Takin' Twenty with the Virginian Brethren by Skip Salmon

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu Nov 14 06:58:10 EST 2013

Last night I had the pleasure of "Takin' Twenty" with five of the Brethren
and Friends of the Virginian Railway. Since last Monday was Veteran's Day,
we talked about some of our friends who have given their lives for our
nation and freedom. Several recalled seeing caskets bringing soldiers home
for the last time during WWII and Korea. Landon remembered one incident
while he was Operator at Bedford, VA after the merger, when "the whole town
met the train at receive the casket". I told the Brethren about a current
HBO movie "Taking Chance" about a Marine Corps officer who escorts a
soldier killed in Afghanistan back to his home out west and how we honor
our fallen heroes today. Several other incidents were discussed that
involved the VGN during WWII. Glen McLain told about one when a box car
carrying something "top secret" was spotted just west of the Yard Office in
Roanoke attached to a camp car with military markings and guards. He said
he watched as a lone soldier proceeded to "shimmy" to the top of the box
car and march from one end to the other holding aloft an M-1 Garand with
bayonet attached. "The tip of that bayonet was only inches from the
overhead wires for the electric locomotives, so I ran over and told him
that the wires were hot with 11,000 volts. He immediately 'hit the deck'
and almost fell off the car, but was safe from the dangerous voltage".

To answer a question from a reader, Lois J. Ponton, about the connection of
the VGN and N&W at Suffolk, VA Landon Gregory said the N&W line was south
of the VGN with a cross over track between them. The N&W would set up cars
on a siding for the VGN to pick up. The VGN local shifter, working the
peanuts plants in Suffolk, would bring cars from the VGN to the N&W and
pick up those set out. Most of the N&W cars were loaded with peanuts that
were sent west on VGN train #71. Landon also recalled the old A&D and NF&D
also interchanged there with a lot of rock from a nearby quarry that helped
build the Bay Bridge Tunnel and Portsmouth-Norfolk tunnels.

Passed around for the Brethren to peruse was the Winter 2013 "Classic
Trains". This issue is mostly about "Steam in the South" from L&N,
Southern, C&O and N&W. One interesting article on page 32 "Railroads on
the Air!" is all about several national radio programs of adventures on
rail lines. The most famous "Empire Builders" was one of the earliest
dramatic radio shows, each week presenting a historical or fictional story
from the Great Northern's territory.

The Jewel from the Past is from September 13, 2007: "To answer a question
from one of our readers, I asked Rufus Wingfield if the locomotive washer
in Roanoke was used to wash passenger coaches. He emphatically answered
'NO, they were always washed by hand each night for the next day's train."

For H. Bundy, who inquired about special steel electric conveyor cars the
VGN used at Sewells Point to load coal into ships. Wis Sowder and Glen
McLain, who worked at the pier, agreed that the loading costs were charged
to the colliers for the use of this car, so it should be considered a
"revenue car".

At last week's work day at the N&W (and VGN) Historical Society Archives, I
finished entering the Acceptance of Bids for the VGN Railway into their
system. One of the last ones entered was from the building of the
Virginian Passenger Station in Roanoke in 1909. In it I discovered several
letters from the VGN Chief Engineer to bidders concerning items in the
bids. One is dated March 6, 1909 and reads "if there will be any
difference in your lump sum price if the passenger station is arranged for
lighting by gas and electricity instead of by electricity only as called
for in original plans and specifications, I would like to know". Another
refers to the bid and states "I need to know if there are differences in
your lump sum price if Ludowici Tile, manufactured by the Ludowici Roofing
Tile Co. of Chicage, IL is substituted for No. 1 Buckingham slate from the
'Old Nicholas' quarries or equal, required by our specifications for the
roof of this building". I also found out that the gas for the lighting was
made locally form coal, and even back then there was concern about the heat
and pollution from the gas lights. It was called "vitiating". There was
also concern about the gas leaks. The "powers to be" didn't take any
chances so the Roanoke Station was wired for electric lights AND piped for
gas lights. This brings me to this: How many gorillas does it take to
change a light bulb? Just ONE, but it takes a lot of light bulbs...

Time to pull the pin on this one!

Departing Now from V248,

Skip Salmon

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