"Taking Twenty" with the Virginian Brethren

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu Dec 31 09:05:25 EST 2009

Last night, on the eve of New Year's Eve 2009, I had the pleasure of
"Takin' Twenty" with eight of the Brethren and Friends of the Virginian
Railway. We signed a Happy Birthday card for Ronnie Victory, who is a
retired Norfolk Southern clerk, and is turning 66 today. I remember his
dad, Thomas "Cornbread" Victory telling us about Ronnie's birth on New
Year's Eve in 1943. We lost Cornbread in August this year.

I passed around the December 2009 "NRHS News", monthly publication of the
National Railway Historical Society. Page 11 has a story "Roanoke Chapter
gets new flag and pole on September 11" with photos of the flag and pole,
Speaker Congressman Bob Goodlatte, and artist's rendering of the restored
Virginian Railway station and depot. Also passed was the February 2010
"Trains" magazine. This issue has a great Ed King story "I oughta sue'em"
about Ed's "perfect job with N&W, three times" and his experiences in
Bristol, VA-TN. On page 12 under "Abandonments & Acquisitions" is listed:
"Charleston, Blue Creek & Sanderson Railway will lease from Norfolk
Southern and reactivate two coal branches in West Virginia: a 25.9 mile
line from Charleston to Morris Fork (former Kanawha & West Virginia) and a
3.7 mile branch from Falling Rock to Blue Creek(ex-B&O). The lease is in
effect for 20 years. NS will retain operating rights".

The last ebay report of 2009 is a slide of VGN EL-2B #126 in a curve
somewhere on the VGN, selling for $45.99.

I told the Brethren about the recent email from "Patrick J", concerning H.
Reid's account of a USRA "big wig" needing to get from Roanoke to Norfolk
in 1918. He was accommodated with a "little over a 4 hour run on his
private car". This "qued up" many stories about fast and unusual running.
Raymond East recalled a set of "VGN squareheads" finally getting stopped
east the Walnut Ave Bridge, past the last section of overhead power, and
having to be "rescued by a steam engine". Rufus Wingfield then told a story
that "raised some eye brows". Rufus said he was looking out the Yard Office
window one night and saw a yard engine, running under the 11,000 volt line
for the electrics, "belch out a lot of steam and a ball of fire fell to the
ground from the wires as big as a bushel basket". This induced a discussion
about what would happen if the wire actually fell on an occupied engine or
even worse, a passenger train running under the high voltage line. I
contacted our expert, Russell R. McDaniel, about this situation. Russ told
me that each power sub-station (last one from Narrows eastward was at
Wabun, west of Salem) had a large oil filled breaker-cutout that would trip
if the line was grounded. Also each electric locomotive had a breaker for
the same purpose. He also said though, that these cutouts were hardly ever
tested or maintained, and when they were "activated by a ground fault, most
times they had to be replaced". He once tried to repair a line, instead of
replacing it, that had tripped a locomotive breaker. When the pantograph
went back up, "the sky lit up". I passed on to him my experience as an
electrician apprentice, going to South Yard with an N&W electrician to
troubleshoot an EL-C problem on a grave yard shift. When the electrician
raised the pantograph, with the locomotive "on line", the "whole Yard lit
up like a giant flash bulb had gone off in my face".

I showed the Brethren the 100 year old "Illinois" pocket watch that I got
as a Christmas present from my son Stephen. We of course then talked about
watches, watch inspections and "railroad approved" versus non railroad
approved. Landon Gregory, pocket watch collector extraordinare, "let it
slip" that he owns over twenty "railroad approved" pocket watches...

On this blue moon New Year's Eve (next blue moon will be August 2012), I
leave you with this story: Landon called the "Roanoke Times" last week to
report that he had not gotten his Sunday paper. The nice lady on the phone
told him, " Mr. Gregory, this is Saturday". Landon then replied in a low
voice "No wonder no one was at Church this morning".

Time to pull the pin on this one!


Skip Salmon


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