"Takin' Twenty" with the Virginian Brethren by Skip Salmon

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Sat Apr 10 10:07:43 EDT 2010

Jim -

There's about a mile of thick, thick swamp separating the N&W line from the
VGN and SAL lines in the vicinity of Algren; there's absolutely no way to
see the N&W from the VGN other along there.

I would be interested to know if there were any instances of N&W passenger
trains bypassing Farmville on the belt line. I believe, as you indicate,
that passenger traffic was typically routed over the old "High Bridge" line
through Farmville, and the belt line, with its more favorable grades was
used mainly for heavier tonnage. Nevertheless, since the Powhatan Arrow did
not make any intermediate stops between Norfolk and Roanoke, I would suppose
routing it over the belt line around Farmville would not pose a problem for

Harry -

Thanks also for your illuminating reply. A minor correction to what I
indicated earlier, for others not familiar with the territory: The VGN and
SAL are not parallel east of Algren, but they diverge at a shallow angle
from there. However, from my observation in recent years, the lines are
close enough together between Sunray and Algren to be in sight of one
another in a few spots.

Your tale of engineer S. H. Kirby's incident made me wince at ".had a
westbound BA on a hopper train." I'm glad he survived to tell about it
later. Do you have any more information on that wreck?

-David Rice


What was the Powhatan Arrow doing there? It ran on the old main line through
Farmville. Jim Nichols

I The Jewel from the Past is like one in Louis Newton's Watham Cresent Model
1892, 21-jewel given to him by his grandfather, James A. Newton, Railway
Postal Clerk is from July 1, 2004: "Keith Sowder, VGN clerk said that for a
while he came home to Roanoke from Sewells Point every weekend and would
ride VGN trains both days. Several times near Algreen, where the N&W and VGN
were almost side by side and the track is pretty straight, the VGN 900s
pulling the crack Ford Train #72 would walk away from the N&W Powhatan

>From the joint passenger station at Suffolk, VGN paralleled SAL's

Portsmouth Sub-Division

for 9.0 miles before crossing the SAL at Algren. Any side-by-side running
would certainly

be in the eastward direction. Algren was an automated interlocking -- first
come; first served

without regard to tonnage, class, or direction. There are tales of VGN and
SAL crews going

all out to be the first one on the approach circuit, the reward being a
"clear" signal to cross

and the satisfaction of knowing the competitor was going to have to brake
and wait.

VGN westbounds couldn't see SAL traffic east of Algren and had to rely on
the approach signal

near Sunray. Circa 1947, S. H. Kirby had a BA on a westbound hopper train.
AN SAL eastbound

was first on the approach signal and got the "clear". When Kirby put the
brake on, the train

didn't respond, but kept galloping toward the diamond. Kirby jumped and
spent 3 mos. in

Maryview Hospital in Portsmouth. The train went through the 10th car on the
SAL freight.

The ICC never investigated but Kirby said that someone had bottled the air
on the last 10

cars of the hopper train. Harry Bundy

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