Message from Mayor Foley

Jim Foley Mayor Ashland VA

The following is a message from Mayor Foley regarding the upcoming visit by DRPT and CTB to our town on November 1st.


Dear Citizens,

I want to update everyone on the latest information about the CTB visit this Tuesday.  I also would like to give some guidance regarding how you can assist the town and county during the visit.

The CTB and some members of the DRTP will arrive at the Ashland Theater by 11:00 am on Tuesday.  The group will give a presentation, followed by 5 minutes of commentary from myself, President Lindgren and someone from Hanover County.

This is a “fact finding” visit.  No public comments will be allowed although you are allowed to watch the proceedings inside the theater.

The group will have a working lunch at the theater and will then take a short tour of the town starting at approximately 12:45pm. We believe that the tour will start from the theater and cover Center Street between Lee Street and College Avenue.

After the walking tour (12:45-1:45pm), the group will do a slow driving tour of the town.  Although we are not sure of the order, I do know that they plan to drive by Randolph-Macon College and Berkleytown.  They are also planning to drive down south Center Street to view a potential new train station location south of Ashcake Road.

Afterwards, the group will head to the county to view all of the potential intersections that a bypass would possibly cross.

How can you help?

1) Stay positive.  These are the folks that will make the decision on the Third Rail option. Technically they make a recommendation to the Federal government (FRA) and that recommendation is very likely to be accepted.

2) It is your right to hold up signs like “No Third Rail,” but please be calm and courteous.

3) We want to show the CTB and DRTP that we are always conscious of track safety.  Please use designated cross walks and piers to cross the tracks.

4) If you are available on Tuesday before and/or after the meeting please spend time outside.  Walk your dogs and babies.  Sit outside on your front porch.  Have lunch or coffee outside at one of our fine establishments near the intersection of England Street and Center Street.  We want to show the CTB and DRTP that we are a vibrant little town.

5) Tidy up your yards, especially if you live on or near the walking tour route or the driving tour route.

As always, I am available to answer any questions you may have on this important topic.

Best Regards,

Mayor Foley



CTB Meetings: November 1st – Details

Germanna Community College

One of our Ashland neighbors has provided the following additional information to do with the meetings on November 1st.


11:00 am Ashland Theater, OPEN TO THE PUBLIC – CTB and DRPT will be giving a presentation on High Speed Rail and their visit to Ashland. Then, Jim Foley, R-MC President Lindgren and a representative from the County will briefly speak (5 minutes each.) Next there will be a Q&A between the CTB and Town and County representatives… there will be NO PUBLIC COMMENT.

The group of officials will then walk from Lee Street (Library) north to College Ave where they will ride a bus up Center to Ashcake to check out a potential new rail station location. Then, as I understand it, they will drive along the Western Bypass route before leaving for their 4:00 meeting in Fredericksburg.

Let’s show them how much we love our Town… Come to the meeting at the Ashland Theater, beautify your properties for them to see, be out and about Town during their visit and please come to Fredericksburg for public comments during CTB meeting!

Commonwealth Transportation Board Meeting

Tuesday, November 1 @ 4:00

Germanna Community College,
Center for Workforce Development and Community Education
10000 Germanna Point Drive
Fredericksburg, VA 22408

There are already a few people planning on attending/speaking at this meeting, so if you would like to car pool contact kjamkjam at comcast dot net.

If anyone has questions, you can contact Jim Foley or Kathy Abbott or Josh Farrar (Acting Town Manager)


If you are planning on speaking at the Fredericsksburg meeting I suggest that you coordinate your comments with Jim Foley or Kathy Abbot.


Historic Properties

Ashland Baptist Church

The following information has been taken from an email from Rosanne Shalf, President of the Ashland Museum. Note that many of the buildings that she refers to will be destroyed if a Third Rail is put through town.


The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation will be coming to Ashland on November 1 at the Ashland Theatre and will tour the town. They will have a meeting, not a public hearing, about their plans for the fast rail. It is important that as many well-behaved, friendly citizens as possible are at the meeting and also strolling the streets, eating outside, etc. so they can see our relationship and proximity to the rail right of way.  Please make no reference to the western bypass. We need to be united. See Jim Foley’s letter.

