NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Wed Aug 26 21:38:07 EDT 2009

Several Bluefield Daily Telegraph articles from the early Twentieth Century posted on the Mailing List have mentioned "Battleship" coal cars, and some people have posted comments on the Mailing List about the use of that term on the N&W and Virginian. I do not know about the latter, but a search of early Twentieth Century N&W operating timetables in the NWHS Archives sheds some light on the usage on the N&W.

The term Battleship does not appear in the earliest Pocahontas division TT in the Archives, No. 1 eff. 12/3/05, and No. 2 is missing. The term does appear in No. 3 eff. 11/25/06 in the tabulation under the heading "Figures to be Used in Computing Tonnage for Cars of Different Capacity and Lading." Under sub-heading "Steel Coke Cars Loaded with Coke," appears: Battleships, 100,000 pounds capacity -- 67 tons loaded with coke. There is no listing in that TT for these cars with coal loads. By about 1920 78 tons loaded with coal had been added to that part of the TTs.

Reference to Andrew Dow's book on N&W coal cars reveals the Class HI and HL (not to be confused with the later HL cars that were converted into H9 hopper cars) were the N&W's first all-steel hopper cars, with the latter having been built in 1906, the same year that the term "battleships" appeared in the operating TT. The pictures in Dow's book show a formidable looking large coke car.

My conclusion is that the term "battleships" was an official N&W description that dated from about 1906 and that it was picked up by the newspaper reporters, probably from the rank and file N&W railroaders of that era.

Gordon Hamilton
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