[N&W] Re: Branch Lines

nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu May 6 22:43:15 EDT 2004

The N&W's North Carolina Extension from Pulaski (Dora Jct.) to Galax and
Fries (Also the Cripple Creek extension to Speedwell until abandoned) was a
very busy railway during the first half of the century and through WW-II.
Much of the line followed thew New River as well as crossing it 3 times.

Ivanho and Austinville were major mining/processing related industrial
centers.  Galax and Fries had cotton mills and furniture factories.   There
were several branches off the main to various mining operations.  There were
many iron ore, lead, and zinc mines; as well as various related industries.
Coal to support these needs was hauled in.from Pulaski both from the
Pocahontas Coal Fields and also from local anthracite mines.  There was a
time when folks believed Pulaski could grow into another Pittsburgh or
Birmingham. The area was also highly agricultural in nature so cattle, hogs,
sheep, chickens... as well as every farm related need came and went by
train.   Logging was also an ongoing economic activity that was supported by
the railway.

Pulaski had a pretty good sized yard with major locomotive servicing
capabilities and car storing and shifting capabilities,  The booming town
itself had furniture production, mills, and heavy iron related industries.
The N&W ran Y's and Z's as well as M Class 4-8-0's and G Class 2-8-0's.
Various E Class Pacific's handled most of the passenger trains.  My Dad's
family is from Pulaski and Wythe Counties.  Dad often likes to talk about
all the rail activity on the line when he was living there in the late 20's
and early 30's.  He lived near Delton and attended grade school there (my
Grandmother was the teacher).  Dad remembers double headed G's trying to
make the grade from Delton (a Water Tank and flag stop) up to Draper.  The
often would begin spinning on the grade and eventually stall.  Several back
down and back up followed by running starts for the grade would be
attempted.  After the train crew became convenced it woul not succeed in
getting to Draper, a locomotive was called out of Pulaski from the train
crew over the block lines to assist the train up the hill and down the other
side into Pulaski. (All this visible from the school house!)

I have yard layout drawings of Pulaski during this era.  It was full scale
operation.  -  If I was to start over with my modeling I'd model this area
in the late 30's/early 40's.  It would be a complete railway operation.

   The book currently writted about the North Carolina Extension is a good
starting point but does give coverage in depth to the mines, mills, and
industries that produced the economic reasons for building the railway in
the first place .....and with their ecomonic demize; the justification to
abandon it.  Old employee and public timetables from the 20's and 30's have
a great deal of info.  Grade charts may also be helpful.  (Radford Division)

(Today, as the New River Trail, it is a wonderful and historical mountain
bike path ~110 miles RT.
I ride it several times each summer.)
Ed Painter Jr

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