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

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu Dec 16 08:49:05 EST 2010

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 from
Eddystone, PA was Roanoke Chapter NRHS member Harold Castleman. Harold is
quite a photographer and rail fan.

I told the Brethren about the upcoming anniversary of the December 18, 1909
VGN Railway event, that broke all known records of the day, by sending one
mile and six feet of coal train east out of Roanoke with 120 44-foot steel

Passed around was the latest "Turntable Times" newsletter of the Roanoke
Chapter NRHS with my photo of our GP30 #522, tool car and N&W caboose
posing at Appomattox for their Rail Day, on the cover. Also in this issue I
had photos of the Chapter Alco T-6 being painted and work being done on our
steam locomotive #1118. Also passed was a photo taken by an un-named
friend, showing Landon Gregory and I posing in one of the most famous
Virginian buildings in the Roanoke area still standing (not the Station).
The Brethren guessed the location of this building. As as been said before,
I would have to self-destruct this report if I disclosed its location. Also
passed were two photographs given to me recently by Ernie Hubble: one of
the VGN Roanoke Station before 1925 and the interior of a VGN passenger car
with four-blade air- conditioning located above the door in the dividing

The Jewel from the Past is from December 9, 2004: "Toby Hodson, Virginian
Railway high tension lineman, brought a special wrench use by the lineman,
and a set of 'skates' used to climb the tall towers that carried the 88,000
volts for power from the Narrows Power Plant. 'Ruf ' Wingfield remembered
'Dinger' Oftendinger, famous VGN call boy, who tore up almost every company
vehicle he ever used, carried 5 cigars in his shirt pocket and 'seemed to
always be smoking one too'. Wingfield also told of watching Earl Fisher,
VGN yardmaster, writing 'J. B. King', the name of a famous hobo, on box
cars with chalk, when he thought no one was looking".

I showed the Brethren an email that reported Norfolk Southern CEO Charles
W, "Wick" Moorman has been named 2011 "Railroader of the Year" by trade
journal "Railway Age". When I passed this around, several discovered that
another famous rail leader associated with the Virginian Railway, had been
named the same in 1965 and 1966: Stuart T. Saunders. One comment I heard
was "The people in Victoria won't appreciate that fact!".

At the N&W(and VGN) Historical Society Archives work-day last week, I
discovered an excellent photo of Sewells Point showing both #1 and #2 piers
with several large white buildings in the background. These buildings were
identified by Wis Sowder and Glen McLain, who worked there, as part of the
Norfolk Naval Air Station. Glen remembered at one runway, there was a large
sign that read "WHEELS", reminding Navy pilots to lower their landing gear
BEFORE landing. He said several times he saw planes making "belly
landings". Wis recalled that some of the Navy planes had a wire antenna
that they "reeled out" while flying and on one occasion forgot to "reel
back in" before landing and it wrapped itself around the end of a VGN coal
hopper, before braking off.

I showed the Brethren several photos I took last Monday morning of the
scene at the Art Museum and O. Winston Link, where workmen were cleaning up
the wreck of NS 23G Louisville-Norfolk train that derailed 4 auto-racks
under the Williamson Road Bridge in downtown Roanoke. These four racks
carried Chevys for export. Jeff Sanders passed two items he purchased at
the estate sale of one of our Brethren, VGN clerk Grover Austin. One was a
program for a December 2, 1954 VGN Railway Company dinner for "officers and
employees of the Roanoke Terminal" at the Elks Club in Roanoke. It was a
celebration to honor W. R. McClelland who was leaving Roanoke to assume
duties of Assistant Freight Traffic Manager in Norfolk. Also honored was A.
E. Suter who succeeded Mr. McClelland as General Agent in Roanoke. The
other photo Jeff brought shows a VGN yard locomotive with men posing.
Several were identified by the Brethren. One turned out to be Archibald
Vaughn, the uncle of our Gibby Davis.

I was told to be sure to ask you this: Santa has to know the languages of
all the kids of the world in order to fill their requests on Christmas Eve.
What is Santa's first language, that he speaks to the elves? NORTH Polish....

Time to pull the pin on this one!

Departing Now from V248,

Skip Salmon

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