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Sun Jan 18 23:24:02 EST 2009

Has anyone seen Jack Dickinson's latest book "Better Take Two Guns: the
N&W's Special Agents and Their W. Va. Cases"?

David Adams

>From the Huntington Herald-Dispatch

December 07, 2008

A new book by local couple Jack L. and Kay S. Dickinson explores an
interesting element of regional history -- the Norfolk and Western (N&W)
Railroad special agents in guarding N&W property.

Jack Dickinson, a 1966 Marshall University graduate, is the bibliographer
in the Special Collections Department of the Marshall University

"Better Take Two Guns" describes operations of personnel for the Pinkerton
National Detective Agency and Baldwin-Felts agency in policing railroad
lines and property.

The setting is in Southeastern West Virginia along the N&W Big Sandy and
Tadpole (Twelvepole Creek) rail lines within Wayne, Mingo, McDowell and
Mercer counties.

The historical summary covers the time period from 1899 through 1958. In
1899, a West Virginia law was enacted which provided for railroad special
agents. In 1958, the usage of steam locomotives for passenger services

The case files of criminal related activities handled by special agents
along the rail line between Kenova and Bluefield were researched and some
cases presented. Activities of special agent personnel for the N&W also
guarded the railroads, trains, depots and rail yards at Kenova and
Williamson, W.Va., and at Portsmouth, Ohio.

Many of the special agent activities were directed at "hoboes," who were
mainly migrant workers who jumped aboard freight trains for a free ride
and sometimes stole railroad property.

The activities of agents who guarded railroad bridges and viaducts,
especially during World War II, are described, along with stories about
arrests and occasional killings.

The book is recommended reading for persons with a general interest in
West Virginia history, for those who desire to learn more about N&W
Railroad history and for general popular interests.

This is the third hardback book the Dickinson's, a husband and wife team,
have co-authored which relate to N&W Railroad history. Another book,
"Trail of the Pocohontas Arrow," describes building the N&W Railroad from
Kenova along the Big Sandy and Tug Rivers to Williamson, published in
2007. Another book by the Dickinson's published in 2005, is "Last Train to
Dunlow," which describes N&W Railroad days and associated town
development. Cultural and town histories are covered for several small
towns and communities.

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