The Federal Rail people have to take into account any historic properties that might be in the path of the proposed rail.  The way they do that is to do a “Section 106 Study” that identifies the historic properties that any proposed route would affect.


“Contributing structures” within a historic district are ones that fit within the timeframe and architectural styles of the particular district. “Non-contributing structures” are ones like brick ranchers or other 1950s and later buildings or buildings that have been so altered that they don’t have the architectural elements of the period. I’ll point some out below.

“Historic Landmarks” are single buildings that are designated because they have some special significance because of people associated with them or because of their special architecture.

“Historic Districts” are large areas and neighborhoods that have a collection of mostly “contributing structures” of a particular time period. That’s us.

Our Districts

First, Ashland has two National Historic Districts and they contain over 200 buildings that are historic and considered “contributing structures” to the district. Most of the buildings on Center St and Railroad Avenue are within the district.  You can count on your fingers the non-contributing ones—Brock Gym, Ashland Coffee and Tea, and some mid-century homes along there or recently constructed homes. They are obvious, but there aren’t many “non-contributing”.

District #1

RANDOLPH-MACON HISTORIC CAMPUS, designated in 1979, the three oldest buildings that face the tracks built in the 1870s.  It is these that would be negatively affected by the proposed station improvements, to say nothing of having the campus split in two.  There are no non-contributing structures in this district.

District #2

ASHLAND NATIONAL HISTORIC DISTRICT, designated in 1983, contains over 200 buildings most of which are “contributing structures.” The date timeframe for our current district is pre-Civil War (Macmurdo House, The Center, Chopper Dawson’s house) to the 1930s, and “contributing structures” are those built in that time-frame that have not been so altered, especially the front facades, that they are no longer representative styles of their time. Most of the buildings on either side of the tracks are in the district from almost to Patrick St. on the north to Early Street on the south. They include but are not limited to the following, and this is a really rough breakdown. You can see the addresses in the attached file.

Historic Downtown Business District south of Rt 54, including the old Hughes Drug Store (1900), Tiny Tim’s (1901), Caboose (1870s? 1890s?), Iron horse (1913) — all the buildings on the west side of that block except for Bell Book and Candle.  On east side of that block, Cross Brothers, Shear Power, and possibly McCardle Insurance (under the permastone).  On the east side of the block farther south Fin and Feather and Chopper’s house (1858) and storefront (1871).

Historic Downtown Business District north of Rt. 54, including the old Hanover National Bank Building (1919) and the Ashland Train Station (1923). Even Homemades’ building itself was built as the USPO and Barnes Drug Store before the turn of the 20th century.  It has been modified a lot, so it might not be considered “contributing.”

Residential District South of Rt 54, including S Center St: the homes from the 300 block all the way down to Early Street and the Hendrixson’s house.  Some of those are not “contributing structures” such as the Sutton house, the house next to the Dyers that was so modified that it would no longer qualify, and the little brick cape cod on the east side of the street next to the Paces that was built in the 1950s.  The apartments next to The Center are also outside the district’s timeframe. The map extends also to much of Howard Street, part of Race Course, and part of James Street on the west and parts of Virginia St and Maple St on the east.

Residential District North of Rt 54, including the former residences along the tracks that RMC now owns, some of the other college buildings built between 1900 and 1930, such as Mary Branch and Thomas Branch dorms, Peele Hall, the security building on Caroline, the three brick homes on Caroline, the houses on College up to Louisiana St. The houses on Henry Clay Road from the Martins all the way to a couple of houses past Dewey Street. (there are some, maybe 4 or 5, brick 1 1/2 story homes in that area that are not contributing).


Ashland VA railroad tracks 1918
The Tracks in 1918


If you would like to see our estimate as to the impact of this proposed Third Rail please visit Impact of the Third Rail.

Impact of the Third Rail

Impact of Third Rail on Ashland VA

Based on data from the Basis of Design provided by the Department of Rail & Public Transportation (DRPT) we have estimated the impact of the Third Rail on the Town of Ashland. We have presented reports to the Hanover Board of Supervisors, the DRPT itself and the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB).

