I Was Told the N&W Did Extend Virginian's Electrification - More
NW Mailing List
nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Mon Dec 5 16:09:29 EST 2022
Does this postcard(?) picture from Pinterest show the VGN weighing
station near the Roanoke River and on a lower level than the "Newly
constructed Wasena Bridge (looking south)"?
On 12/4/2022 9:09 PM, NW Mailing List wrote:
> Herr King et al :
> 1. There WAS no eastward extension of the catenary on the east end of
> the VGN's Roanoke Yard, so I cannot confirm it !
> 2. I just remembered another place where a switching signal was
> used. It was at the west end of VGN's Roanoke Yard, and provided for
> engines making long pulls of coal while switching at the west end, and
> then getting out-of-sight around the curve at 13th St.
> As I recall, the rotary switch control for this was inside the
> building which was generally called the Scale House, which was just
> west of the Wasena Ave O.H. Bridge. The Scale House contained the
> balance-beam track scale which had once been used for weighing
> railroad cars, and at one time it also housed AG Telegraph Office,
> which handled Train Orders and the Manual Block which extended from
> Roanoke to Salem. My guess (without evidence) is that the N&W put the
> switching signal in.
> The scale was no longer in service as of my hiring in 1964, as
> evidenced by the fact that the old live rail/dead rail apparatus had
> been removed. And I have always wondered when AG Telegraph Office was
> discontinued, but never found any evidence.
> 3. Re the RR&E (Roanoke Railway & Electric) crossing immediately east
> of the VGN's Roanoke passenger station. Early one night in the
> mid-1970s I was braking the head end of a Norfolk Division coal train
> out of South Roanoke Yard. We were delayed getting underway and I was
> stretching my legs on the ground, on the north side (the Jefferson St
> side) of the yard. One of the public utilities (water? sewer?) had
> been doing excavation at that point, and had uncovered the old RR&E
> track. I recall that the rail was typical streetcar "girder rail" and
> really wish I could have obtained a chunk of it. But there was no one
> around with a torch to cut off a piece for me. That old streetcar
> rail was probably covered up again, when the job was finished. You
> and Mr. Ken Miller should go down there with a shovel and check... if
> you are good at diggin', he is good at supervisin' ! :-)
> 4. Just a comment on switching coal at Roanoke. Not all coal was
> created equal. It varied by ash content, volatile content, and BTU.
> Buyers bought coal based on these parameters. To make things easy and
> to keep the railroad out of the statistics business, the mines
> assigned code names (or "classes") to the various grades of coal:
> words like Margaret, Daisy, Moonbeam, Lucky, and so forth. Depending
> on what the buyers had bought, the railroad's export piers loaded the
> ships by class. Some ships might take all Margaret; some might be
> loaded 2 Moonbeams to 5 Luckys, or whatever.
> Now, somewhere along the line, all these various classes of coal had
> to be switched and grouped together. I can't speak for how the VGN
> switched its coal traffic, but on the N&W, Bluefield did some weighing
> and classifying of coal, and Roanoke did some weighing and classifying
> of coal; Crewe did some classifying (but I don't think Crewe had a
> trach scale.) And obviously the desired outcome was to have it arrive
> at Norfolk in reasonably proper order, so that Norfolk did not have to
> clean up a mess, in addition to loading the coal and recovering the
> I never understood who, in the pecking order, decided what terminals
> would do what part of the classifying process. That was obvious
> orchestrated by the Smart People in General Office Building. I was
> only a Brakeman, and all I got was a cut slip which told me which cars
> (by number) went in which tracks. As long as I got that done right
> and didn't derail anything, I never heard anything more about it.
> You will note the word "weighing" above. Back then, charges for all
> freight were based on weight, and each car had to be weighed. Somehow
> the railroads were get the ICC to agree to shipment of coal at flat
> rates, under what was called a Shipper's Weight Agreement. If a car
> had a capacity of 80 tons, the shippers agreed to load it to that
> weight and the railroads agreed to bill for hauling that weight, and
> scales pretty much went away. But this is all the commercial side of
> railroading and all I did was shove boxcars around in the darkness, so
> you will have to ask Mr. Blackstock how rates and weights and billing
> For better or for worse, the only export coal dumper I was ever around
> was Pier 126 at South Philadelphia, which handled Pennsylvania
> Anthracite exclusively. Most of the Anthracite went to Europe or to
> Quebec Iron & Titanium Co in Canada. Bituminous coal went to
> Baltimore for export. I worked as Night Trainmaster at
> South Philadelphia in 1980-1981. We also had a massive iron ore
> import pier, the busiest grain export pier on the East Coast, a
> waterfront operation (i.e. merchandise piers) and a "street running"
> operation along Delaware Avenue, and also a hump. It was a good
> learning experience for a young fellow who had spent 15 years coupling
> air hoses and throwing switches, and I was privileged to work with
> some of the best railroaders in my career, many of whom were
> early-1940s hires. After that, I was sent to downtown Philadelphia,
> then to Enola, then Harrisburg. And after that they stuck me behind a
> desk on a Division job for the balance of my 46 year sentence. I have
> now been paroled for 12 years and presently report only to my Madam
> Boss Lady.
> -- abram burnett,
> My Steam-powered Yacht is Named the SS Turnip
> NW-Mailing-List at nwhs.org
> To change your subscription go to
> Browse the NW-Mailing-List archives at
This email has been checked for viruses by Avast antivirus software.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the NW-Mailing-List