Telegraphers and Wires on the Shenandoah Division

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Tue Dec 20 10:31:43 EST 2011

This is an email that I recently sent to a friend, in continuation of a longstanding discussion we have been having about telegraph in the stations of the Shenandoah Division. Perhaps others on the List will enjoy seeing the information. Obviously there were, over the years, more telegraph offices than those listed here, but some had been closed by the time the 1942 Official List of Officers, Agents and Stations was published.

-- abram burnett

To: ____ ,

Some years ago we talked about the men who worked the telegraph and tower jobs on the Shenandoah Valley, and I told you I once had a conversation with 1940-hire telegrapher Troy Humphries in which he gave me a listing of the operator's "personal sines" for as many of the Shenandoah Division telegraphers as he could remember. This conversation occurred when I visited his home in 1978 and he gave me several pieces of telegraph equipment. (A telegrapher's "personal sine" consists of one or two letters of his choice, which he uses in making a receipt for messages on the telegraph wire. E.g. tapping out "OK SO" is much briefer than sending "OK O'Brien." The only constraint is that the sine could not conflict with the personal sine used by other men on the Division, with the Chief Train Dispatcher having the final decision in such matters.)

The conversation occurred on October 27, 1978. I can be certain of that date because earlier that morning I had bought two tires at the Shenandoah Tire Service Co. in Roanoke, and on the back of that receipt I jotted some notes while talking with Troy, and stuck it in the back of N&W Official List #63, dated August 1, 1942, which I had taken along on the visit. (I carried the 1942 List in my grip for most of my 15 years on the N&W, used it mainly to look up station numbers, and sometimes jotted notes in it.)

During that conversation 33 years ago, I opened the 1942 Official List and asked Troy to give me as many of the "personal sines" as he could remember for the telegraph employees listed in the Official List. I wrote them next to the mens' names.

Agent at HO Hollims was R.W. Floyd, sined RA
Agent at QA Cloverdale was E.A. Wiseman, sined X
Agent at MJ Troutville was J.O. Dillard, sined JD
Agent at CH Lithia was I.R. Lane, sined IR
Agent at HA Buchanan was H.T. Hudson, sined D
Agent at NB Natural Bridge was W.L. Burks, sine unknown
Agent at GA Glagow was P.L. McNeil, sined MC
Agent at JS Beuna Vista was F.C. Merritt, sined M
Agent at RQ Riverside was J.M. Wise, sined JM
Agent at MY Midvale was M.T. Ramsey, sined MAgent at MF Vesuvius was W.H. Humphries, sined UM
Agent at GI Cold Spring was G.W. Mitchell, sined ME
Agent at SX Stuarts Draft was W.I. Rader, sined G
Agent at HU Lyndhurst was W.H. Painter, sine unknown
Agent (freight) at BC Waynesboro was L.F. Taylor, sined AR
Agent (passenger) at BC Waynesboro was G.H. Harman, sine unknown
Agent at CM Crimora was E.A. Taylor, sine unknown
Agent at GO Grottoes was E.C. Lemon, sined MO
Agent at PR Port Republic was M.T. Hite, sine unknown
Agent at DN Island Ford was J.T. Bassett, sined FO
Agent at KO Elkton was O.H. Grubbs, sined OH
Agent at AN Shenandoah was H.A. Fix, sined F
Agent at CA Stanley was E.A. Skelton, sined W
Agent at FH Luray was E.C. Mitchell, sined CR
Agent at VY Rileyville was R.L. Rodgers, sined R
Agent at HD Bentonville was S.C. Weaver, sined SC
Agent at FK Front Royal was R.E. Purdum, sined B
Agent at RV Riverton was Z.J. Compton, sine unknown
Agent at AY Ashby was C.H. Davis, sined X
Agent at SQ White Post was L.C. Murray, sined MU
Agent at DK Boyce was S.M. Lane, sined MS
Agent at BV Berryville was S.G. O'Brian, sined SO
Agent at KG Ripon was W.L. Fink, sined CR
Agent at BO Charles-Town was R.D.Earley, sine unknown
Agent at JA Shenandoah Jct was W.O. Huddle, sine unknown
Agent at QD Shepherdstown was W.W. Waddy, sined W
Agent at FU Antietam was E.P. Earley, sined J
Agent at SJ St. James was A.H. Spielman, sine unknown
Gen Agent at HJ and G offices, Hagerstown Jct, was H.K. Hawbaker, sine unknown

