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

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu May 19 08:37:25 EDT 2011

Last night I had the pleasure of "Takin' Twenty" with six of the
Brethren and Friends of the Virginian Railway. We celebrated the
birthdays of two esteemed extant elders of the Virginian Railway
Veterans, still on the top side of God's green earth: Russell McDaniel
and Greely Wyatt. Russell started with the VGN in 1948 as Assistant
Electrical Engineer, Princeton and worked as Assistant Roundhouse
Foreman, Mullens. He was Master Mechanic at Victoria at the time of the
merger. He later became Manager Motive Power & Equipment-Locomotive for
the N&W System. I remember my first meeting with "Mr. Mac", sometime in
1967, as a greenhorn in the Motive Power Building. He told me "one day
in the future, the diesels will have AC traction motors". The last order
of NS diesels came equipped, 43 years later, with AC traction motors,
just as he predicted. "Mr. Mac" will be 87 this Sunday. Greely Wyatt was
Electrical Foreman in Mullens and is known "far and wide" as the "Guru"
of VGN electrics and diesels. He started with the VGN 1-15-45 and
retired from NS 5-30-86 as Mechanical Department Supervisor. He told me
at our retired supervisor's breakfast last Friday, he taught VGN
apprentice electricians about the excitation system on the EL-Cs in the
passenger station in Mullens. Walter Grigg, another VGN patriarch, took
exception once to an explanation he was giving the boys about the
"bucking current" of the EL-C excitation system. Greely said he was "set
back" but continued his lecture. The very next week at the apprentice
class, Mr. Grigg traveled from Princeton back to Mullens, just to tell
the apprentices that Greely was correct. He turned 85 last night.

I told the Brethren about our success last Saturday at the Rail Day of
the Virginia Museum of Transportation. We had about 800 to safely ride
on our train of N&W tool car and caboose pulled by the Roanoke Chapter
NRHS Alco T6 #41. I was the "engineer" of the Chapter's EMD GP-30 #521
and gave a steady stream of rail fans a lesson on how the GP-30 worked,
as well as letting all of the kids ring the bell and blow the horn. When
someone seemed bored, especially small children, I proceeded to show
them the bathroom in the short hood end, which appeared to entertain
them. I met many former VGN employee family members who appreciated the
VGN EL-C #135 being the center of attention in downtown Roanoke.

The Jewel from the Past is from April 7, 2005: "L. G. Glenn told a story
about when Tom ' Cornbread' Victory was told to take the yard engine and
turn it on the turntable. Tom, being the fellow he is, did just
that...he turned it 360 degrees and brought it back, not realizing 180
was the correct number. 'Ruf' Wingfield, not to be outdone, told another
'Cornbread' story about him being on a third shift operation when a
backward move was made. After the coupling, Victory approached the
engineer and asked how he knew to back up. The response was that he had
seen a lantern movement in small circles. Tom responded 'I was only
scratching my butt'".

>From last week, I need to make a correction: The two C&W Baldwin
switchers being restored at 9th Street are #662 and #663. #661 was
scrapped a long time ago.

The ebay report this time has several VGN photos and slides going for
good prices: Slide of #215 in 1954 at Victoria for $37.79; Negative of
Pacific #214 at Princeton in 1954 with the "Dixie" for $24.29; Original
color slide of FM #14 and #30 in Princeton in 1957 for $287.14; #100 at
South Yard $63.15; #127 for $119.50 and a VGN Box car #63314 for $22.50.

Passed around was a photo showing an "Application Card" for membership
in the Bi-State Social and Pastime Burial Association. This was to
authorize the VGN RWY to "deduct from wages the regular dues of $1.50
per month and also any special assessments that may be levied under the
provisions of the Constitution and By-Laws of the said Burial
Association". Also passed was a Brandon Townley photo showing two of the
NS Executive F units with a single box car on 9-19-10 in Worthington,
Ohio, making up train #956. Without this added length of the boxcar,
signal circuits would not activate properly at normal track speed, and
the train would have been limited to 35 MPH. At last Saturday's Rail
Day, the NS Exhibition car was on display. The very nice NS
representative gave each visitor several NS, N&W and Southern railroad
patches. She gave me a handful, so I passed them on to the Brethren last

Glen McLean asked the Brethren if they had ever seen a dead penguin, on
the ice? Where do they go when they die? He explained if a penguin is
found dead on the ice surface, other members of the family and social
circle have been known to dig holes in the ice, using their vestigial
wings and beaks until the hole is deep enough for the dead bird to be
rolled into it and buried. The male penguins then gather in a circle
around the fresh grave and sing: "Freeze a jolly good fellow!"

Time to pull the pin on this one!

Departing Now from V248,

Skip Salmon


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