CROZET, Va. — “Surprise and delight” is language public-relations gurus routinely apply to whatever they are promoting, though you never know when it will actually occur while looking out the window of an Amtrak passenger train.
Last Sunday, Dec. 3, it happened aboard the Chicago-bound Cardinal about 12 miles west of Charlottesville, Va., on the Buckingham Branch Railroad’s former Chesapeake & Ohio main line. The annual Christmas parade in Crozet, Va. — population 9,224 — was in full swing just as the train bounded around a curve into town. Early morning rain had given way to mild temperatures and afternoon sunshine, so fortunately a camera was ready to record less than 30 seconds of the event at 2:14 p.m. EST
But that was enough time to witness horses prancing down the main highway next to the tracks, families with strollers enjoying the afternoon, and a spotless fire engine bringing up the rear as people lined the street. Was that Santa aboard?
And just like that, the scene gave way to fields and forests.
The local Crozet Gazette says the parade was sponsored by the volunteer fire department, which offered “food off the grill, a bounce house, arts and crafts, and fire trucks to explore” at the firehouse after it was over. Crozet residents clearly enjoyed the afternoon.
Winter’s shortened days often provide fewer opportunities to see what’s going on in the towns Amtrak trains pass through. On the other hand, one of the unremarked pleasures of traveling around the holidays is to see how residents and merchants take pride in their decorations. At night in a darkened roomette, there are few visual experiences more satisfying than watching an ever-changing array of light displays, especially in towns like Ashland, Va., and Montgomery, W.Va., where trains go slow through residential neigborhoods and festive downtowns. You never know what might be waiting around the next bend.