Agent at AF Starkey was J.R. Young, sine unknown
Agent at PD Boones Mill was D.N. Green, sined GR
Agent at RM Wirtz was B.S. Gregory, sine unknown
Agent at RY Rocky Mount was R.Y. Melton, sined D
Agent at F Lannahan was C.B. Cullen, sine unknown
Agent at QM Ferrum was A.D. King, sine unknown
Agent at MB Henry was C.H. Lemons, sine unknown
Agent at B Philpott was K.M. O'Bryan, sine unknown
Agent at KB Bassett was W.P. Wheeler, sine unknown
---------- Q Payne - no Agent shown
Agent at KN Fieldale was W.M. White, sined WN
Agent at VM Martinsville was H.S. Teague, sine unknown
Agent at HR Ridgeway was R.R. Young, sined R
Agent at RA Price was B.G. Sharp, sine unknown
Agent at SN Stoneville was R.E. Dean, sine unknown
Agent at MN Mayodan was I.J. White, sined W
Agent at AM Madison was Edward Moffett, sined F
Agent at DF Pine Hall was M.D. Webb, sine unknown
Agent at W Walnut Cove was M.N. Wheeler, sine uknown
Agent at HF Walkertown was C.R. Flemming, sine unknown
Agent (freight) at FO Winston-Salem was E.B. Kearns, sine unknown
Agent (passenger) at Winston-Salem was C.C. Cash, sine unknown

Only the names of the Station Agents were published in the Official List. They probably represent only a quarter of the telegraphers active on the Division at the time, the others being night men, levermen, Train Dispatchers and extra list telegraphers.

On the back of my tire receipt are these notes:

1. The roll-back telegraph resonator Troy gave me is from Riverton Tower, closed 1941 or 1942 and torn down 1953 or 1955.

2. The peg-type telegraph switchboard Troy gave is from Troutville station, closed Spring 1974. He was the last agent there and took the switchboard off the wall when the depot was closed.

3. Tower at Charlestown was BO; QD Shenandoah Jct was in the depot, there was no tower there.

4. Telegraph Wires on the Shenandoah Div were:

Wire #1 (which he stated was "Really wire #5," and unfortunately I did not get a clarification) was dropped into every telegraph office on the Division and also went to GM Office in Roanoke.

Wire #2 was in all telegraph offices and went to the DS (the Train Dispatcher) and UD (the Shenandoah Div message office.)

Wire #4 was dropped in only at Glasgow, Waynesboro, Elkton, Shenandoah, Shenandoah Jct, Vardo and went to UD.

Wire #202 was the Western Union wire into all telegraph offices.

4. In response to my question as to when telegraph was discontinued, he said, "All Shenandoah Division wires were cut loose in 1955 or 1956."

Unfortunately, after all these years I have forgotten Troy's own "personal sine." Perhaps some day I shall find a note clarifying the matter.

Troy believed that he was Winston Link's first contact on the N&W. According to him, he was working at either Luray or Waynesboro (I can't remember which) when No. 1 rolled in and Mr. Link alighted from the train. They struck up a conversation and Link said something like, "This railroad has some magnificent engines. Wonder if they would let me take some photographs of them?" Troy said he made a few calls the next morning, and Link was put in touch with the appropriate people in Roanoke, and the rest is history.

It is also unfortunate that I did not get a photograph of Troy at any of our three or four meetings. All I have to remember him by is that wonderful Winston Link night photo taken in BC telegraph office, Waynesboro. That's Troy sitting at the telegraph instruments, with his back to the camera. I asked him for the identity of the old "Conductor" (with a toothpick in his mouth) at the right in the photo. Troy laughed and said that was not a Conductor, it was the C&O Car Inspector whom Link conscripted and posed in the photo... name unknown.

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