Clean out tracks

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Wed Dec 5 16:41:03 EST 2018

Ed (my buddy Shop Inspector on the Shaffers Crossing shop track a few 
years ago),

I had not seen this email from you when I posted my recollections on the 
innovative clean out arrangement with a "mule train" between two strings 
of box cars.  I should have realized that you are the one who would 
remember the arrangement.  I am glad that you explained that the 
extended platforms were placed on G-1 gondolas because I never would 
have visualized that this would have placed the platform at the right 
height for box car floors. Also, it makes sense that a Trackmobile 
(presumably operated by carmen) would have been used to move the "mule 
train" instead of a yard engine.

Thanks for the memories,

Gordon Hamilton

On 12/4/2018 5:03 PM, NW Mailing List wrote:
> When I was a Shop Inspector at Shaffers Crossing Car Dept. 1959-1961 
> they established a boxcar cleaning and upgrading place on three tracks 
> south of the west yard. They put a platform on top of a couple of G-1 
> gons wide enough to make easy access to box cars on either side (they 
> were just at the right height).  They had a Trackmobile for motive 
> power.  The platform gons had tool boxes and even a steam generator 
> for washing cars out.  I worked the thing for a few weeks, there were 
> probably a half-cozen carmen assigned to it.  We’d go down the tracks 
> and clean out the cars, making small repairs to the linings and 
> floors, and classify the cars for distribution.  I don’t remember ever 
> using the steam jenny.  We’d do two tracks in the morning and they’d 
> pull them and put another two tracks in for the afternoon.
> We made a lot of class C cars for the Warehouse (freight station) and 
> B-1 cars for bag loading at Buchanan (couldn’t have any splinters that 
> would snag a bag).  We didn’t get any cars that we could make suitable 
> for cigarette loading at Winston-Salem or Durham, or A-1 cars for bulk 
> baking soda at Saltville.  Those usually came off the shop track. 
> Cigarette cars had to have straight and vertical ends, and we had no 
> “stobo” machine to straighten ends.  The stobo was an ingenious way to 
> straighten ends used in connection with a Hyster crane.  The boxcar 
> side at the shop track made good use of it.
> Ah, for the good old days of the 40-foot boxcar.  And the Journapak 
> lubricator pads.  I was lucky to be there then because journal 
> bearings were undergoing a metamorphosis that would culminate with 
> roller bearings, and cushion underframes, and all that good stuff.  
> Fun times.  I saw the first H-11 hopper, the 30000, come out and do 
> its test runs.
> BTW – it should be established that I hold the worlds record for the 
> number of hotboxes on one four axle car out of Shaffers shop track.  
> Eight hotboxes.  That got me the Ig-Nobel prize . . .
> Ed King
> *From:* NW Mailing List via NW-Mailing-List
> *Sent:* Tuesday, December 04, 2018 3:44 PM
> *To:* NW Mailing List
> *Cc:* NW Mailing List
> *Subject:* Re: Clean out tracks
> Jim, Jim and Ken,
> In my days on the yard, 1981 onward, the tracks Jim and Ken spoke of , 
> I knew as the "dirty hole", or "clean-out tracks". Even though there 
> was no cleaning of box cars at this date, there was an area toward the 
> east end of these tracks where MofW disposed of old rotten ties, fill 
> dirt, etc. There were only three tracks, I believe, that were used at 
> all. MofW stored their cars on two of them. The third was last used to 
> load fuel oil (for company use). We would spot as many as 25, or a few 
> more. Trucks from Montvale would continuously ran back and forth 
> filling these company tank cars. Almost every day, a 2nd shift yard 
> crew would pull the loads and re-spot the empties.
> Concerning the customers job of cleaning out their own cars, some 
> still didn't get the message! Crews were instructed not to pull cars 
> with trash still in them.
> I forget which year, but the old "dirty hole" was turned into a nice 
> looking EPA approved landfill.
> I personally believe the "super-elevation" was simply the lack of 
> track maintenance, coupled with the fact of the ground settling around 
> all the junk that had been dumped over the decades. It was obvious 
> during my time there was no maintenance on those tracks, unless they 
> were cleaning up a derailment!
> Jeff Sanders
> On Tuesday, December 4, 2018, 1:11:12 PM EST, NW Mailing List 
> <nw-mailing-list at> wrote:
> Thanks Jim and Ken!
> On Tue, Dec 4, 2018 at 11:52 AM NW Mailing List 
> <nw-mailing-list at> wrote:
>     Jim
>     Just to add to Mr. Blackstock excellent write up. The are west of
>     Shaffers was referred to, at least by my father a Radford Division
>     conductor, as the “Clean-out hole”.
>     Now, my father was a child of the depression, and always wanted to
>     repair, fix or use something over rather than buy something new.
>     Now, I am not faulting him on that. So, with that in mind, at
>     least once,  I recall him taking me down there one time to pick up
>     some good plywood he had spotted them tossing out, so he asked,
>     they said help yourself, and we went back in the truck to load up.
>     I honestly don’t remember what we used the stuff for, but I
>     remember walking around and like Jim said there was trash and
>     nails everywhere, did not remember seeing any rats. But it was
>     cardboard, paper, wood, scattered all over, and maybe 3-5 tracks
>     full of boxcars.
>     I suspect there are not many if any photos of the area, not
>     because it was unappealing to rail fans, but it was deep on
>     company property. The area is now all filled in, nicely covered
>     with grass, and fenced off, hard to tell what might be buried
>     under there.
>     Ken Miller
>>     On Dec 4, 2018, at 9:43 AM, NW Mailing List
>>     <nw-mailing-list at> wrote:
>>     Jim
>>     The clean out tracks at Shaffers Crossing was just west of the
>>     engine terminal on the South side.  The old stock pen was in the
>>     same area.
>>     Re excessive super elevation.  Not sure on this. Could be that
>>     the area between the tracks were worn down by removal of some
>>     dirt every time they ran machines to clean up the debris.  On the
>>     other hand it could have been by design to keep those rats from
>>     jumping in the open box cars.
>>     I was only at the clean out tracks three times.  One time to show
>>     me as a new employee where they were, one time to check on the
>>     location of a car and another to check out some interesting junk
>>     to see if it had potential use.  When you were at the location
>>     you had to watch every step.  There were plenty of nails and rats
>>     to avoid at all cost.  I never did see a rail fan with a camera
>>     taking any photos in this area.
>>     As for me, I would rather walk through the stock pens than the
>>     clean out tracks.
>>     Several years after my clean out experience when I was in the
>>     Traffic Dept. we put in charges for cleaning out cars.  This was
>>     a tariff charge that required all empty cars be cleaned by the
>>     customer before releasing the car to the carrier as an empty. 
>>     The only exception was dunnage used to block and brace the load
>>     being returned to the original shipping origin.  This eliminated
>>     the need to operate the massive clean out tracks.
>>     Jim Blackstock
>>     On 11/28/2018 12:57 PM, NW Mailing List wrote:
>>>     On another list there has been a discussion about clean out
>>>     tracks and the cleaning of cars; some photos show the clean out
>>>     tracks to have excessive super elevation that assisted in the
>>>     removing of dunnage and the cleaning of the car, i.e. steam
>>>     cleaning.
>>>     Does anyone have insight in how N&W handled cleaning of box
>>>     cars, etc? Were the clean out tracks super elevated?  Any photos?
>>>     Thanks.
>>>     Jim Brewer
>>>     Glenwood, MD
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