Operator's Personal Sines, Shenandoah Division

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Wed Dec 21 08:22:33 EST 2011


Thanks for posting this story.  I've forwarded it to the Link Museum for their reference since Humphries appears in several Link pix.  The Link photo you were referring to is probably NW3.  Humphries is at the left, and B. N. Cliff is on the right.  Cliff also appeared in several Link photos.

Dave Stephenson

From: NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org>
To: nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 8:38 PM
Subject: Operator's Personal Sines, Shenandoah Division


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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