N&W in 1907 -- Improvements

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Sun Aug 3 20:08:44 EDT 2008

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
December 29, 1907

Daily Telegraph Representative Conducted Through Shops and Power House by Master Mechanic
A Daily Telegraph representative was invited by the master mechanic, Mr. L. D. Gillette, to go over the shops and power house of the Norfolk & Western in this city, and spent a very pleasant hour visiting the different departments and noting the various improvements which have been made during the past year.
The improvements were especially noticeable in the power house, where the railroad company has a fine plant that is capable of furnishing them all the power that is needed to operate all their machinery and furnish light for all the railroad departments in the city. The engine room was visited first and here Mr. Gillette showed to The Telegraph man a battery of immense 200-horse power boilers which furnish steam for all the buildings used by the railroad company, in addition to heating the cars and offices. They also generate the steam for the engines in the engine room.
This engine room is a spacious department and is fitted up in modern style with all modern equipment. Two large Buckeye double-acting engines are in use here. They are rated at 500 horse power and 200 kilowatts, respectively, and operate the dynamos and a 1,200-foot per minute air compressor. This air compressor furnishes air for testing trains, air hose, fire blowers in round house, air for cleaning coaches and for hundreds of other purposes.
The dynamos are of the Allis-Chalmers Company make and one has a belt connection, while the other has a direct connection. The dynamos furnish power for 125 arc lights and almost 600 incandescents, in addition to operating the machines in the shops and the wood-working mills. They also furnish the power for the coal wharf and light for all the offices and buildings, the Bluefield Inn and other buildings occupied by the officials of the Norfolk & Western. The company is going to make arrangements for another improvement by which they will be able to charge all the storage batteries on private cars and for other uses.
The switchboard which disseminates the alternating three-phase current is a product of the General Electric Company, and is known as a marble switchboard, of the very latest pattern with meters of all descriptions. It disseminates the power to the shops, yards and to all points where power or light is needed. But one switch is not in use, and this will at some future date be used to connect with the plant of the Bluestone Traction Company [operator of the Bluefield, WV - Graham, VA streetcar line and supplier of electricity to the city], so that when they are not able to furnish light and power they can fall back on the Norfolk & Western plant and the Norfolk & Western will be able to do the same when its plant is in trouble.
The new plant, which is up-to-date in every respect, is about a month old and has proven of great benefit to the railroad company, who had but a small plant before the new one was installed. The voltage that the plant is capable of carrying is 150 volts. At present the company is using but 110 volts, but in case of necessity the plant can be run to its full capacity.
The fire pump, which is located in the boiler room, is a very heavy one and is generally run at 100 pounds pressure. It has a capacity of 150 pounds and can throw a stream over the round house and into the engine pit. Two well-organized fire companies are ready at all times to answer a fire call. These companies have regular training and can be depended upon at all times. The two companies are provided so that one force may be available for day duty, while the other is at all times ready for night service.
A visit to the machine shops showed several new machines that have been placed within the last year, and the wood-working room is a shop to itself, although it takes up but a small space. In this room a finished end beam can be pushed into the machine and in four minutes be turned out with all the necessary cuttings and holes made and ready for immediate use on the many freight cars that are repaired in Bluefield and at Williamson. Although small, Mr. Gillette said, this plant is able to turn out more work than the one at Roanoke, which is much larger.
A large new wooden building is being prepared which will be used for storing cabin cars and other cars over night. A track is to be built which will go directly through the round house and down the yard, so that the cars can be conveniently run in and out of the car house. In order to facilitate the repairs to the wooden cars the company has about 3,000,000 feet of lumber stored on the yard, which is easily got at and conveniently handled.
Another part of the yard is set apart for the steel cars which are repaired here. These cars are put in good shape and barring the wear and tear on them from the sulfuric acid and other acids are much better cars than the wooden ones. Railroad men seem to think that the cars with steel frame work underneath and wooden tops are the best cars for use on coal-carrying roads or any line where acid is used to any extent, as the acid eats away the steel and in a short time the cars must go to the repair shop, where new parts have to be provided. The steel car is better for general use, however, as it is able to stand more hard knocks, and when it is badly battered in a wreck all that has to be done is to pound it back into shape. In the case of a wooden car, it often has to be rebuilt.
At the present time on account of the Christmas week and holiday season the miners are not turning out their usual amount of coal and the yard did not present a very active appearance yesterday.
In addition to the many improvements that are being made on and about the shops the railroad is making vast improvements in their trackage at this point, in addition to erecting two new bridges. This will be handled in another article later on.

[The statement about air being supplied for testing trains implies that air lines were run to points in the yard when the tests were performed. Also, the article implies that one or more steam lines may have crossed the yard from the plant on the north side to the depot, Inn and offices on the south side. It would be interesting to see them pound a wrecked steel car back into shape as the article states. Finally, the comments on steel and wooden cars reminds me that someone once told me that wooden cabooses rode much quieter than steel cabooses. How about it Abram?]

Gordon Hamilton
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