Filming scenic railways for UNC-TV is a labor of love and lumps.
Robert Van Camp has been at it for 20 years. He almost got knocked off the roof of one train by a branch he didnt see coming and had an eardrum popped by an unexpected steam whistle.
At 8 p.m. Tuesday, Van Camps latest rail journey, Trains Around North America, will air on UNC-TV as part of the networks annual pledge drive. It includes one of his favorite excursion lines and the one that got him started on the series, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Western North Carolina.
In all, Van Camp has produced 13 travelogues featuring historic tourist railways, an enterprise that has taken him across the continent and as far away as New Zealand.
Its a good gig. I get to go around the world and tell stories, says Van Camp, who runs a production company based in Winston-Salem.
Van Camp was still a college student when he started working as a TV photographer and landed a job at WBTV (Channel 3) in Charlotte in 1987. He stayed for 18 months, then continued his education at UNC Greensboro, which offered courses in television. He kept working on the side for a Winston-Salem station.
A feature story he shot on the Smoky Mountains line led to a 30-minute special for UNC-TV and hes been at it ever since, picking up 13 regional Emmys along the way.
His rail specials and other travelogues, hosted by N.C. storyteller and folk singer David Holt, have become a centerpiece of UNC-TVs pledge promotions. Last year, Van Camps segments, which offer DVDs and books, raised $53,000 for UNC-TV in two days.
I never designed it to be a pledge show, he says. I designed it as a half-hour show on individual railroads. I never knew it would turn into a system-wide fundraising show.
But it has. PBS affiliates across the nation now build pledge segments around the rail specials. Next month, hell be traveling to 12 stations to talk about his work and raise money.
People love old-time railroads, hes found. When youre doing 15 to 20 miles an hour, you have a totally different perspective of the world around you. Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is a true gem it goes through some pristine areas.
UNC-TV will air three hours of Van Camps earlier shows beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday, including a travelogue on the Outer Banks.
Joining WSOC (Channel 9) is reporter Trish Williford who comes from the ABC affiliate in Shreveport, La. Reporter Bora Kim joins WCNC (Channel 36) from the NBC affiliate in Detroit. Jenna Caiazzo, a part-time anchor and reporter at WCCB (Fox Charlotte, Channel 18), leaves for the CBS affiliate in West Palm Beach, Fla.
WBTV (Channel 3) weekend anchor Sharon Smith and husband Colin welcomed twin girls this week, Hazel at 5 lbs., 9 oz. and Margaret at 5 lbs., 4 oz.
WFAE-FMs (90.7) Julie Rose this week took listeners to a little-known part of Charlottes radio history the bunker at WBT-AMs (1110) transmitter, built by the government during the Cold War to broadcast information in case of a nuclear strike. WBTs chief engineer Jerry Dowd, who lovingly maintains the relic, led Rose through the stark underground studio and into its 21st century replacement wind-resistant cubes next to the transmitter underwritten by FEMA for Katrina-like disasters. NPRs All Things Considered picked up the story, which can be heard at WFAE.org. WFAE adds five new directors: Rosalyn Allison-Jacobs of La Piana Consulting, Linda Greenwell, a community volunteer, Ronald Lamberth of Cherry Bekaert LLP, Martha Schweppe of Wells Fargo Advisors and Bilal Soylu of Verian Technologies. Nash Long of Winston & Strawn was elected chairman.