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

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu Jan 8 10:18:19 EST 2015

Last night I had the pleasure of "Takin' Twenty" with six of the Brethren
and Friends of the Virginian Railway on the first Wednesday of 2015.  Dr.
Gibson Davis met me with an envelope and said, "I would like to start the
new year off with these photos I found in a drawer.  My grandfather took
them with his Brownie box camera". He handed me five black and white 2.5"
by 4.5" photos that seem to be of the 1933 New Year's eve wreck just west
of Hardy where Extra 472 struck a boulder and turned over down the bank
next to the Roanoke (aka Staunton) River.  This wreck at MP 237 on the VGN
Norfolk Division happened "at 4:04 AM according to the train sheet, and
after passing Hardy it struck a large rock while traveling at a speed
variously estimated to have been between 25 and 30 MPH".  Killed in the
wreck was  Engine Man Henry Halbrook of Cloverdale and Brakeman Leroy
Skilman of Victoria.  Surviving was Fireman Marshall Foor who was rescued
by several farmers, who lived near by, and saw the large fire created when
gasoline and oil tankers ignited. Foor was carried across the river to
safety and to a Roanoke Hospital.  He is the grandfather of our own Greg
Elam, caretaker of the Rail Park in Victoria.  Dr. Davis is donating the
photos to the N&W (and VGN) Historical Society for scanning and they will
be made available to you through them.  "Gibby" said he thinks he has more
photos taken on the VGN by his grandfather (Machinist for VGN).

 For Show and Tell I took the February 2015 "Trains".  This issue has on
page 46 "Breaking the Code; The seven Class I railroads use different
systems to keep track of their trains, and knowing their tricks can yield
useful train-watching intel".  The NS system is explained and compared with
the others and is very interesting reading as well as a reference.  Also on
page 58 is a great question comparing the truck styles of new locomotives
and explains that even though NS tested those with only two traction motors
per 3-axle trucks, they chose the C style instead of the A1A or B1.

 Last Monday's roanoke times had a snippet in the "100 years ago today"
article about the VGN:  "Probably half the people in Roanoke were startled
about 11:30 o'clock Wednesday by a piercing explosion that rattled windows
and brought retirers to windows to see what was coming off.  The blast was
set off by the Virginian Railway track men in an effort to clear the track
of an immense boulder".

 I showed the Brethren a photo I got of the NS VGN Heritage unit #1069
through the holly at South Yard yesterday after she was re-fueled.  I have
posted that photo on this site under "Skip's Photos".

 In reference to a previous item about trolleys being run on the same track
with VGN passenger trains, in the 1930's, the trolleys were replaced by
rubber-tired busses that were stream-lined.  They had names like "Virginia
Dare and Princess Anne".  These busses were later sold (in the late 1940s)
to Cuba.  Wonder if they are still running there....

 The Jewel from the Past is from May 29, 2008:  "I asked the Brethren about
the rail strike of 1946, and several remembered accounts of President
Truman's handling of it.  Raymond East told the Brethren about a recent PBS
feature, with film,  on Mr. Truman when he was  addressing a Joint Session
of Congress.  He stated he would end the strike by 'inducting every rail
worker in the country into the US Army' and was handed a note before his
speech was finished.  He read the note and then said 'The rail strike is

 Then there's this:  A guy is driving around the backwoods of Montana and
he sees a sign in front of a broken down shanty-style house, "Talking Dog
for Sale".  He rings the bell and the owner appears and tells him the dog
is in the back yard.  The guy goes into the back yard and sees a nice
looking Labrador Retriever sitting there.  "You talk?" he asked.  The Lab
replies "Yup".  After the guy recovers from the shock he says "So what's
your story?"  The Lab looks up and says , "Well I discovered I could talk
when I was a pup.  I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA.  In
no time at all, they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in
rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be
eavesdropping."  "I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years
running... But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't
getting any younger, so I decided to settle down.  I signed up for a job at
the airport to do some undercover security, wandering near suspicious
characters and listening in.  I uncovered some incredible dealings and was
awarded a batch of medals.  I got married, had a bunch of puppies and now
I'm just retired."  The guy is amazed and goes back in the house and asks
the dog's owner how much money he wants for the dog.  "Ten dollars",  "Ten
dollars? This dog is amazing!  Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?"
"Because he's a liar.  He's never been out of the yard."

 Time to pull the pin on this one!

 Departing Now from V248,

 Skip Salmon


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