"Taking Twenty" with the Virginian Brethren

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu Apr 2 10:26:17 EDT 2009

Last night I had the pleasure of "Takin' Twenty" with seven of the Brethren
and Friends of the Virginian Railway. We signed a Happy Birthday card for
VGN Yardmaster Rufus Wingfield who will turn 81 this Saturday. Attending
for the first time was Felix Price who began his VGN career at the Narrows
Power Plant May 21, 1949 as a Laborer. He also worked there as Turbine
Operator, Relief Power Director and in the Electric Gang. Felix came to
Roanoke Shops when the Power Plant was shut down "when the wires came down"
and worked as an Electrician in the Engine Gang and Line Gang. He retired
in November 1985 with 36 years service. I showed him a photo of Narrows
Power House employees that Clarence Robertson gave me, and he identified
most of the VGN employees. Felix is 83. As I have done in the past, I will
pass on his photo and bio to Aubrey Wiley for his former Virginian Employee
web site.

Passed around were the latest copies of "Trains" and "BIZNS". The May 2009
"Trains" has on page 73 an article "Virginia museum plans rebound from
crises" that features our own Bev Fitzpatrick. Bev talks about the Roanoke
rail groups uniting in partnerships for the Archives, Wasena Belt Line
Project, Rail Excursions and other activities. The "BIZNS" highlights a new
NS battery powered locomotive being built in Altoona Shops that will
regenerate 25 to 30 per cent power to be recharged (batteries) during
operation. This locomotive is being built from an EMD GP38-2 and uses 1,080
12-volt truck batteries for power. This prompted a discussion about how the
VGN electrics regenerated power going downhill in dynamic braking to help
coal trains over Clark's Gap. "It ain't powered from Narrows, but it is an
electric locomotive" commented one of the Brethren.

We talked about the recent passing of Superintendent Hank Kinzel and Jessee
Musser, uncle of Mark Musser.

I showed the Brethren a letter I got recently from NS Chairman and CEO Wick
Moorman, asking NS retirees to write their Congressmen and Senators about
defeating S146 and HR233 Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2009. He
also asked us to "oppose efforts to impose unbalanced regulations on
railroads. Also shared was the news that Mark D. Marion was recently named
Executive Vice President replacing Stephen C. Tobias who retired on April
Fool's Day.

The videos shown were an M of W train heading north on the N&W
Winston-Salem line across the diamond at the old VGN JK Tower. This train
had "motel style" quarters complete with satellite antennae. The other DVD
was an east bound grain train on the old VGN passing through Salem. As a
follow-up on Rufus Wingfield's "Talkin' to the Brethren" interview, I
researched the VGN connection with Roanoke Mills in Roanoke. The mill was
serviced from the south off of the N&W Winston-Salem line by the N&W for
their flour production. The VGN entered the mill from the north and handled
their animal food operations. The name that the mill used for their dog
food was the "Tasty Dinner" brand.

Landon Gregory told the group about some questions that he answered for
Abram Burnett on line about VGN train orders, block signals and positions
of semaphores. Abe asked these after a recent "Takin' Twenty" Report.

Rufus Wingfield asked me to bring to the session a Seniority Roster for him
to review. While looking at it, he recalled that all of the 1923 dates
indicated a "Strike Breaker". He recalled that in 1945, Roundhouse Foreman
N. A. "Knot" Thomas told him that he "could get him on as a fireman". Ruf
remembered responding to "Knot" "No thanks, those steam engines are too
much work". Ruf and Wes Sowder talked about Conductor Warren H. Arthur, who
was know for his thriftiness. "He would bring jugs from home for VGN water;
he would bring buckets from home for VGN coal; and he would only take
showers with VGN water". Ruf said that as conductor, when taking "transfers
to the W, he would pull the air to stop the caboose to pick up a pop bottle
for the two cent deposit".

Time to pull the pin on this one!

Departing Now from V248,

Skip Salmon


More information about the NW-Mailing-List mailing list