pre electric operations

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Sat May 29 18:59:42 EDT 2010

I have been reading the electrification articles in the latest Arrow and have some questions about pre-electrification steam operations that I'm hoping some of you may clear up for me. First, on page 22, it states that empty deliveries to the mines would be handles out of Bluefield by two Mallets. "For obvious operating reasons these engines were necessarily run backwards on the westbound movement. The second engine was handled at the head end of the train for the purpose of permitting the better handling of the air brake down the 2% grade."

Well, like a lot of things in life, it aint "obvious" to me. The picture this paints in my mind is of one engine on the West (head?) end of the string of hoppers running tender first with another on the East end, also running tender first. Is this accurate? If so, why was this backward running advantageous? As to the better handling of the air, was this merely due to the fact that the line was being controlled from both ends of the train?

Next, the statement is made "At the first point where the delivery of empties was to be made, the second engine would be set around on the rear and the delivery of empty cars into all mine operating tracks would be made from this end of the train."

What does "set around on the rear" mean? Is the "rear" still the East end of the train? If so, does this put both engines on the East end now? Did the mines have separate delivery and pick-up tracks that were polarized? For example, did they always push empties into the delivery tracks from railroad East and pull loaded cuts out onto the main heading railroad west?

Thanks in advance for any help,

Jim Cochran

dcochran116 at
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