[N&W] Re: Hagerstown

nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu May 6 22:55:49 EDT 2004

[Rick Morrison wrote:]
 >The 1960's brought a lot of unit coal trains on the scene, with frequent
 >helpers.  This was not so much for horsepower needs, but to prevent
 >slack action from pulling the trains apart.  The Shenandoah Division
 >has a sawtooth profile, and slack would run in and out of lengthy trains
 >breaking knuckles.

[Jimmy Lisle responded:]
 >    Did a Shenandoah Div. employee tell you this first hand or is this just
 >your pure conjecture?
 >   Coal trains out of Roanoke would usually cut the pushers off at
 >Greenville if there was power in Shenandoah to push with. If not the pushers
 >would continue to Shenandoah. Due to tonnage trains with 80 cars or less
 >might cut the pushers off at Ashby. 100 car trains would usually take the
 >pushers to Hagerstown. Other things that contributed to where the pushers
 >went was, time on duty (did the pushers have time to get back to Shenandoah)
 >and if the power was needed in Hagerstown to bring a train south.
 >   To push a train just so it won't get a knuckle is nonsense. I've seen
 >doubles get a knuckle even with a pusher.

I must admit I was only a teenager at the time, but an employee did tell me 
that helpers were used on the coal trains to minimize slack action, and 
that they did experience some train separations.  Maybe it wasn't the 
truth?  I can tell you for sure that all these helper moves were hard on 
power distribution.  Many, many times I observed motive power consists 
running light southbound.  It sure took less power to get all those empties 
back to the mines.  Maybe Mason Cooper knows something about this as he was 
a keen observer at that time.

Rick Morrison

The service N&W received in the joint facility arrangement with PRR
(later PC) at Vardo was less than satisfactory.

1. The old timers have noted that the "Piggyback Special" operated from
     Bristol (in the late '50s) to northern points via N&W-hagerstown-PRR
     would often go to Hagerstown and sit.  On PRR service was a misnomer.

2. Any resemblance to blocking by PC was purely coincidental.  The
     PC would deliver huge trains of "junk" to N&W.   There'd be empty
     hoppers mixed in with Front Royals and spliced by cars for the
     Roanoke hump.  These trains were forwarded to Shenandoah for
     Shenandoah to straighten out.

3. Waybills (the document which travels with the car) are supposed to
      line up exactly as the  completed train is arranged.  One of the
      Shenandoah Div. conductors once noted that the Vardo yard clerks
      placed the waybills in a waste basket, shook'em up, placed a rubber
      band around them, then handed them over to him.

With this dissatisfaction, N&W made arrangements in the mid-70's to
set off the PC's at Vardo and take the remainder of the train to the WM
yard.  In fact, there was even talk of connecting  Shenandoah Div. (at
Hagerstown) with the Pittsburgh Div. (at Connellsville) by using the WM.
Had this arrangement been implemented, WM's Williamsport Hill (near
Hagerstown) would certainly have limited train size, required pushers, or
                                                       Harry Bundy

Hello Frank,

I have a number of resources of likely interest to you re the N&W at 
Hagerstown.  I researched the railroads of the Hagerstown vicinity while I 
lived in the area from 1991-1995.  Jim Cochran and I found the foundations 
of the engine house mentioned by Rick Morrison.  When I was living in the 
area, the south side of the wye was still in place and used by the 
Winchester & Western for interchange.  Hager Tower and the crossing are 
long gone.

I did most of my research in the Washington County Free Library, Western 
Maryland Room (WCFL and WMR hereafter), and the Washington County 
Historical Society (WCHS hereafter), both in Hagerstown.  I also used 
Hagerstown city and Washington County survey maps.

City Directories in the WMR were useful.  "Polk's Hagerstown City Directory 
1937-38," "--1950," "--1961," "--1965," and "--1970," all list the N&W and 
PRR Co./Penn-Central freight depots at 265 W. Church Street.  To 1961, the 
directories listed the passenger station for "both" railroads at 14 S. 
Walnut Street.

I make references below to a church that is at Walnut and Antietam 
Streets.  Because the church is still there, it is a great landmark for 
orienting yourself, either when visiting or viewing photographs.  This 
church shows in many old photographs and can be seen clearly from the 
raised Burhans Blvd. where the boulevard overpass crosses the now-empty 
space (where the CVRR/PRR, etc., track used to run) adjacent to the former 
Hager Tower.

To organize this, the general categories of leads that I have for you are 
maps and photos.  First, maps:

WCHS, Map #80.  "Map of Hagerstown," J. B. Ferguson and Co. Engineers (c) 
1927, reverse sepia, 1":300'.  Shows both Shomo yard with 12 tracks and the 
6-track PRR yard between Hager Tower and W. Antietam Street.

