A Picture Is Worth What?

Often, we hear a picture is worth a thousand words! Well at the museums we try to study and evaluate the evidence shown in pictures to enhance our story of history. For historians, they are invaluable . Our collection of pictures is a major archive. We hope every one will consider sharing or giving us copies of any old photographs around the area. We try to give credit to donors and require credit when we share one.

In the past week, just such an evaluation has taken center stage and continues to intrigue. Tim Carroll sent us a picture from a collection of Durham and Southern RR which has come into the possession of and is shared by the New Hope Valley RR. This photo of the rails in Varina, dated 1934, presents much to contemplate.

Looking carefully, one can easily spot what we have often noted to be an almost right angle crossing of two rails: the D & S line and the N & S line. (Someone kindly identified the lines.) Later rail additions are not all included in this photograph.

BUT more importantly, there is no NS freight or passenger facility on the left. Where that building now stands appears to be someone’s garden. No doubt about the D & S Varina Station in the middle, built about 1910. Beyond it, clearly the building now called The Brick, formerly Varina Supply and several later businesses, is evident. Note the recent Varina Brick warehouse, clearly showing its distinctive front and skylights in the roof. One can even find the old water tower along the left rail where steam engines were refilled.

Another notable feature are the trees across from the depot along Broad Street with cars in front of the businesses there. Those trees remained until 1937. Gales Johnson captured them in his wonderful photo of Broad Street. We know those buildings have seen only cosmetic change helping detail the story of Varina.

Another photograph in the collection identifies the D & S depot looking from the west along Broad Street, dated 1940. The freight handling platforms and private homes in what is now Academy-Ennis area are beyond. Any N & S building does not show but may be hidden. This was a photo used for insurance purposes by D & S.

Now compare the 1957 Heulon Dean photo of the railroads crossing in Varina. Find the NS freight station on the left.

In the background Varina Brick still is distinct but with some additions. Also, the building. Varina Supply with additions to its left is clear beyond the depot. Gone are trees on Broad Street but buildings are still identifiable today, including the last post office, now the Aviator’s newest project. Even the multiple storage buildings only recently removed along the D & S lines were captured by Dean. Was the semaphore moved or only the angle of the lens changed as we compare both photographs?

An immediate question is when did the NS freight station appear on the scene? And how long did NS continue to use our “Little Depot” we hope to reconstruct located on Depot Street? Some earlier assumptions regarding the length of its usage and the beginning of the union depot at Varina Station now must be revisited. Did the “Little Depot” remain much longer than Hattie’s post office at the end of Depot Street?