Operator's Personal Sines, Shenandoah Division

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Tue Dec 20 20:38:16 EST 2011


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 it must not conflict with the personal sine used
by other men on the Division.)

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 our conversation, 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. I am attaching a PDF document
containing scans of those pages.

On the back of my tire receipt are these notes:

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

2. The peg-type telegraph switchboard he gave is from Troutville
station, closed Spring 1974. He was the last agent there and took
the switchboard 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
and went to GM Office in Roanoke.

Wire #2 went from all stations to the DS (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." I think it may have been "UM," but 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 several 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 of the
photo. Troy said that was not a Conductor, it was the Car Inspector
that Link conscripted and posed in the photo.

--Abram Burnett


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