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Fri Nov 6 17:21:53 EST 2020
Several times in recent years various members of the NWHS have expressed
the need to record seniors' memories of interesting historical events
before these seniors pass on. I certainly am in the senior group, but
most of my work with the N&W is not of historical interest. But, I
thought of one story that may have some historical interest because it
involves Gurdon P. McGavock, who was elevated to N&W Motive Power
Department Chief Draftsman in 1936, and later to Mecanical Engineer, and
who had an important role in the design of N&W's modern steam
locomotives according to Ed King's great book on the Class A locomotive.
King includes an associate's description of McGavock, "He was a genius
in analyzing forces imposed on machinery of any kind and calculating the
stress in the various members as a result of forces. His knowledge was
also used consistently by several (outside) builder of locomotive and
The situation for my story involves the time when I worked in the MP
Drawing Room as Engineer Car Construction. In those days most of us
non-agreement MP employees worked a half day on Saturdays, and about
10:00 a.m. on those days a half-dozen or so MP retirees would show up
and we would all flip coins to see who would buy the sodas from the
vending machine for the others. The group often included Gurdeon P.
McGavock, retired Mechanical Engineer, Voyce Glaze, retired Mechanical
Engineer (after McGavock retired), Aubrey Slusher, retired Shop Facility
Engineer, Frank Noel, retired Tool Supervisor, whose preliminary
drawings led to the Class J locomotives' much-acclaimed streamlining,
et. al. Naturally, this social setting stimulated a lot of reminiscing
and tales. I wish I could remember them all, but one story by McGavock
sticks in my mind.
At one of these Saturday retiree gatherings McGavock said that there
was a little 11-mile railroad in Northern West Virginia named,
appropriately enough, the West Virginia Northern, which operated south
out of some coal fields around Kingwood, WV, to a connection with the
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at Tunnelton. Naturally, practically all the
coal hopper cars on the West Virginia Northern were B&O cars with a
straight top on the ends as opposed to N&W coal hopper cars of that day,
which had peaked ends to keep heaped-up coal from going over the ends if
a car were to be impacted by other cars.
McGavock said that somehow an N&W car strayed onto the West Virginia
Northern, and one of that road's employees was reportedly injured
because of some involvement with the peaked ends. The employee sued the
N&W, and McGavock was sent to appear at the trial somewhere in the part
of WV near the West Virginia Northern. McGavock said that the lawyer
for the plaintiff kept harping on the "non-standard ends" on the N&W
car, and he was obviously making that the basis for his case. He
continued that line of attack with McGavock on the witness stand.
Eventually, he asked McGavock how many of these "non-standard cars" the
N&W had. When McGavock answered in his soft, homespun Southwest
Virginia accent, "Oh about 50,000," the lawyer's jaw dropped, he
muttered a few meaningless comments and rested his case. The N&W was
found not liable, thanks to McGavock!
Lets hear from the rest of you, former employee or not, about any N&W
historical tidbit that you experienced that should be recorded and
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