Two videos you need to see: Country music and Saluda grade

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Thursday, September 12, 2019

I am here to tell you about what we’re doing here on the web, in print, or with experiences. I’m also supposed to be here comment on railroading, and in particular, preservation, as that’s my forte. But today, I’m taking a break. I’m going to suggest two video events that should be on your radar. One is on your TV. The other on your computer.


First, let’s talk about the one on your TV. Set aside Sunday evening when PBS debuts Ken Burns’ long-awaited series on country music. Yes, you read that right. Country music. Burns has a long history of exploring various aspects of American history and culture, from baseball to jazz, and from the Civil War to our National Parks. Country music’s deep connection to railroading – from the one of the founding fathers of country music, the Singing Brakeman Jimmie Rogers to Buck Owens who said he wanted his music to be like a locomotive coming through the room – will be on full display. In this series, you’ll find more about the strong link between railroading and country music, just as we did with the September 2017 issue when Kevin P. Keefe wrote the story about the rhythm of the rails and how music and railroading are connected from the beat to the stories. I highly recommend it.


The other video offering is on your computer. A young Michigan filmmaker, Drayton Blackgrove, through his Delay in Block Productions, has started a series on abandoned railroads. His first subject is dear to my heart: Saluda grade in Western North Carolina. The Southern Railway route, where trains regularly tripled over the 4.7 percent grade, has been quiet since late 2001. Norfolk Southern is railbanking it for future use. But in its day, it required two safety tracks, helpers fore and aft, and railroaders with nerves of the heaviest steel. Drayton revisits the grade’s story and brings it up to date. Because I grew up near here, you'll see and hear from me, too. Look for a few pictures I made in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I'm glad Drayton did this video. It’s a fresh look at a favorite American railroad, where railroaders dared to conquer gravity. Check it out here:


Let me know what you think of both videos. I'm going to bet you there's been some country music played on board a train traveling via Saluda or close to the tracks. 

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