ACL Passenger Service

nw-mailing-list at nw-mailing-list at
Fri Sep 9 21:17:58 EDT 2005

Don't you just have to love it! I dropped that little tid-bit about the N&W
J class locomotive just to get a rise out of you N&W buffs, and you didn't
me down. O.K. fellows, you can put aside your slide rules, etc. as I could
care less how a J stacks up against an ACL 1800. The mechanical
departments of the ACL and the RF&P were not all dummies. They knew
what they wanted in the way of power for high-speed passenger service.
Indeed, the preponderance of motive power on the RF&P was assigned to
passenger service, and their 4-8-4's were carbon copies of the ACL R-1's.
The ACL and the RF&P chose not to limit the speed of their passenger
trains by using 70 inch drivers. I stand by my original statement that
compared to the ACL, passenger business on the N&W was meager at
best. The ACL was a speed merchant, along with the PRR, the RF&P,
and the FEC whisking those snowbirds up north down to Florida, which was a
1,000 mile trip covered in about 25 hours. When I was in passenger
service on the ACL we routinely had a scheduled running time of two
hours and 40 minutes to cover that 172 miles between South Rocky Mount
and Florence, S.C. And many is the time we have covered it in two hours
and 30 minutes flat. That's 172 miles in 150 minutes with a better than 60
MPH average, including a stop in Fayetteville, N.C. , and possibly Wilson.
About the only location on the entire N&W that permits over 60 MPH
running is that flat tangent between Petersburg and Norfolk. And yes,
Harry, there is more potential for fatalities on a road that carries ten times
the passenger traffic as does the N&W. While enumerating accidents on the
ACL, you overlooked a little matter in July 1943 when No. 7 plowed into
the rear of No. 1, the East Coast Champion, in Milan Yard in Fayetteville
telescoping the rear car on No. 1 with about 12 fatalities. And where did
you get your information about No. 8 hitting a broken rail in that incident
at Buie, N.C. ? Yes, No. 91 derailed account of a broken rail, and a
couple of sleeping cars were fouling the northbound mainline. The fireman on
No. 91 was Joe Batchelor, who followed me on the seniority roster. He
failed to provide proper flagging per Rule 99, and No. 8 being run by
engineer Frank Belknap was at a track speed of about 80 MPH when he
plowed into the sleepers which is where the most of the fatalities occured.
Joe couldn't live with the guilt, and later took hi own life. When my
best friend fireman Charlie Hunt was killed in April 1953, he was on No.
2 the East Coast Champion when they hit a cocked facing point switch at
Maple Siding just south of Dillon, S.C. while running at a track speed of
90 MPH. When it came to getting over the road on passenmger trains,
don't even mention the N&W and the ACL in the same breath. Think about
what the RF&P had to accomplish. Not only did they handle 6 or 8 ACL
name trains in each direction and their extra sections which could amount
to 3 or even 4 sections, they also had to handle all the trains of the
between Richmond and Washington. Everything was not peaches and
cream on the N&W either. I have a mental picture of a photo I saw
somewhere of a J class locomotive being pulled out orf the Tug Fork River.
Anyone with half a brain knows that comparing passenger service on the
N&W and the ACL is comparing apples and oranges. Bill Sellers.

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