N&W Memories

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Fri Nov 6 19:35:18 EST 2020

Great story!
Roger HuberDeer Creek Locomotive Works 

    On Friday, November 6, 2020, 05:31:42 PM CST, NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org> wrote:  
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 car equipment."
N&W Memories
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 preserved.

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