Clean out tracks

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Wed Dec 5 16:48:48 EST 2018


I suspect most people in the know would question the intelligence of 
anyone who would _willingly _transfer from Roanoke, VA, to Wilcoe, WV.

Gordon Hamilton

On 12/4/2018 10:06 PM, NW Mailing List wrote:
> Gordon – that was the facility I worked on; it was very early ‘60s 
> because I left Shaffers at the end of 1961 and went to Wilcoe.  We 
> used a Trackmobile to move the working cars down between the two 
> tracks of box cars.  I never knew who designed it, but I enjoyed 
> working it.
> EdKing
> *From:* NW Mailing List
> *Sent:* Tuesday, December 04, 2018 6:52 PM
> *To:* NW Mailing List
> *Subject:* Re: Clean out tracks
> My recollection of the Roanoke box car clean out track dates from the 
> early 1960s when I was designing diesel locomotive servicing 
> facilities (such as those in the new yard at Bellevue, OH), in the 
> same office in the N&W Motive Power Office Building as a fellow by the 
> name of Bob LeNoir (a native Mississippian with a speech accent to 
> match) who designed freight car repair facilities (Shaffers Crossing, 
> Lamberts Points, etc.).  As my imperfect memory recalls, Bob designed 
> an improved box car clean out facility just west of Shaffers Crossing 
> in the location mentioned by other contributors on this subject. It 
> consisted of three parallel tracks with the clean-out box cars on the 
> two outer tracks, and a specially designed train on the middle track.  
> This train on the middle track consisted of flat cars specially 
> equipped with decks that extended beyond the normal sides of the flat 
> car so that there was only a small gap between the extended deck and 
> the box car floors on either side.  This arrangement allowed the clean 
> out carmen to easily enter a box car (no need to use a ladder) and 
> provided a place to accumulate the junk dunnage removed from the box 
> cars instead of just tossing it onto the ground.  Inasmuch as I was 
> not directly involved in the design and operation of the new box car 
> clean out facility,  I can only guess that a yard engine would 
> occasionally re-spot the cars on the middle track and then at the end 
> of the shift take them somewhere to unload the junk.  Of course the 
> flat cars with the extended decks would have been handled as wide 
> loads.  I seem to recall that some wags (plenty of them on the 
> railroad) soon started calling the flat car train the "Mule Train" 
> after a popular cowboy song of that era.  I don't know how long the 
> Mule Train operation lasted.
> I see that no one else who has posted on this subject has mentioned 
> the Mule Train.  Can no one substantiate my memory on this clean out 
> "improvement?"
> Gordon Hamilton
> On 12/4/2018 3:44 PM, NW Mailing List via NW-Mailing-List wrote:
>> 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 
>> mailto: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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