Long black train


Dear Ace, What’s up with the Buckingham Branch train (which has, like, a total of five cars) which is forever parked on the tracks in front of the Transit Center? I get a lungful of diesel nearly every day I walk across the bridge on Avon Street…That’s how often the thing is sitting there idly running, going absolutely nowhere, just endlessly spewing gobs of toxins all over our “green” city.—J. Blacklung

Blacklung: Ace went about answering your question in two ways: the standard way and the way that Ace hoped would lead to a bar brawl somewhere down the (Bryant family) line. First Ace called Buckingham Branch Railroad Company headquarters in Dillwyn, where he learned from a BB/Bryant representative that your locomotive adversary operates Monday through Friday, hauling freight to Louisa and back with some stops in between. But then Ace contacted his friend Lucifer Shifflette, a long-time locomotive lover and advocate, who offered the following contentious response:

My dear friend Ace,
The reason that they don’t shut down the locomotives while they’re just sitting there is because it is actually more harmful to the machine for all of its parts to cool down, have steamy water condensing on surfaces, precisely fitting parts expanding and contracting, and other unpleasant phenomenon coming around. A general rule in the engineering world is: The bigger the machine, the bigger deal it is to “turn off or on.” Locomotives use massive amounts of diesel fuel but they do massive amounts of work so, in fact, they’re inherently “green” machines despite their cut of the jib. When they’re idling they use probably a few gallons an hour to keep things warm and ready to go. It is ironic that the 150-year-old railroad titan is genuinely a green machine extraordinaire. So tell those little turds who want to pick on the locomotives while they’re tossing Spudnuts down their smokestacks that they’ll have to go through me first.

Lucifer Shifflette
President of “Diesel-Electric Locomotives Are People Too” of America

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 20 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to ace@c-ville.com.