Who Pulled the Strings on the Classification of Tidewater Coal?
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Mon Mar 28 10:01:34 EST 2005
And at the risk of information overload, during the boom times of the 80's and 90's a coal reservation system was introduced. This system allowed for coal and vessels to be at Lamberts Point at the same time, thereby reducing the storage time as well as the need for car inventory. Since Pier 6 was running 24/7 and colliers were lying at anchor in Hampton Roads waiting their turn, an organized system was sorely needed. Under the reservations, vessels had guaranteed times at the pier and coal arrived from the mines on coordinated days. Think of this as a coal version and a precursor of just-in-time inventory. Lake coal at Sandusky was handled in a similar fashion, except much more simply. The need for boat (lakers were known as boats, not ships) reservations were not necessary since pier time was much shorter and lakers could berth themselves, load and sail within 8 hours. Even the longest boats (1,000 Ft) could pivot using bow and aft thrusters. Since the pier there was a lake design similar to Pier 5 at Norfolk, the dumper was fixed. This required the boats to winch themselves for loading.
As a matter of interest, I have always been fascinated with the vessels that called at Sandusky. When I first became involved there, some were still steamers (bunker fuel as opposed to coal, but steamers nonetheless). There very few calling at Huron for ore unloading and the Hewletts were long since dismantled. Still some of the self- unloaders showed up mostly with gravel. When the Conrail transaction took place, NS gained access to Ashtabula which was the last of the large lake ore docks. One of the first vessels I saw there was MV A Andersen. If history and memory serves, this was the boat that was traveling with the Edmund Fitzgerald when it sank.
Hope I didn't bore you! Don Corbin
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From: nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
To: nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Sent: Sunday, March 27, 2005 3:12 PM
Subject: Re: Who Pulled the Strings on the Classification of Tidewater Coal?
Taking Don Corbin's response a step further, it kinda depended on where the car
was as to the string-puller.
Norfolk Terminal -- coal arriving Norfolk did not go directly to the barney yard for
dumping. About one of every three trains of Tidewater coal went to Sewalls Pt.
Trains arriving Lamberts Point usually set off in three tracks. From there, the
coal was dispersed to the Soda Yard, the Government Yard, etc. until the
Piermaster put out a coal order (like Don said). The coal order specified the
classes of coal needed to load a ship. The General Yardmaster (in the tower
near the beanery) using the coal order then delegated the duty of rounding up
the classes of coal to the yardmasters at the Soda Yard, Sewalls Point, where-
ever, Bear in mind that the barney yard (actually two yards of 16 tracks each
for Pier 6) might not hold enough coal for a ship load, so frequently the yard jobs
had to replenish the tracks. He who wrote the coal order pulled the strings.
Atlantic Region- (points east of Bluefield up to M.P. N-8) -- the Asst. Manager
Transportation - Atlantic Region determined what classes would be placed in
the "pipeline". He worked in an office up the corridor from Spike's desk. Over
time, it was filled by Bill Watson and later by Bill Jackson. With the Tidewater Coal
Report in hand and juggling a dozen or so variables (crews available, space at
Norfolk, classes to be added as fill), he'd come up with a plan, called a "coal run".
After fine - tuning the plan, it would be distributed to the Chief Dispatcher - Radford
Division, Chief Dispatcher - Norfolk Division and others. With plan in hand, the
divisions and Roanoke Terminal would begin to assemble the classes called for
in the "coal run" - usually to be dispatched the following day. With those
instructions disbursed, the Asst. Manager would then begin to make a plan for
the 2nd day following.
The "head string-puller" for points west of Norfolk Terminal (M.P. N-8) was ably
assisted by the Night Chief Dispatcher at Crewe, the operator at "GO" office in
Roanoke, and the (usually) VGN operator at South Norfolk tower. I don't know
who represented the Radford Division, but every morning between 2:00 AM and
4:00 AM they prepared the overwhelming Tidewater Coal Report -- an inventory of
all classes of coal on the Atlantic Region. The report was about half the size of
a train dispatcher's sheet and required 1.5 to 2.0 hours to complete. It became a
known -- if you didn't want the wax blown out of your ears, you didn't interrupt these
people between 2:00 AM and 4:00 AM.
It doesn't take a genius to understand that you just didn't push the "stop" button
and the pipeline would shut down. Bill Watson once told me he received an inquiry
from an officer on Norfolk Terminal relative to shutting down the flow of Tidewater coal
in order to do maintenance work. "yes," Bill noted, "but give me a couple of days
notice before you attempt to do it." Sure enough, several days later, he received
a call to shut off all Tidewater coal en route to Lamberts Point like right now. A
gentlemanly reminder that he was to have sufficient notice just didn't get it. So
Bill went to the General Manager of Transportation, W.T.Ross. "Boss" Ross called
his buddy on Norfolk Terminal. "Harold, I understand you told Bill Watson to shut off
the Tidewater coal." "Yeah, that's right, Bill, maintenance work." "OK, Harold,
effective immediately, you're in charge of the Tidewater coal movement." The
maintenance work ceased and coal trains rolled.
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