WCHS, Map #79.  "Map of Hagerstown," J. B. Ferguson and Co. Engineers, (c) 
1948.  Shows the engine house and tracks to the west-southwest of the Hager 
Tower junction.  The engine house is shown adjacent to the wye, slightly to 
the west and north.

WCHS, Map #17.  "Hagerstown," 1914, Maryland Geological Society, 
vellum.  Shows [Shomo] yard with seven tracks and labeled "new."  The yard 
existing between Hager Tower and W. Antietam Street is labeled N&W R.R. and 

WCHS, Map #91.  "Map of Hagerstown & Suburbs," J. B. Ferguson and Co., (c) 
6-1-1913, vellum, 1":200'.  Doesn't show Shomo yard, but for the 6-tracks 
between Hager Tower and W. Antietam Street, the west side is labeled 
"Norfolk & Western" and the east: "Cumberland Valley R.R. Co."

Hagerstown City maps, Department of Assessments and Taxation, Property Map 
Division, Allen Blank, cartographer:

     #312, parcels 1201 and 1202, shows vicinity of Hager Tower.

     #309, parcels 2221, 2229 1 of 2, and 2229 2 of 2, shows vicinity north 
of Hager Tower to Church Street and the [presently] CSXT yard to west.

     #310, parcels 601, 666, 665, 602-3, 659, and 660, shows the NS yard 
north throat, continuing on #312.

     #308, shows North Tower.

Hagerstown County maps (again I don't remember which offices; my research 
was interrupted here):

     #49, shows vicinity of Hager Tower; Western Maryland shops, yard; NS 
[N&W] yard to Downsville Pike.

     #57, shows the remainder of the NS [N&W] yard to I-70.


1) In the stacks at WCFL, see three volumes by Carroll F. Spitzer: A 
Pictorial History of Steam Railroads of the Tri-State Area, Hagerstown, MD: 
Tri-State Printing, Inc., 1987; A Pictorial History of Steam Railroads of 
the Tri-State Area Book #2, Hagerstown, MD: Tri-State Printing, Inc., 1987; 
A Pictorial History of Steam Railroads of the Tri-State Area Book #3, 
Hagerstown, MD: Tri-State Printing, Inc., 1988.

     In [Book #1], see pages 128, 135-37, for photos of the engine house 
and coaling tower, some showing N&W locomotives; and some closer shots of 
engine stalls.

     In Book #2, see pages 65, 67, 75, for photos of a K-1 approaching the 
engine house, a K-2 with train at the passenger station, and a Y-6 near the 
Shomo yard north throat.

     In Book #3, on page 73 is a photo of a PRR locomotive at the engine house.

2) In the WMR, see a book titled Wings Over Hagerstown: Western Maryland's 
Gateway to the South, Richard H. Alvey, III, Hagerstown, MD: 1939.  Photos 
on pages 6, 10, 27, 32, 34, and 42 give useful perspective.

3) Paul J. Westhaeffer, History of the Cumberland Valley, Ephrata, PA: 
Washington D.C. Chapter, National Railway Historical Society, 1979.  Pages 
260, 270, and 276, respectively, show:

     A) ca. 1915 view of North Junction with N&W cars in foreground;
     B) ca. 1910 north-looking view of the Hagerstown yard [the one between 
Hager Tower and W. Antietam Street] and passenger station; and,
     C) ca. 1918 south-looking view, otherwise same as "B."

4) see the WCHS vertical file for these photographs:

     "The Daily Mail," Hagerstown, MD, June 16,1976; a good photograph of 
the coaling tower.

     "The Daily Mail," Hagerstown, MD, Nov. 17, 1960; article, "Where 
Tracks Used To Run," shows the PRR station (with the church in background) 
at Walnut and Antietam Streets.

     Another "Daily Mail" photo item, July 29, 1967, "Old Railroad Station 
Reflects Local History," shows essentially the same view as the Nov. 17, 
1960, article's photo, including the church, and shows the tracks.

5) And, finally, O. Winston Link's Steam, Steel, and Stars (New York: Harry 
N. Abrams, 1987), shows Hager Tower in photographs on pages 39 and 
45.  (Map analysis reveals that the caption of the page 45 photo to be in 
error regarding the origin of the locomotive.)

Good luck with your research Frank, I hope that these items may be useful 
to you,

Best regards,

Steve Koppe
5308 S. Palm Drive
Tempe, AZ 85283 

More information about the NW-Mailing-List mailing list