"Taking Twenty" with the Virginian Brethren

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu Mar 12 08:32:53 EDT 2009

Last night I had the pleasure of "Takin' Twenty" with nine of the Brethren
and Friends of the Virginian Railway. The highlight of the night was the
video that I took of Rufus Wingfield yesterday in the "Talkin' to the
Brethren" series where, I intend to make a DVD interview of each of them.
When the VGN Station/Depot is restored in Roanoke, the plans are to have a
"media room" where we will show scenes from the VGN and other VGN related
videos in a continuous flow on a very large flat screen TV. These "Talkin'
to the Brethren" interviews will be included.

Also I showed some videos taken at various current NS locations on the old
VGN. The first was a pusher engineer at Whitethorne, MP V288, explaining
how the pushers are cut off coal trains after they get to Merrimac at MP
V278. Pusher engineer "Ed" demonstrated how he uses the "shucker" to
disconnect on the fly. He said that the pusher engine goes into "emergency"
after the disconnect is made by "bailing down" on the independent brake
with Actuating air, allowing Main Reservoir air to be put into an air
cylinder that pulls the pin, opening the coupler. If all goes well, a
device on the rear coal train car releases a spring, popping a pin, keeping
the coal train from going into emergency when the cut is made. Ed stated
that "I hold my breath until I see that coal train disappear..."

Ruf's interview included an on site shot near the Baker Track in South Yard
where the VGN unloaded autos from their automobile box cars. He answered a
question posted by one of our readers when he stated that "each box car
carried 5 or 6 autos". Ruf also let it slip that he was "quite heavy" when
he hired on the VGN and his nick name was "Fats". I also got a shot of Ruf
at the very spot in 1945 where he was issued the famous VGN 19 train order
#87 "Make stop and blow your whistle every hour on the hour for 5 minutes"
as told in H. Reid's book on page 103. He explained getting and giving this
train order to the outbound train near JK. He said that it was about 5:40
PM and he waited until 6 PM before going home, so he could hear the
whistles that celebrated the defeat of the Japanese in WWII.

One other video shown was of NS Elmore coal train S10 (second section of
810)caught at Lee Highway, 13th Street Bridge, Wasena Bridge and when she
stopped at the old VGN Station. I was "lucky" to observe S10 being
"bannered" in the 13th Street shot. "Bannering" is when an Operating
Department supervisor places a banner (large sign saying "STOP,
Obstruction") across the tracks to simulate an emergency and their need to
"stop according to the book of rules". S10 complied and continued after the
stop. Scotty said that he considered a banner more restricting that a "Stop
and Stay" and treated it like he was about to have a "head on".

I told the Brethren about my visit last Friday to the Open House of the
brand new Western Virginia Regional Jail at Dixie Caverns. This modern
facility is located in Roanoke County right beside the old VGN between
Wabun and Kumis at approximately MP V261.5. I asked the Captain during the
tour "will there be any jail breaks with prisoners takin' the west bound on
the VGN?". He never heard of the Virginian...now they know!

Also discussed was a recent NS news release where they stated that NS
Mechanical employees completed 2008 with a history making Safety
performance. Their reported injury ration of 0.53 (reported injuries per
200,000 man-hours worked) was the lowest ever achieved. These 5,800
Mechanical Department employees are responsible for maintaining 3,976 NS
locomotives and 94,660 freight cars. In 1958, the last VGN Annual Report
had absolutely no mention that I could find of a Safety Program, with an
average of 2,730 total employees with 92 locomotives and 17,143 freight cars.

Landon Gregory showed his video of the Circus Train coming through Roanoke
on her way to Alabama three weeks ago. He also showed some photos taken
during last week's snow storm. One good shot showed him putting food into a
bird feeder, with several squirrels waiting with "baited breath".

Time to pull the pin on this one!

Departing Now from V248,

Skip Salmon


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