"Taking Twenty" with the Virginian Brethren

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu Oct 8 08:31:27 EDT 2009

Last night I had the pleasure of "Takin' Twenty" with 10 of the Brethren
and Friends of the Virginian Railway. We signed a card for George Raymond
East on his 85th Birthday. Raymond started his Virginian Railway career in
Victoria in 1951 as a fireman on steam locomotives, and retired in 1987 as
a yard engineer with Norfolk Southern in Roanoke, with 36 years service.
Raymond is the senior member of our regular "Takin' Twenty" Brethren, but
with his 6' 4" frame, always neatly dressed, he is one of the most active.

We discussed last Saturday's trip to Victoria to be with the Brethren there
and celebrate the 100th birthday of the town. I showed a my video recording
most of the activities including the reading of those who "took the west
bound" since last October that included: Thomas "Cornbread" Victory, Keith
"Slim" Sowder and Bob Rowland. Shown were the three Brethren from Roanoke,
Ruf Wingfield, Raymond East and Landon Gregory as they were recognized by
the Mayor of Victoria as former VGN employees. Also attending from our
group were Jeff Sanders, Ernie Hubble and yours truly. The ceremony at the
Rail Park included visits from "Henry Huttleston Rogers, Mark Twain and
Booker T. Washington". Town Councilman, Greg Elam, dressed in period
attire, was quite "spiffy".

I passed on to Raymond East a reply from one of our readers, Noah Tickle,
who responded about Raymond "field dressing that biscuit". Noah says that
Raymond should be more concerned with the "trans-fat, which is worse that

I told the Brethren about last Thursday's pre-bid walk through at the VGN
Station in Roanoke of contractors who plan to bid on the Renovation
Project. There were 30 men and women representing 18 different companies
attending. Bids are due for the project at 2 PM next Tuesday. Work should
start soon after.

Passed around were several items for the Brethren to observe. A photo of
Norfolk Southern's new "green" yard locomotive that runs only on 1,080
12-volt batteries was the most popular. The 999 can run three shifts on one
charge and is the "only all-electric, plug-in locomotive in the world" and
workers at the Juniata Locomotive Shop in Altoona, PA built it. It's new
green, black and white color scheme is quite a difference from the regular
NS livery. The news release stated that "NS expects to build an
over-the-road version with more batteries by 2011".

Also passed around was the November 2009 "Trains" magazine with most of it
covering "Time for electric trains". The Virginian Railway is highlighted
with a large color photo of three EL-Cs pulling a coal train east near
Clarks Gap, WV September 9, 1960 still in VGN colors. This article also has
a large futuristic vision of electric powered (overhead lines) trains
featuring a Norfolk Southern electric locomotive pulling a "real" TOFC
train(including the tractors) with a Powhatan Arrow type car on the front.
The Brethren also enjoyed "Trains" writer Fred W. Frailey's "Kindness to
Employees" Award to Norfolk Southern for furloughing the least number of
train and engine employees this year even though NS business was down the
most of the "Big Four" (UP, BNSF, CSX and NS).

Attending last night was Doug Phillips, retired NS Computer Programmer
whose father Richard Phillips ran the Sands and Company Store in Roanoke
for the VGN. Doug remembered taking groceries from Sands to VGN employee's
homes. He also told us about parking cars for the annual VMI-VPI
Thanksgiving Day football game at Victory Stadium in Roanoke across from
the VGN Roundhouse. He said that when he parked some at the VGN Station,
"he was run off the property".

I also showed some more of Raymond East's interview for the Depot Archives
and future viewing. Raymond said that his favorite memory of the VGN was
firing on a westbound out of Victoria early in the morning and watching the
smoke from one of the steam engines hover over the train. "It looked like
the flowing blond hair of a beautiful woman" he said. Raymond, standing
track side behind the VGN Station told of firing the #3 and #4 Pacifics. He
recalled as a lad in Altavista, he worked for his father who moved freight
between the Southern Station and the Virginian Station. I asked him what
type of stuff did they transfer. He answered "some furniture from Lane,
candy, farm equipment etc.". When asked what was the most difficult item
transferred, he immediately replied "elevator shafts".

Time to pull the pin on this one!

Departing Now from V248,

Skip Salmon


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