Elam seeks to educate

Published 10:37 am Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Town of Victoria Councilmember Greg Elam recalls the town from years ago, and has worked to ensure that Victoria’s history, especially for area youth, is still remembered.

Elam had a hand in bringing the restored caboose and train cart that currently rest at the Victoria Railroad Park.

Each vehicle has its own story, Elam said.

The caboose, Elam said, had previously been in service on the west end of the railroad, located in Roanoke that had traveled through Victoria. The town had purchased the caboose from a man who had restored it.

“We were lucky enough to find one in that good of condition,” Elam said.

The cart, he said, was donated from a railroad heritage group in Roanoke.

As a child, the Town of Victoria being synonymous with the back and forth passage of trains was a fascinating reality.

“My grandfather worked for the Virginia (Railroad) for 34 years,” Elam said, “and so I remember, when I was younger, I remember the railroad being here. And the sites, and sounds. I used to walk across tracks to go to school and so on and so forth. It’s the history of the town. The town would not be here if it wasn’t for the railroad.”

He explained the town’s origins, saying the man who had constructed the railroad through Victoria had named the town after Queen Victoria.

He said he remembers watching, wide-eyed, when he saw steam train engines broken down for repair.

“Being able to walk through the roundhouse or the shops over there and see those monstrous steam engines just torn all to pieces,” Elam said. “They’ve taken them apart to repair them and stuff and just the amount of activity and the sounds and so on and so forth that was associated with the Town of Victoria in its heyday.”

“That was back in an era where no one locked their doors. No one took the keys out the car,” Elam said.

He said he moved from Victoria and had worked for several years before returning to the town in the 1970s.

Once returning, he keeps his hands full serving as a member of the town council.

“I can’t hardly spell ‘vacation,’” Elam said as a joke. “I’m a busy man.” He said when he does go on vacation, he has enjoyed traveling to the Outer Banks in North Carolina.

“It’s very relaxing,” Elam said. “Sit out there and listen to the ocean, watch the stars.”

Though he enjoys best being at home. Elam said his work to keep the memories of Victoria as a train town alive is especially important for the area’s youth, sometimes holding tours of the carts for kids during annual festivals.

“That is one of the reasons it’s there, is to try to teach the younger generation where they came from, so to speak,” Elam said. “Because if you don’t know where you came from, you have no idea where you’re going.”

“Having railroad in my heritage or my background,” Elam said. “I just have always wanted to save some of the history of what the town was.”