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Gettysburg National Military Park, Traveling Back in Time

Story and photo By Jim Schlett

Since its inception, Dulles Airport has been a pipeline to numerous business possibilities.  With the expansion of the Washington Metro system those opportunities have been growing at a steady rate.  This area is also a gateway to many educational, historical and recreational areas, including many of our National Park sites.  Within a very short distance of the Dulles corridor, a large number of those sites can be visited and enjoyed.   

One of the most historical, hallowed and significant locations is Gettysburg National Military Park, an easy 90-minute drive up Route 15 out of Leesburg to the Park’s Visitor Center.  This park and town are still centered around a battle that occurred back on July 1-3, 1863 in a great Civil War over 150 years ago.

In 2018, I was fortunate enough to be selected as the Artist-In-Residence at several National Parks, including Gettysburg.  Being an avid Civil War buff, this was a bonus of combining all of the historical aspects of an epic battle located within the beautiful landscape of the area.  This is a program that a small number of National Parks sponsor each year.  At Gettysburg, the Gettysburg Foundation and the National Parks Art Foundation are part of the AIR.  The program allows selected artists to create works and present at least one workshop or talk while in a specific park for a 2 – 4 week period of time.  The park generally provides housing to the artist.   We arrived in August in the middle of a hot and humid summer day and settled into our housing at the Klingel Farm, directly in the middle of the battlefield where Picketts’ Charge occurred.  The farm house dates back to before the Civil War, and we had the sense of being a guest in another time and place.  While walking the fields of battle in search of photographs, I could often sense the presence of some of the soldiers and “hear” voices that affected me in a profound way. 

As a photographer, being right in the middle of the battlefield allowed me to rise very early to make sure I was at specific locations for that special light of the “magic” hour.   Some of the views in the early morning, with a fog creeping across the ridges, fields and orchards were truly incredible.  An added bonus at that time of day is that the battlefield is generally devoid of tourists.  Many of the sunsets views were equally as stunning as those at daybreak.

It is very ironic that this battlefield – witness to so much carnage on those 3 days – now is often looked on as a peaceful and scenic location by many visitors.  Having been to Gettysburg on numerous instances over the past 40 years, I decided to pick the collective knowledge of the park’s employees and volunteers as well as the staff of the Gettysburg Foundation.  To put this park in perspective, Gettysburg was the largest battle ever in North America, with an estimated 150,000 soldiers, over 50,000 casualties and over 400 cannons. The Park is quite large, encompassing approximately 4,000 acres and one could easily spend several days there.  Some of the names of the Generals have become part of the lore of American history, like Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, George Pickett, George Meade, George Custer, Winfield Hancock and John Buford.  Each played a significant role in the final outcome of the battle.  This Union victory at Gettysburg, coupled with the surrender of Vicksburg, truly was the major turning point of the Civil War.    

Almost every day, after my sunrise photos were finished, I would head over to the Visitors Center, check in at the desk and ask the rangers and volunteers for lesser known or photographed areas of the battlefield they would recommend for new images.   I received an incredible number of suggestions for sites throughout the battlefield, so many that I was unable to fit them all into my schedule during my
time there!  

 Those suggestions led to daily hikes both with ranger-led walks/talks and on my own to famed sites such as Culp’s Hill, the Wheatfield, Coster Avenue mural, the Wills House, the Peach Orchard and Devils Den to name just a few.  The hikes and tours with the rangers provide an interesting perspective, with each ranger crafting a unique story about the individual tours such as the Round Top, so that on each day the program would be different.  On an interesting note, one day while at the National Cemetery, the ranger spoke of a “poem” written by a soldier that had striking similarities to the Gettysburg Address long before the Address was given.  The ranger talks are extremely informative, interesting and moving.  On more than one instance, I would see visitors tear up while listening to a ranger about action that took place back in 1863.  

I would also mention that adjacent to Gettysburg National Military Park is the Eisenhower National Historic Site, the home and farm of our 34th President of the United States.  Dwight D. Eisenhower was also the Supreme Allied Commander of the Armed Forces in Europe in World Was II and had a keen interest in the battle and this area.  The home and farm also offered some great photographic opportunities and is worth a visit with the many facets of the Eisenhower’s later years.  

The Artist-In-Residency Program continues the tradition of artists and writers creating new works that capture the essence of the parks and spark the interest of new visitors.  I am hopeful that people will respond to my work in ways that will benefit the parks, such as recruiting new volunteers.  I will also be exhibiting some of my photographs from this and other AIR experiences at the ArtSpace Gallery in Herndon, Virginia in the near future.  

More of my photographic images in individual galleries by subject matter can be found at 


Winter Driving Tips

Commuters, Car and Van Poolers Should Focus on Your Safety

Adapted from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

When the chilly temperatures of winter set in, will your vehicle be ready for the cold? We live in a part of the country that experiences inclement weather, such as heavy rain, snow and ice.  And we have a large number of car-and-vanpoolers in our region.  Inclement weather can have a paralyzing effect on your daily commute. Are you prepared to drive in those conditions? Planning and preventative maintenance are important year-round—but especially when it comes to winter driving. 


