Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Triple Crossing

Along Dock Street, across the street from Baskervill is said to be the only place in America where three trains tracks cross. The highly used CSX east-west track is the highest. Trains on this track are long and heavy with coal going to Tidewater. The north-south line connects to Main Street Station just a block away. The on-grade line is lightly used and connects West Point and Amelia.

My main fascination with this location is the confluence of many forms of transportation. Besides the three railroad lines, is the intersection of Interstates 95 and 195 high above. These massive concrete platforms provide a ceiling above the small park created along Dock Street.

My third-year college professor Pete Pinney was intrigued by "spaces" like this. He used to point out the unintended spaces created by the road overpasses in downtown Lexington. Pete would certainly enjoy this spot.

The canal that lies underneath everything was created to remake the Kanawha Canal, originally surveyed by George Washington. The canal's current purpose is flood control. Running like a ribbon along the southern edge is the 20+ foot high flood wall built in the early 80's. It was designed to "protect" Shockoe Bottom from James River floods such as those during Camille and Agnes. Richmond's floods occur primarily when the upper James River is hit by large rainfalls. That water comes to Richmond two days later.

The last and most imfamous flood of recent years was Hurrican Gaston, dumping 13 inches of water into Shockoe creek within 4 hours. Ironically, the floodwall acted as a dam which created heavy damage in the area. This particular spot along Dock Street was covered with 8 feet of water and collected dozens of cars from upstream. The economic heart of the Bottom was destroyed and is yet to recover.

It's a very pleasant place to take a stroll at lunch. If you want to get the full-treatment, take a short boat ride which starts at the turning basin and goes to the eastern end of the canal. Also when investigating Triple Crossing, be sure to read the historical plaque that describes an early slave revolt by one named Gabriel - taking place in this general area.

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