[N&W] N&W Mailing List - Question about Wreck Master on VGN

nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Tue May 4 22:13:16 EDT 2004

[Art's question:]

My grandfather worked for the VGN for 50 years....He was a Wreck Master.
I am not a expert on railroads but I think he said he cleaned up after a
train left the tracks..!! Ha Ha. I remember stories he told me as a
child about trains blowing up and the most fantastic wreckage sites ever
seen..!!  He started in Elmore, W.Va. back in the depression. Then moved
to Victoria ,Va in 30's as the highest ranking official for the railroad
in that town. I remember he told me about this huge crane they had to
pick the trains up with (now that had to be big ). My father told me he
picked up a wooden bridge in the town with it while repairs were being
made by the bridge crews..!! Well, I have seen books with the VGN in it
but not a lot about wrecks or wrecker masters mentioned. I was hoping
you could shed some light on what he did..??

Thanks for your time,

AWHITT505 at AOL.COM or Art_Whittaker at USAirways.com


[Marty's preliminary answer:]

Hello, Art! Thanks for writing.

I think "wreck master" is the general term for the fellow responsible for
supervising wreck cleanup. He'd oversee the various crews working a wreck.
Depending on the location of the accident, I imagine that crews from
several departments might be involved, and someone would need to coordinate
their activity. I'll ask around and see if anybody else (like someone with
actual experience on the RRs) would have a better idea.

A few books come to mind which have photos of VGN wrecks or wrecking
equipment. If you don't have these, or don't have easy access (which is
possible since the first two are out of print), please send me your street
address and I'll send you some photocopies of the relevant pages.

"The Virginian Railway", H. Reid, Kalmbach Publishing  shows several photos
of a spectacular wreck involving a steam locomotive boiler explosion. This
type of accident occurred when the water got too low in the boiler of the
locomotive. Very messy.

"The Virginian Railway Handbook", Wiley & Wallace, 1985. Several large and
small wrecking cranes are shown on pages 79 and 80. These are not "action"
photos, but are very clear.

Lastly, an article called "Collision at Kumis" ran in the March 1997 issue
of the Norfolk & Western Historical Society's magazine, The Arrow. This
provides a very complete description of a wreck between two diesel-powered
trains, and the cleanup effort that followed.

I hope this helps a bit. Maybe somebody else will be able to shed some more

-Marty   (meswartz at mindspring.com)

More information about the NW-Mailing-List mailing list