Get Your Car Serviced – No one wants their car to break down in any season, but especially not in cold, icy or snowy winter weather. Start the season off right by ensuring your vehicle is in optimal condition. 

Know Your Car – Every vehicle handles differently; this is particularly true when driving on wet, icy, or snowy roads. Take time now to learn how your vehicle handles under winter weather driving conditions. 

Before driving your vehicle, clean snow, ice or dirt from the windows, the forward sensors, headlights, tail lights, backup camera and other sensors around the vehicle.

For electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, minimize the drain on the battery. If the vehicle has a thermal heating pack for the battery, plug your vehicle in whenever it’s not in use. Pre-heat the passenger compartment before you unplug your vehicle in the morning. 


Stock Your Vehicle 

Carry items in your vehicle to handle common winter driving-related tasks, such as cleaning off your windshield, as well as any supplies you might need in an emergency. Keep the following in your vehicle: 

Snow shovel, broom, and ice scraper; abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter, in case your vehicle gets stuck in the snow; jumper cables, flashlight, and warning devices such as flares and emergency markers; blankets for protection from the cold; and a cell phone with charger, water, food, and any necessary medicine (for longer trips or when driving in lightly populated areas). 

Plan Your Travel and Route 

Keep yourself and others safe by planning ahead before you venture out into bad weather. Check the weather, road conditions, and traffic. Don’t rush! Allow plenty of time to get to your destination safely. Plan to leave early if necessary. Familiarize yourself with directions and maps before you go, even if you use a GPS system, and let others know your route and anticipated arrival time. 


Keep your gas tank close to full, even with a hybrid-electric vehicle. If you get stuck in a traffic jam or in snow, you might need more fuel than you anticipated to get home or to keep warm. If road conditions are hazardous, avoid driving if possible. Wait until road and weather conditions improve before venturing out in your vehicle. 

On longer trips, plan enough time to stop to stretch, get something to eat ,return calls or text messages, and change drivers or rest if you feel drowsy. 

Avoid Risky Driving Behaviors 

Do not text or engage in any activities that may distract you while driving. Obey all posted speed limits, but drive even slower if necessary for weather conditions. 

Driving in Winter Conditions 

Drive slowly. It’s harder to control or stop your vehicle on a slick or snow-covered surface. On the road, increase your following distance enough so that you’ll have plenty of time to stop for vehicles ahead of you. Know whether your vehicle has an antilock brake system and learn how to use it properly. Antilock brake systems prevent your wheels from locking up during braking. If you have antilock brakes, apply firm, continuous pressure to the brake pedal. If you don’t have antilock brakes, you may need to pump your brakes if you feel your wheels starting to lock up. 

Navigating Around Snow Plows 

Don’t crowd a snow plow or travel beside it. Snow plows travel slowly, make wide turns, stop often, overlap lanes, and exit the road frequently. The road behind an active snow plow is safer to drive on. If you find yourself behind a snow plow, stay behind it or use caution when passing. When you are driving behind a snow plow, don’t follow or stop too closely. A snow plow operator’s field-of-vision is limited; if you can’t see the mirrors, the driver can’t see you. Also, materials used to de-ice the road could hit your vehicle. Snow plows can throw up a cloud of snow that can reduce your visibility to zero in less time than you can react. Never drive into a snow cloud – it can conceal vehicles or hazards. 

What To Do in a Winter Emergency 

If you are stopped or stalled in wintry weather, follow these safety rules: Stay with your car and don’t over exert yourself; Put bright markers on the antenna or windows and keep the interior dome light turned on. To avoid asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning, don’t run your car for long periods of time with the windows up or in an enclosed space. If you must run your vehicle, clear the exhaust pipe of any snow and run it only sporadically — just long enough to stay warm. 


New Air Service Coming in 2019 to Dulles International

By Athena Hernandez

Following another year of growth at Dulles International Airport, with nearly 24 million passengers traveling through the National Capital Region’s international gateway over the past 12 months, exciting new domestic and international service is coming to the airport.

United Airlines is projecting a 6-percent seat capacity growth at Dulles International for 2018, with additional growth in 2019. This means 12 new domestic routes, including: Elmira, Ithaca and Plattsburgh, New York; Manchester, New Hampshire; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Greenbrier, West Virginia; Lexington, Kentucky; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Asheville and Wilmington, North Carolina; Hilton Head, South Carolina and Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. These new routes mean greater connectivity up and down the east coast, and beyond. In addition, United will be adding three-times-a-week service to Tel Aviv, Israel beginning in May 2019—a new route offering unparalleled access to the Middle East.

Dulles International also welcomed two new airlines this year—Cathay Pacific’s non-stop service to Hong Kong and Volaris’ low-cost service to San Salvador and San Jose, Costa Rica—with more exciting growth to come in 2019. Alitalia will begin offering five times weekly, year-round service to Rome in May, and TAP Air Portugal will begin offering five times weekly, year-round service to Lisbon, Portugal beginning in June. 

