N&W vs. Southern Railway

nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Tue Oct 25 17:51:53 EDT 2005

Never had to buck the extra board ? You sure missed all the fun -- sleeping
in your car or in the station warehouse because the railroad didn't pay
operator's away-from-expenses. Or how about getting called at 3:00 AM to
protect a job at 7:00 AM that's 165 miles away and you only have $15 in
your pocket ?

Bill, there's more to getting coal to Tidewater than rolling it down the
Most tidewater coal passes over three summits and that means tonnage
ratings, pusher crews, and consideration for the hours of service. Most peo-
ple identify the cars as a load of coal, but, in fact N&W had over 600
of coal. At Lamberts Point, the selection of coal classes has to be removed
storage and placed on the barney yard when ordered. Then there's the
distribution of the empties to the mines, the return of foreign line hoppers
to the
correct junction, etc. Coal is a study in itself.

Traffic Control came to the Winston District about 1971. The complexion of
traffic handled completely changed. Instead of moving smoking tobacco, N&W
began hauling automobiles and unit coal trains (to Duck Energy). The 4500 ft
sidings just couldn't accommodate that kind of traffic. Wouldn't it have
been a
little inefficient to install traffic control, extend the sidings, and keep
the operators
in place ?

D. W. Brosnan was indeed a messiah for Southern Railway. He's credited with
snatching SRS back into the 20th century. To his credit, he made many
1- New welded rail was stored between the existing rails instead outside
along the
berm line before it was ready to be laid.

2- He substantiated the purchase of "Big John" covered hoppers by claiming he
could get an unheard of 10 revenue trips per month (by hauling them
Barber, NC
to Knoxville on the rear of The Carolina Special).

But Brosnan had some rather unorthodox management techniques. Remember hats
If you were an officer on the railroad, you were required to wear a hat (I
had a straw
hat for summer and suede hat for winter). When Brosnan moved across the
it required a squad of Property Protection people, several trainmasters, and
a Road
Foreman of Engines. On one trip Atlanta to Washington, the Road Foreman's
hat blew
off while he was making a rolling inspection and on arrival at Monroe,
Brosnan fired
him. Brosnan was also great for firing an official one day, then the next
day making
the man feel like he was the greatest thing since television. Then there
was the
incident in Atlanta in which Brosnan tried to engage a yard engineer in
fisticuffs because
he'd made a hard coupling. "Boss" Brosnan sentenced his VP- Traffic to serve
30 days
on No. 153 because he dared to disagree with him. During the '78 BRAC
strike, some-
one may have taken a shot at Richard Freeman Dunlap (and missed), but someone
did try to assassinate Brosnan in Asheville. He was very well liked.

Skinflints ? General Electric at Raleigh had a movement of transformers that
required a depressed center flat. The plant was on NS Rwy., but NS didn't
have any
depressed center flats. Southern supplied the flats. Would NS's partner in
tation allow NS to haul the load Raleigh - Charlotte so they could get a
of the revenue ? No. All NS Rwy. got was a terminal switch charge (about

My impression of the merger was this -- if you went to a former N&W point,
it was
the Southern that dominated the merger. At Southern locales, it was that
N&W that dominated. In reality, Southern dominated the Engineering,
tation and Sales departments, while N&W prevailed in Mechanical, Executive,
and accounting. As much as you'd care to bellyache about it, today's NS is
far superior
to the wooden axle outfit that's headquartered in Jacksonville.

So you want an N&W innovation ? How about one that keeps traffic on the
rails ?
It takes power to move the freight (coal or mdse). Maybe it was C. E. Pond.
Maybe it was R. R. McDaniel, but remember the blue card mounted on the fire
of the locomotive cab ? That's the federal card. By law, a locomotive must
tested once every 92 days. That blue card is kinda like a state inspection
sticker on an automobile. Go over the 92 days and the "federales" will fine
to the tune of $1,000/day. There are three parts to the federal test -- the
part (every 92 days), the air brake part (with 26-L brake I think it's 2
years), and the
meters (every 368 days). Probably in the Pond-era, N&W scheduled maintenance
so that the mechanical, brake, and meters fell due on the same day.
Southern ?
Why the mechanical due date would fall on one day, the meters maybe 10 days
later, and the brakes 10 days after that. Maybe when one test fell due,
did them all (and gave up unused time) OR maybe Southern hauled the
to the shop when each test was due.
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