Windflower, Wintergreen,  Yellow Lady Slipper