"Taking Twenty" with the Virginian Brethren

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu Jul 30 07:11:29 EDT 2009

Last night I had the pleasure of "Takin' Twenty" with nine of the Brethren
and Friends of the Virginian Railway. Attending for the first time were
Gibson Davis and Tom Guilliams. Gibson is the grandson of Malcomb Vaughn,
who was a machinist on the Virginian Railway in Victoria and Roanoke. "Gib"
attended the N&WHS Convention in Roanoke this year and accepted my
invitation to "Take Twenty" with the Brethren. He was also a good friend of
Harry Dixon, a well-known N&W Storekeeper in Roanoke who lost an arm in
France just after landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day. I worked with Harry at
Roanoke Shops and he could do more work with one arm than most could do
with two. Tom Guilliams retired from NS as a yard engineer and worked with
Ruf and Raymond on the "W side" after the merger.

Glen McLain, retired VGN clerk and designated joke man for the sessions,
brought a great photo of a VGN tender used with the AGs that had a 7 axles
(one 4 axle truck and one 3 axle truck). These tenders carried 26,500
gallons of water. We figured this means they carried about 90 tons of water
and 25 tons of coal....about the same load as a G4 gon! This prompted Ruf
to tell about "14428". This was the maximum tonnage that two Fairbanks
Morse diesel locomotives could pull out of Roanoke going east. However, the
AG class 2-6-6-6 steam locomotives were limited to 175 hoppers, "regardless
of tonnage". He also said that Tidewater coal was not weighed in Roanoke
but at Sewalls Point. He said that "commercial-non Tidewater" coal was
weighed in Princeton until 1940 and in Roanoke after 1940. Ruf said that
VGN conductor Joe Booth once stated that with one of those 175 car coal
trains and one AG, "if a sparrow lit on the cab, we would stall".

I told the Brethren about NS CEO Wick Moorman's speech at the Governor's
Conference last week in Biloxi, Mississippi where he said "freight volumns
in this country are projected to grow 88% by 2035". Also passed around was
Gordon Hamilton's reprint of the December 18, 1909 "Bluefield Daily
Telegraph" (from "Roanoke World") about the record mile long coal train
that VGN pulled out of Roanoke. The train had 120 steel 50-ton hoppers and
"while it was not generally known, many people were attracted to the depot
to see the longest loaded train in the world".

The DVDs shown were taken last Thursday and Friday when my grandson Hunter
and I "camped out" (on private property with permission) at the Yateman
Viaduct. It is west of Wabun and east of Kumis on the VGN; west of Glenvar
and east of Singer on the N&W where the VGN crossed over the N&W. We tried
to get a train on the bridge (on the old VGN) with one going under the
bridge on the old N&W. We filmed 13 trains but could not get the shot of
two as planned. West of this bridge, the VGN was north of the N&W and east
of this bridge, VGN was south of N&W. One of the DVDs showed for sure how
much clearance is available for the double stack trains. These videos
prompted Tom Guilliams to tell about being involved in a famous N&W wreck
where he, as yard engineer, went to get a "hogged" train near Riverside,
just west of Yateman Viaduct. After passing a dragging equipment detector
at Wabun and not getting a "clear" on the radio, a road foreman, who was
running the locomotive at the time, stopped the train in Salem. While
stopped, the train was "angle cocked" and cut in two. When the train got to
Norwich, the rear that was cut off and bottled, caught up and crashed back
into the train.

The "camp-out" at the Yateman Viaduct in July reminds me of a famous quote
of New York Yankee great Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra: "It ain't the heat,
it's the humility".

Time to pull the pin on this one!

Departing Now from V248,

Skip Salmon


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