Readers Share Cape Charles Memories and Ideas for Rail Yard

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By Linda Cicoira
Plans for the future of the Cape Charles railroad yard and memories people have of the town could have a vital connection. Participants of an email survey conducted by the Eastern Shore Post this week were asked about both topics.
Anne Gibbs, a former Shore resident, said she married a man who first caught a glimpse of her in the town more than six decades ago.
“The nicest thing about Cape Charles is my husband saw me walking down the street and asked my cousin’s husband who I was,” she wrote. “We later met and married.” He was the “love of my life.”
The young Anne Hopkins lived in Oakland Park near Exmore and was visiting her uncle for dinner. Her cousin was also there with her husband and child. Hopkins took the “little girl for a walk and this young man saw me with her,” she wrote. That man, Randy Gibbs, who grew up around Bayview, and Hopkins, married a year later. Randy Gibbs died in 2011. “We were married 53 years and five months.”
“He knew whose child it was, as my cousin was married to one of his best friends,” Anne Gibbs continued. “He asked them who I was and the next day, he came to my home with my cousin and her husband so he could meet me.” It was Oct. 13, 1957. “We were married in 1958.”
“He was in the Navy and I was going to nursing school at Nassawadox,” she
continued. “I finished nursing school and we began our military life. We were married in my parents home … I was involved in a train accident in 1956, almost lost my life,” Anne Gibbs said. “My husband always said God saved me for him.”
She didn’t give her opinion on the best use of the rail yard but she made it clear all Cape Charles is all about love for her.
Cara Burton, director of the Eastern Shore Public Library system, suggested a town commons be constructed with new accessible town offices, a large meeting hall, a public library, a visitor kiosk, an outdoor seating area with shade “for people to mingle and enjoy the hometown feel of Cape Charles.”
“The Cape Charles Memorial Library is well used and, while quaint, its building limits the programs, technology, and book collections the community and visitors need,” wrote Burton. “Public libraries are gathering spaces and provide towns the opportunity to celebrate its culture and provide diverse learning experiences.”
The library is in a former bank in town.
“My childhood memories are of going to the antique store,” Burton said. “Eastern Shore antique stores and auctions were history and cultural museum experiences for me.”
Heather Burkett, of Sanford, recalled the gazebo on the beach and a bed-and-breakfast where she stayed with her mother and sister several times. She suggested that trails — nature, walking and for bicycles — be put at the rail site.
Julie Nash, of Parksley, suggested a park venue, picnic area, and amphitheater to be considered. “The health walk that I took with my students,” was a favorite memory in Cape Charles. “We had so much fun that day taking pictures, laughing, and taking in all the beauty of Cape Charles. We are so blessed. Also lunch with my friend Paul Muhly. We ate at the converted old plantation house right across from the bay. We were served lunch on the porch and we watched a big ship go by with a grand American flag. It was a beautiful day.”
Judy Brunk, of Jamesville, has found memories of King’s Creek and the two old sunken boats there. She would like to see “a rest area with picnic tables and a roof over them like at Kiptopeke Park. People could have a place to rest when shopping and sight-seeing. Restrooms would save the merchants unnecessary traffic and high water bills.”
“Maybe if you have a few cars or get some train car kits and turn them into some small businesses,” said Marilynn Wohlrab, a shop owner in Parksley. “Expand your current museum, dedicate different train cars to different eras … I have seen how Cape Charles promotes and wish I was there instead of here.”
Ken and Mary Dufty, of Wardtown, noted “fishing from the pier, enjoying the beach and the many eclectic shops and galleries that make Cape Charles fun and memorable.
“Certainly Cape Charles and the county will come up with an exciting project and development plan, but a combination of storefronts, a tourist draw — museum/theme park, concert venue — and hotel may be worth considering,” he wrote.
“I directed a chorus there,” said Shirley Christian, of Melfa. “The people were exceptionally friendly and kind, so I would have to say, the people” are her favorite memory.
Bill Payne, of Cape Charles, favors recreation, housing, and commercial ventures for the rail yard. His favorite memory of the town is “its rebirth.”
Lisa Lindberg, of Nassawadox, suggested “a hiking path that is dog-friendly” for the site.
“I have always said that the best use for the old railroad tracks, which would include the Cape Charles tracks, is for the governments, state and federal, to reuse the existing infrastructure for a lite rail system that could possibly start at the Pocomoke City, Md., area and run the entire Shore to Cape Charles with some stops along the way to other towns,” wrote Alex Coleman of Wachapreague. “I think this would help businesses that are dying out, rebuild the local economy, and help the ones less fortunate that can(’t) drive to go to places along the Shore whether it is for work or for just a day out shopping, dining, or meeting family and friends.”
Coleman’s favorite memories of Cape Charles are its sunsets at the beach, browsing through Watson’s Hardware and “lately the brewing company, distillery, and the newest shops.”
Wesley Edwards, of the Belle Haven area, is chairman of the Accomack Economic Development Authority. “The books should be open so the owners — Northampton and Accomack tax payers — can have an informed opinion,” he wrote. “If the assets are to be sold they should be equally divided between the two counties where the taxpayers have been subsidizing for many years, while big assets disappeared and big salaries were being paid to a few.” He answered “none” for his favorite memory of the town.
Robert F. Doughty, of South Chesconessex, remembers visiting his grandmother in Seaview when he was a child. “We would always drive to Cape Charles to get her a block of ice for her icebox. She didn’t have electricity. The ice plant was where Rayfield’s Pharmacy is now.”
Doughty said the rail yard will “most likely” be made into “single family homes with shops, restaurants, and a grocery store.
Valerie Vandegrift, of Virginia Beach, Va., suggested a Wal-mart or Harris Teeter grocery be built on the rail yard. “With all the tourists, you need a grocery store in town and a C-store (convenience store).
Her memories include “the trains when my father was a fireman for Pennsylvania Railroad and we could catch the train and go to Michigan every year. Also, Griff’s, Kenny’s, Palace Theatre, Savage’s Drugstore were hangouts for teenagers.”
“I would like to see a water-themed park similar to the Central Park at the school” for the railroad yard, wrote John Griffith, of Cape Charles. His favorite memory “is just growing up in our little town. We knew everyone.”
Nicki Tiffany, of Cape Charles, favors his historical railroad preservation. Her favorite thing about the town in the last few years has been Festive Fridays.
“I think that the best use of the railroad property in Cape Charles would be some kind of publicly accessible active railroad exhibition park that could, in time, and with grant money, transition to an operational local public transportation and freight business, wrote Junius Neville, another Cape Charles resident. “An organization, NYP&N Resurrection, has organized for this purpose.” The website is https://www.nypnrr.org/
“My best memories of Cape Charles are of growing up here in a town that was the epitome of small town America in the 1950s,” Neville continued. “We didn’t have a car because we could walk to school, the doctor, the movie theaters, and the grocery store, and had local access to most anything we wanted or needed. Couldn’t have asked for a better place to grow up.”

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