Where? -- BALL's HOLE

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Mon Nov 21 16:48:55 EST 2016

Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Akers -

THANK YOU for your work on this problem! Putting engineering numbers up
gainst "IIRC's" takes away the subjectivity and bodyslams fifty year old
memories against the wall of truth.

So the bottom of the Hole was at 274.3. That puts it approximately 5270
feet west of the present Instrument House (relay case) at Singer.
Coordinates would be approximately Latitude 32.2321, Longitude -80.1849 .

That comports very nicely with the geography. In the attached Google Earth
satellite imagery viewed from 7800 feet altitude, I have marked Ball's Hole
at MP 274.3 with a pushpin. I have ramped up the vertical exaggeration of
the satellite imagery, so that the hills are more apparent. In this view,
note how the MP 274.3 location for Balls Hole sits right in the drainage
saddle between two ridges which tower 500 feet in elevation above the
track level, in the low point where the drainage to the river would occur.
The peaks of those two ridges are about 1500 feet to the southeast and the
southwest of Ball's Hole. The drainage "gully" (for want of a better term)
between the two peaks occurs right where Ball's Hole is located. So it is
obvious that the original builders of the railroad more or less followed
the coutour of the land at this point and just made peace with a big "hole"
in the roadbed. And it lasted another hundred years until the engineers
raised it.

NOTE that in the attached image, NORTH is N-O-T at the top. North is at the
lower left corner of the image. So the image actually looks southeastwardly.

Another interesting facet of this investigation is the "Mile Post" number
for Singer, or any other interlocking. The problem is that the limits of
Singer Interlocking, measured between the opposing home signals, is about
1,000 feet long. How do you assign a Mile Post + Tenth to an interlocking
like that? Some years ago, when I was working for another railroad, we
installed a new interlocking that was a tad over 2,000 feet long and had
Main Tracks coming in from three directions. The Signal Department System
Office had applied a numeral + decimal for the designation of the exact
location of that interlocking, and I asked the Chief Signal Engineer how
they arrived at a Mile Post + Tenth for an interlocking that long. The
answer was that the location of the Instrument House (signal case)
determined the Mile Post numeral designation for the interlocking. Since
this particular interlocking had three instrument houses (signal cases) in
it, I asked the Chief Signal Engineer how they made a determination in such
an instance. The answer was that the largest of the Instrument Houses was
considered the "central" one, and the Mile Post + Tenth designation was
taken from that one. Interesting stuff that most people never have to deal
with or think about!

Mr. Ken Miller's masterful and prodigious compilation of Telegraph Calls
from Time Tables going back to 1906, shows "BA" Tower somewhere in this
area, last appearing in the T.T. of October 18, 1908. It was no doubt
closed once automatic block semaphore signals were installed. The N&W
archives holds a nice photograph of this structure, which was octagonal in
shape and faced with wooden shake shingles. It was obviously only a Block
Station and Train Order Office, and had no interlocking machine. Exactly
where did that Tower stand, with respect to present-day Singer and Ball's
Hole ?  Is this structure the "BA" office which Mr. King yesterday
mentioned, being shown 1.3 miles east of Elliston in his 1897 Time Table?
If so, it stood approximately 7200 feet west of what you/we have now agreed
on as MP 274.3 for the bottom of Ball's Hole.

Finally, I consulted some 1920s and 1930s Radford Division Time Tables, and
noted that the name Singer does not appear. Apparently an interlocking was
first established there when CTC was installed in... what... the 1950s? And
when one realizes that, it raises the further question: Where did they get
the name "Singer" ?

One parting comment. In checking a recent NS Virginia Division Track Chart,
I notice there is a four mile long signal block at Elliston. Ouch! How
would you like to drag two miles of train through that block on a
Restricting Signal ?

Job well done, Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Akers. Take two days off... with pay !

-- abram burnett

     Sent to You from my Telegraph Key
Successor to the MAGNETIC TELEGRAPH LINE of 1844

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