The (Rail)road to Culpeper
Culpeper Travel Blog› entry 23 of 107 › view all entries
I enjoy travel by train and you'll find a train trip of one sort or another appearing in many of my blogs. So, when the opportunity presented itself to go on a brief outing via Amtrak with a group of similar rail travel enhusiasts, I signed up. The plan was to ride the Amtrak Cardinal from Washington, DC, as far as Culpeper Virignia, spend a few hours in the town, and then ride the inbound Cardinal back to Washington. (The Cardinal is a three-times per week long-distance train from Washington to Chicago via Virginia, West Virignia, and Cincinnati. It's named for the state bird of four of the states through which it passes.) Usually, a visit to Culpeper would be day trip by car. (We passed through Culpeper on the way to Monticello, earlier in this blog.
Sunday morning began with overcast skies, but the rain overnight was ending. The forecast was for clear skies by afternoon. I drove from Springfield up to Washington via I-395, exited at Massachusetts Ave., and then over to the Union Station parking garage. Amtrak boarded the group early, at 10:45 a.m. for the scheduled 11:10 a.m. departure. At 11:10, we learned there was a problem. The headlight was not working the on the locomotive and a replacement engine would be substituted. That process took about 25 minutes. (Reminded me of the time I was flying from Washington National and the aircraft was recalled from the taxiway because of a malfunctioning instrument.) We were on the way at 11:34 a.
The train made scheduled stops at Alexandria and Manassas. I noted at least one passenger boading at Manassas was traveling to Charlottesville, the next stop after Culpeper. So, the train was used for short-distance travel after all. Most interesting! After Manassas, the landscape gives way to rolling Piedmont farmland much more quickly than along parallel U.S. Highway 29 a short distance to the West.
The Cardinal arrived at Culpeper at 1:00 p.m. I disembarked at the former Southern Railway station, now renovated as the Culpeper Visitor Center.
The station is at the foot of Davis Street, within a block of the downtown central business district. It's only a moment until you're inthe center of things. It was lunchtime, too. Seveal nice restaurants were open, but were a bit expensive. A few interesting downtown cafes were unfortunately closed (it being Sunday). I settled on the Raven's Nest, really a coffee bar. But, they had a few lunch specials, so I enjoeyd a Mexican Chicken Casserole along with a cappucino.
I started around the corner at St. Stephen's Church. This is an Episcopal Church dating to 1821 and is similar in design to pre-Revolutionary War brick churches in Fairfax County. Therefore, I first thought the steeple was a modern addition. But, it dates to about 1860.
The center of town is at Main and Davis Streets. A number of restored late 19th century commercial buildings are in use as restaurants, antique shops, gourmet food stores, gift shops, and craft stores. At this corner is the A.
Moving south along Main Street, more interesting restaurants came into view.
A side trip down Stevens Street led to Culpeper National Cemetery. The cemetery was established in 1867 for internemtn of Union soldiers killed in Civil War battles around Culpeper and Orange Counties. Several states, including New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, erected monuments to their units. The quiet neighboring residental area has houses in many different styles of architecture. The guidebook noted the Episcopal Rectory was located here. The guidebook indicated that the orignal log walls were in palce. I expected I might find a log cabin, but the frame house is typcial vernacular house of the period.
I ventured as far as the Minutemen Monument. It's a small obelisk, like a miniature Washington Monument. (The photo is bizarre with the rental truck in the background, but that's the best shot I could get.) It commemorates the mustering of the Culpeper Minute Men in 1775. (Yes, there were Revoutionary War Minute Men in the Virginia Colony, too!) Near here is the Culpeper Musuem. I wasn't able to spend as much time there as I would have liked, as it was now getting on to 4:00 p.m. Time to return to the station.
When I arrived back at the station, there was news. The northbound Cardinal was delayed and would not arrive at Culpeper until 6:30 pm.
The northbound Cardinal did arrive at 7:00 p.m., three hours late. Departure for Washington was at 7:06 p.m. (The train is scheduled to leave Chicago at 3:45 p.m. the previous day, so always has been underway for at least 24 hours by the time it reaches Culpeper.) The train was packed, but every passenger had a seat. It was interesting to me to see the number of laptops and portable DVD players in use among the passengers. (The coaches have electrical outlets at each seat.
The Cardinal ran on its scheduled time and we arrived back at Washington Union Station at 8:36 p.m.