We have also flown a drone down Center St. and superimposed the calculated impact of the project on the town. This has led to the creation of a series of images, some of which are shown in this post.

I have stressed many times that we are working with inadequate and sometimes ambiguous data to do with codes and standards. But it is unlikely that our estimates are drastically wrong.

Here is some background.

  1. The existing tracks were laid down in 1843 (some say 1834) and 1903 respectively — long before there were any standards to do with spacing between tracks and, more important, standards to do with the spacing between the tracks and the first public highway or footpath.
  2. The preliminary plan shows a new third rail to be located on the eastern side of Center St. The existing tracks would, it is assumed, remain where they are.
  3. The new third rail would have to meet modern code regarding its distance from the existing eastern track. There would then be a space (“no man’s land”) between the outer edge of the new track and a new fence. There is then a space between the fence and the first public footpath or road.

We are referring to this as Case A. Its impact is shown in the image at the top of this post and in the images shown below. Basically it would take out many buildings in the business district, quite a few homes, it would remove all the frontage from virtually all the other homes and from buildings such as the library. It would also create the odd situation that the east side of the tracks would be built to 21st century standards of safety but that the west side would remain in the 19th century.

In my judgment Case A is not be acceptable regarding codes and standards. If they touch the existing tracks then all the historical exclusion that they have enjoyed for a century and half would disappear. This means that the existing tracks would also have to be upgraded. We refer to this as Case B. We have not created images of the impact of Case B on Center St. but it would be quite similar to what is shown for the east side. All frontages on both sides would be lost and all buildings north of the Arts Center up to and including the existing train station would be gone.

The reality is that either Case A or Case B would tear the heart out of Ashland.


Shown below are the engineering sketches that we prepared based on the DRPT Basis of Design to calculate the pertinent distances. They are respectively:

  • The existing tracks.
  • Case A.
  • Case B.
Existing Tracks
Case A — Third Rail Ashland VA
Case A
Case B Third Rail Ashland VA
Case B

Mural (2016-10-25)

Train Mural Ashland VA

Every so often we will post pictures showing progress with the Caboose mural. The latest is shown above, with Ed Trask, the artist, hard at work. He says that the locomotive will have a number based on historical information.

However, we are not the only Ashland with murals. Our namesake  in Wisconsin has murals on a wide variety of subjects all over town. A few of them are shown below. Plus they have a real steam engine.





CTB Meetings: November 1st

Train Day 2016 Ashland VA

November 1st is a big day for showing our opposition (in a positive manner) to the proposed High Speed Rail project. Some preliminary information is shown below. We will provide more details as they become available.

Tour of Ashland

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board will be touring the town and Randolph-Macon college so that they can visualize the impact that the Third Rail option would have. More information will be provided as it becomes available.

Community Meeting

Aubrey Lane — Chairman of the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board
Aubrey Lane — Chairman

Later that day, at 4:00 p.m., they will be holding a review meeting at Germanna Community College, 10000 Germanna Point Dr., Fredericksburg, VA 22408.


CTB Meeting: Arlington

Town of Ashland

The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) held two days of meetings (October 18th and 19th) in Arlington, Virginia. The High Speed Rail project was one of the topics discussed.

The “No Third Rail” community was well represented, including participation by four of the five town council members. The second day included a public comments period. Those providing input included included three council members, three citizens of the Ashland community and President Lindgren of Randolph-Macon College.

There had been a suggestion that the DRPT would provide some information regarding their upcoming Environmental Impact Statement, but such was not the case.

Another Ashlander Book

Saying Goodbye to Our Mothers for the Last Time
Bill Harrison Ashland
Bill Harrison

Ashlander Bill Harrison is co-editor of the just published book Saying Goodbye to Our Mothers for the Last Time.




The book includes contributions from 35 authors/contributors, both women and men, who write about the death of their mothers. The volume is rich in variety, from different locations to assorted cultures and ethnicities, from ways of dying to types of funerals, from methods of dealing with loss to strategies for self-care. Some of these stories are elegant in their simplicity, others intricate in their complexity. Some incite laughter and others elicit tears.

Further details are available at the Lisa Hagan site.