Wishing you a happy holidays and happy travels in 2019!


A Concerted Call To Action

The Greater Washington Partnerships Advocates for Transportation Improvements

The Greater Washington Partnership, a group of CEOs from some of the largest corporations in the world, recently released a report titled Capital Region Blueprint for Regional Mobility.  Recognizing that the Baltimore/Washington/Richmond economic market is “the third largest in the United States and the seventh largest in the world,” concerted effort must be focused on keeping our transportation network up to date, and thus the region’s workers and resident mobile.  

The Report recognizes the importance of improving mobility throughout the greater Washington region and investing more resources in doing so because “With currently planned investments, by 2040 the region’s consumers are projected to see congestion grow by more than 150 percent from 2015 levels.  In other words, by 2040 the region’s consumers will go from sitting in congestion 30 percent of each trip to nearly 50 percent.”  Needless to say, those are daunting numbers.

The Blueprint for Regional Mobility relies on what it refers to as a “performance-based transportation agenda” that advocates for a “range of solutions around four priorities:
(1) connecting the super-region; (2) improving consumer experience; (3) ensuring equitable access; and
(4) integrating innovation.”

More specifically, the Blueprint for Regional Mobility is a call to improve and expand our public transportation systems (Metrorail, bus and bus rapid transit), integrating more technology and expanding the existing toll highway network.  The report also calls for expanding our network of trails and pedestrian/bike facilities, expanding the American Legion Bridge and improving the “Long Bridge” for rail traffic across the Potomac River.  

The estimated cost of these recommendations?  $7 billion a year on top of the already planned $12.3 billion to be spent between now and 2045!  However, with the recent announcement of Amazon choosing the region for its next headquarters based on the quality of future workers, the Partnership sees this investment as making up for years of under investing.  The consensus from the business community is simple – either invest in our future infrastructure, or lose our competitive edge that brought Amazon here in the first place.



Herndon’s Red Caboose

By Carol Bruce 

The big red caboose that sits between the Herndon Municipal Center and the W&OD trail is more than a local landmark. It is a symbol of the railroad that for so many years was the heart of our town. 

What eventually became known as the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad had its origins more than a century and a half ago, in Alexandria. In 1853—after an earlier effort to establish a railroad foundered—a group of businessmen formed the Alexandria, Loudoun & Hampshire Railroad. The plan was that the line would run from Alexandria to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Unfortunately, financial problems intervened and the line never went beyond Snickersville
(now Bluemont). 

The Herndon Depot was constructed in 1857, in anticipation of the railroad’s arrival, and the community that would become the Town of Herndon grew up around it. The first train passed through town on May 17, 1860, on its run from Alexandria to Leesburg, which at that time was the end of the line. 

Herndon was a farming community, and its dairy industry thrived because the trains provided an efficient means of transporting milk to the processors and distributors in Washington, DC. The railroad also carried mail, provided freight service to and from the many communities springing up along the line, and furnished passenger service. The railroad also became a popular means of travel for city dwellers wanting to escape Washington’s heat and humidity and visit the “resort” towns along the line, including Herndon. 

After a series of owners—and names—the line became the Washington & Old Dominion Railway Company on July 1, 1912. (The name was changed for the final time on April 16, 1936, when it became the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Company.) 

The line, which began with steam engines, was electrified late in 1912. At that time, the company published a brochure that promoted “the cooling breezes, the quality and abundance of the meals provided by the hosts of the many boarding houses along the line and the home-like atmospheres of the various establishments.” Along with weekend visitors, commuters—who now found it possible to live in the clean, quiet countryside while still working in the city—began arriving in Herndon. 

The railroad was only modestly successful throughout its life, although it experienced a boom during World War II, which also was the time when diesel power replaced electricity. Business declined quickly after the war ended, falling victim to the development of better roads and more dependable trucks and cars. Although the railroad continued hauling freight for a number of years (the last big job it handled was hauling the sand used in the concrete mix for the runways at Dulles Airport), passenger service ended on May 31, 1951. Freight service ceased and the last train ran through Herndon on August 27, 1968. 

The Virginia Electric and Power Company (now Dominion Virginia Power) purchased the abandoned right of way, and in 1978, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority bought the section from Shirlington to Purcellville from the power company. The W&OD Regional Park that so many of us enjoy today was completed in 1988. 

In 1989, Herndon resident, Historical Society member, and train aficionado George Moore—who was determined to memorialize the Town’s railroad heritage—was almost single handedly responsible for finding a surplus caboose, securing its donation, and having it relocated to Herndon. 

The plaque that is displayed at the caboose says it all: 

In Memory of George Moore 1939-2003

George thought Herndon should have its own caboose. In 1989, he made it happen.

Reprinted from the Herndon Historical Society: First published in the Herndon Patch.