Agents, operators et al:

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Fri Aug 28 09:15:31 EDT 2015

Regarding agents and operators AND listings:

Abram is correct, that the ORT monthly magazine has lots of information
from which to mine from. It is tedious and time consuming but a bunch of
those gem of a magazine are on the internet "somewhere", much in the maze
of google books but there are other places as well. The digital record on
line stops before 1923 as the Mouse (aka Mickey Mouse and Disney) has
caused the law of free access to halt there since Mickey Mouse would then
have been no longer under Disney control, but that gets us away from the
basic issue of the agents and operators. Last time I checked, not all
issues before 1923 are on line but a good bunch were.

Then there is another closer to find source: Roanoke (as well as private
collections) and the N&WHS. There are in the society some of the many
frequently issued lists the RR produced in a small pocket booklet form.
Those list the agent of record for that specific date for open stations.
They stopped being issued in the mid-1950's. I have some of the issues in
the 1930's and 1940's and am sure the N&WHS has many I do not. Some of the
readers of this list no doubt have some as well and may be willing to
assist you, if they can locate which pile or box those treasures are

I mention that so you can really keep busy over the next whenever you may
have the "free" time. Another treasure trove are the employee magazines
which began in 1923. Those are somewhat hit and miss as to what may or may
not be in a specific issue for like Abram has already said, if a
correspondent was from one division and there were none from others, you
had a lot from that home territory of the writer but not much from
elsewhere. The society has a complete set of the magazines from May 1923 to
June 1982. The later ones have very little of this type of interesting
material for folks like you and I.

One last source -- local newspapers. If you had a regional paper and it
covered more than just its base AND if it has survived the ravages of time
and is now digitized or microfilmed, then by all means -- you may have
another place for treasures. If so, pray for a weekly paper as then you
only have 52 per year to go thru NOT, 260 for a Monday to Friday job or
worse yet, 312 or 365 for daily 'cept Sunday or not.

Now about that free time you thought you once had ................. ?????

Happy trails and good luck.

Bob Cohen


Re your request for information on station agents and telegraphers who may
have worked at AY, Rural Retreat. (You probably know that the original name
for the railroad station there was Mount Airy. The old telegraph call, AY,
was never changed.)

If you are willing to invest some elbow grease in this project, go to
Google Books and find all the digitized issues of a magazine called
Railroad Telegrapher. It was the monthly publication of the Order of
Railroad Telegraphers. Each local lodge of the ORT had a correspondent who
was supposed to send in the local news, for publication. The N&W goings-on
are reported under the heading of Division 12.

Depending on the diligence and literary skills of the correspondent, these
reports range from quite juicy to hopelessly trite. Who became married, who
had babies, who took vacations and where they went, who was off sick, who
went hunting and fishing, who changed jobs, who was working relief
assignments, and other gossip. Some of the monthly reports contain only a
paragraph or two of meaningless information, and some run to three pages of
very interesting data. To me, the most valuable postings concern the
opening and closing of various telegraph offices and stations, the
implementation of manual block or automatic block rules, the addition of
second tracks, and the like.

Division 12 covered the entire N&W, and this leads to one drawback. If the
correspondent were, say, a Shenandoah Valley man, his monthly rants would
be heavy on S.V. happenings, and almost nil on events on other territories.
So the information you get for a given territory will be hit-and-miss, but
quite frequently you find a real jewel which has been recorded in no other

I am presently reading through the 1907 volume of Railroad Telegrapher,
abstracting information on other railroads in which I am interested. If I
see anything on AY Mount Airy / Rural Retreat, I will pass it along.

Since you now have a station of your own, we should talk some day about
getting your location on the Internet Telegraph Wire we now have. A number
of museums are now putting in a set of telegraph instruments and hooking
them up to the Internet Wire using a laptop computer. All you need to make
it live is someone who understands Morse (and an amatuer radio person won't
fit the bill, because radio people use the wrong code.) Something to think
about, long term.

-- abram burnett
SW Telegraph Office
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