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

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu Feb 21 07:38:54 EST 2013

Last night I had the pleasure of "Takin' Twenty" with eight of the Brethren
and Friends of the Virginian Railway. We signed a Happy Birthday card for
Bill Turner. Bill started with the N&W in 1950 and served in the Korean
Police Action. When he returned to Roanoke in 1957, he found out N&W had
furloughed him, so he went to work for the VGN as a Brakeman. Bill retired
in 1991 as a Conductor for NS and turns 81 on Monday.

Thanks for all of the responses from last week about the tangent tracks.
Our good friend Louis Newton sent me a list of the longer tangent tracks on
the VGN: 7.5 miles Algren to Suffolk; 8.3 South Branch Yard to Algren; and
8.8 miles Kenyon to Boaz. My research shows the longest tangent track now
in the US is 78.9 from Wilmington to Hamlet, NC; and the longest in the
world in Western Australia at 297 miles. Also from last week, I took the
time book of Section Foreman Don Thomas, father of my good friend Phil
Thomas of Wilmington, NC. This book is from 1929 and lists 14 different
laborers who worked for Mr. Thomas on the VGN Section #53 near Oak Hill
Junction, WV. They worked about 8 hours daily and their rate of pay was
$.35 per hour. With the book, Phil sent a note telling about it and adding
that "There was a saying back then 'the VGN would hire anyone fired off the
N&W. My uncle was proof of that. My Dad turned down 2 promotions of
Assistant Roadmaster later on in years. Mother didn't want to go from
country to city life'". I also showed the Brethren a VGN and an N&W switch
key that Phil donated to our VGN Station Project.

For Show and Tell this week, I brought an item I purchased at the C&O Train
Show in Clifton Forge, VA last Saturday. It is a "Y" shaped train order
hoop that allowed the conductor or brakeman to hold out his arm and receive
a string off the hoop with a train order on it from an operator or
dispatcher. It is similar to what the N&W and VGN used on occasions. This
particular hoop brought back a memory of a trip I took as road engineer
during the 1978 N&W Strike. I was taking a train from Detroit to Toledo on
dark territory and approached a large bridge in the Detroit area when a man
stepped out holding a similar hoop for me to take a train order. I
immediately flashed back to the old Virginian Vignettes 8 track showing a
VGN brakeman getting one at Salem. I took the order and string and spent a
very anxious 45 minutes looking at my watch until the meet I had to make,
using the train order. This hoop caused a lot of commotion at the
restaurant and Landon Gregory told the story of his using a hoop similar to
this one on many occasions. Raymond East saw it and immediately said "every
time I see one of those I remember once at Carolina Junction I missed the
hoop and to back up my train to get it". Landon pointed out that the VGN
also had metal stands at interlocking plants with an upper and lower arm to
place the hoops for engineer and brakeman on the caboose. He thinks they
were called "Robertson" stands. Any one out there know anything about this?

Also passed around was an N&W July 13, 1919 Timetable No. 11 Norfolk
Division,issued during the USRA control of rail lines during WWI. This
document showed trains 84 and 86 running "via Virginian RR Roanoke to
Abilene". This prompts a lot of questions... how did they get from Abilene
back to N&W?; how did they get from N&W Yard in Roanoke to South Yard?

The Jewel from the Past is from September 28, 2006: "Attending for the
first time was Steve Smith. Steve is on leave from Yokosuka Japan where he
is in Naval Service with CFAX, the Navy's version of CSI. His Grandfather
worked on the N&W and he is an avid rail fan and artifact collector. Steve
has a degree from Virginia Tech in architecture. He brought with him his
Virginian Railway tall globe lantern serial number #1216 of 1906". Note:
Steve now works on NS research test car and is an active member of the
Roanoke Chapter NRHS.

Then there's this "oldie but goodie": During the Depression, people
sometimes had to grow what they ate and ate what they grew. One such family
had great success growing turnips. They had a 11 year old son who took a
lunch box to school and he was getting tired of eating turnips every day
for lunch. His Mom made turnip sandwiches, sliced them for him, boiled ,
diced, fried, baked, stewed and even made soup. One day he decided he wait
until the other children were out at recess and swap lunch with the
heaviest lunch box available, to get away from eating turnips. When the
time was right, he opened the heaviest box and discovered that his friend
also was easing sparely: In it he found a claw hammer and five black

Time to pull the pin on this one.

Departing Now, from V248,

Skip Salmon


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