"Takin' Twenty" with the Virginian Brethren by Skip Salmon

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu May 13 09:31:26 EDT 2010

Last night I had the pleasure of "Takin' Twenty" with nine of the
Brethren and Friends of the Virginian Railway. A lot of the conversation
last night was about last Saturday's Rail Day and how it was celebrated
in our area. Several attended the O. Winston Link and Virginia Museum of
Transportation events while Gibby Davis went to Clifton Forge and saw
the C&O Heritage program. In Roanoke the longest lines were at two
places: the motor car rides by the Roanoke Chapter NRHS and the new NS
SD70M live display. We had two motor cars running and took riders from
the back of VMT to the Park Street Bridge and return. The SD70M was
especially interesting. It brought back memories to me because this new
modern "computer-brained" EMD has an air starter similar to 10 Alco
Century 630s I remember back in the 1960s at Shaffers Crossing. Of
course there was a steady flow of photographers shooting the "pride of
the fleet" 611 and the "why can't we have one painted in Virginian
colors" Southern GP59 4610. To see a photo of these two on display at
the O. Winston Link, go to:

I showed one of the many e-mails received about last week's talk
comparing the H16-44 Fairbanks Morse diesels replacing the AG Blue Ridge
class steam locomotives. This one was from Jim Stump whose father was an
engineer on the VGN Norfolk Division, and ran both.

Also passed was last Monday's "Roanoke Times" clip "100 years ago
today": "'Slow' signs warning motorists not to exceed five miles an hour
as they enter the intersection, have been placed on all cross streets on
Franklin Road south of Mountain Avenue to the Virginia Railway". Note:
Back in 1910, the "Roanoke Times" was already calling the Virginian, the
"Virginia" Railway!

The Jewel from the Past, like one in Billy McDaniel's Ball Cleveland
999B, 21 jewel, bought in 1983 from Roger Bishop is from August 12,
2004: "Most of the discussion tonight was about troop trains during WWII
and how the Virginian Railway played a crucial part in the War Effort
for the USA. 'Slick' Inge said that troop trains had priority over all
other trains and the general rule was 'keep the wheels turning even if
it is a crawl'. Most of the trains were in the 10-12 car range. One such
train carried German prisoners beside Pepper Tunnel near Whitethorne,
where they were camped for about a year. Pierce Patten was the conductor
of the train. Pierce's son was killed in Europe and when the German
prisoners were deboarding the train, Mr. Patten would curse them and he
had to be relieved. The troop trains carried a military designated M. A.
I. N or Military Authorization Identification Number".

At the N&W (and VGN) Historical Society Archives work day last week,
Landon and I framed and displayed a baseball jersey that I found on ebay
from a 1930 N&W baseball team. I told the Brethren about one painter
that I remember working in Roanoke Shops who was the worst painter I
have ever seen....but he could play ball and was hired to do so.

Then the conversation turned to firearms and how they were part of the
old VGN workday. Wis Sowder told of Dave "Snook" Willett dropping his
pistol one night in the yard office and it "going off". Wis said that
the round went into the ceiling, hit a steel beam and bounced off and
hit the water cooler next to where he was standing. Glen McLain told us
about working at the scalehouse one night and a hobo "just walked in and
said hello, how are you doing?" Ken said that after he "got his wits
again" he returned the conversation but covertly slipped his hand into a
desk drawer and felt secure holding his trusty S&W.32 revolver. The hobo
caught the next westbound leaving town. At the Rail Day last Saturday I
met Alvin McDaniel, recently retired from NS and brother of my friend
and Virginian Railway enthusiast John McDaniel. Alvin told me that when
he first come to South Yard and met the "legendary" yardmaster Bill
Whittaker, he was asked to be seated and talked to Bill. As they were
talking, Alvin said that a rat scurried across the floor. Bill pulled a
pistol and "slew the critter".

Time to pull the pin on this one!

Departing Now from V248,

Skip Salmon


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