Westbound Trains Enterning Main Line at WB

nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Fri Oct 8 20:08:42 EDT 2004

Here's a mystery, and I invite the Savants of the List to cogitate with me !

How did westward trains departing from the Empty Side Yard at West Roanoke 
enter the Westbound main Line at WB, prior to the installation of an 
interlocking there (remote controlled from "DO" at 16th St)  around 1949?

>From the time the yard trackage was extended west of Shaffers Crossing in the 
second decade of the 19th Century, "WB" was at West Belt Line Jct ("The Pull 
In"), near present Roanoke Electric Steel.  Sometime around 1949, the yard was 
extended further west to the viscinity of the Veteran's Hospital and the 
designation "WB" was moved at that time to its present location.

Back to my question:  How did westward trains departing from the Empty Side 
Yard at WB (and there were a lot of them ! ) get out onto the Westbound Main 
Line, prior to the installation of the interlocking around 1949?   Remember, 
that main line had automatic block signal rules on it, and trains just couldn't 
enter automatic block territory willy-nilly.   (1) Did crews handle the 
switches themselves, after receiving permission of the operator at UN, or the 
operator at DO, or the Train Dispatcher?  (2) Was there a spring switch at that 
location?  (3) Did the Stock Pen Switchtender handle the switches (he really wasn't 
too far away) ?

Amazingly, the Timetable Special Instructions are completely silent on this 

There are people still living today who could answer this question !  Any 
Radford Division man who hired prior to 1949 should know the answer !

-- abram burnett,
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