Monthly Archives: February 2012

Name a train station! Let me suggest some historical themes…

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is asking for input regarding new station names.  This is probably fly-by local news to readers outside Northern Virgina.  But here me out, there’s a angle here to consider.  The new Silver Line, currently under construction, will traverse through Fairfax County to Dulles International Airport.  The extension is depicted here on a altered, and unofficial, version of the Metro Rail map, if you look to the far left:

Better yet, here’s a Google map with the new station locations pinned:

The route traverses several historic roads, streams, and localities.  Indeed this is an opportunity to highlight some “paved over” history now forgotten within suburbia. Washington Metro has done just that on other lines, with names like Fort Totten (and let’s not forget the squares and circles named after famous leaders to include Civil War generals and admirals).

So here’s my suggestions for the new stations:

Station 1:  The favorites are McLean, Tysons-McLean, and Scott’s Run.  But how about Lewinsville?  Can I get a loud “Here!  Here!”, Ron?

Station 2:  With the large mall complex nearby, the name Tysons Corner is hard to beat here.  But let me suggest Chain Bridge Road, in honor of the ancient thoroughfare at that stop.

Station 3:  Just to the southwest of the station’s location along the Leesburg Pike is Freedom Hill.  What a great name for a railroad station!

Station 4:  Not that we need a station so close to number 3, but if they must then I say name it Leesburg Pike.

Station 5:  The cross street here is Wiehle Avenue.  While I admit that name will likely register with us who frequent the area, I’d like to see it named for nearby  Difficult Run.

Station 6:   The station is near Reston Town Center.  How about a wave to the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad trail just a short walk northeast?  The old Sunset Hills Station stood nearby.

Station 7:  Herndon is the favorite and I see no reason to argue.  The station there saw considerable activity during the Civil War.

Station 8:  I am leaning towards Coppermine, in honor of the 19th century mine located nearby. But we might mention Laura Ratcliffe and Mosby’s Rock.

Those are the eight scheduled for this extension of the rail line.  In the future there will be two new stations beyond the Dulles Airport, in Loudoun County.  Both of those stations have a wealth of historical place-names nearby.

Even if you don’t live in the DC area, you can take the survey.  So please take a few minutes to help me stuff the ballot box!

H/T to History Girl, a.k.a. AlexNovaHistory.

World War II Podcasts

A bit… OK… a good bit off topic for me – World War II.

Recently I discovered Ray Harris’ The History of World War II Podcasts.  Thought I’d mention his excellent work as there are a few readers out there who’s focus is in that direction… and a good number of us who really need to diversify our military history!

Ray’s approach is somewhat different than other podcast series on the subject.  Instead of touching upon several different aspects of the war, he takes the listener through major events or campaigns providing both a macro- and micro-viewpoint.  For example, over the span of six episodes Ray covers the Dunkirk evacuation.  He addressed the rather sticky situation between allied Britain and France, the failures and successes in German high command, all the while detailing the daily operations in the port and on the beaches.

He devoted a full episode to the destruction of the French fleet in 1940.  As I’ve mentioned before I am rather familiar with that topic, having written my thesis on Operation Catapult.  I found Ray’s coverage well rounded and complete for the allotted time slot.

Currently he is working through the Battle of Britain.  The last few episodes have covered the opening actions in that air-battle – three days at a time.  Beyond just the standard trip through the Battle of Britain – Hurricanes, Spitfires, Me 109s, radar, Fighter Command, Goering, the Blitz, perhaps a bit about tactics, and then “the Few” – Ray’s approach walks us through the changes with strategy and tactics, all the while pinned against the backdrop of two nations at war.  The listener is not lost in the weeds discussing the aircrews and aircraft, but not held too high aloof considering the national leaders making grand decisions.

Ray’s got a great series going.  Even if you are only into Civil War history, these are good entertainment, providing some “rounding out” to your podcast library.

Fake Ordnance Rifles to fill the lines: Gilbert Guns

The average visitor to Gettysburg will stand beside this gun without pause, thinking its a real, authentic Civil War field piece.

Gettysburg 18 Feb 12 091

Replica 3-inch Rifle in the Gettysburg National Cemetery

But on close examination this gun is not an authentic Civil War weapon. Instead this is a replica which dates to the early days of the Gettysburg park -  one of perhaps a couple dozen cast for the Gettysburg commission in the 1890s.  This particular gun represents the 1st Massachusetts Light Battery, along with an authentic 3-inch Ordnance Rifle, in Gettysburg’s National Cemetery.

The bore has crude rifling and very poorly masked machining marks.  Some examples have irregular or off center muzzle faces.

Gettysburg 18 Feb 12 090

Muzzle of Replica 3-inch Rifle

And of course these lack any markings.

Likewise the trunnions have flaws which could not escape even the most lenient ordnance inspector.

Gettysburg 18 Feb 12 089

Right Trunnion of Replica 3-inch Rifle

But most notably, the breech profile differs from authentic 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  The elongated breech better resembles some Confederate guns or perhaps Blakely field guns.

Gettysburg 18 Feb 12 088

Breech Profile of Replica 3-inch Rifle

The generously rounded knob joins the breech with just a hint of neck.  Compare this to an authentic 3-inch Ordnance Rifle just steps away.

Gettysburg 18 Feb 12 095

Breech Profile of 3-inch Rifle #360

From a distance, the replica resembles the authentic gun well enough to fool most observers.

Gettysburg 18 Feb 12 087

Replica 3-inch Rifle in the Gettysburg National Cemetery

But on close examination, items such as the squared rimbases, lack of sight fixtures, and breech profile give away the reproduction.

Gettysburg 18 Feb 12 085

3-inch Ordnance Rifle #785 in the Gettysburg National Cemetery

Like the Parrott replicas I mentioned some time back, the 3-inch rifle replicas are products of Calvin Gilbert, a veteran of the war and a captain from the 87th Pennsylvania who operated a nearby foundry.  When the Gettysburg commission came up short on 3-inch rifles to represent all the batteries on the field, they turned to Gilbert.  In addition to the 3-inch and Parrott replicas, Gilbert also “falsified” 6-pdr smoothbores and James rifles into Napoleons.  Now days we accept plenty of replicas and reproductions on the battlefield.  Some better than others, but a necessary allowance due to the limited number of artifacts that remain.  Gilbert’s guns were the first attempt at such a reproduction – over 100 years ago.

While not “authentic” pieces, these guns have a history and story to tell.