Covered Hoppers

nw-mailing-list at nw-mailing-list at
Sun Mar 19 21:59:59 EST 2006

One source of covered hopper revenue that came on stream in that period was no doubt the Lone Star Cement Co. plant at the end of the Cloverdale Branch. As I recall, it opened somewhere around 1951-52. Even in those pre-contract, ICC days, the railroad apparently somehow got a lock on outbound traffic and all cement had to move out by rail.

In my time down there (1960s,) the railroad operated two locals per day from Roanoke to Cloverdale (a daylight and an afternoon job,) and they each came out with upwards of 40 cars. Given transit time and turn-around time, you can see how that level of traffic could easily require a thousand or more cars.

It seems that when the agreed-upon period of "all outbound product by rail" was over, the railroad's outbound business from Lone Star went down to virtually nothing. Was it service, or rates, or both...?

One of the nastiest spills I ever took as a trainman was one night coming off the Cloverdale Branch. As the flagman, it was my job to close the branch switch and register us "off the branch" on the train register. It was a beautifully moonlit, hot Summer night and there had been a heavy rain earlier in the day. As the train pulled slowly past the switch and register box, I waved a stop signal to the head end with my lantern and "alighted" onto what appeared, in the moonlight, to be just black dirt. But it was a huge mud slick of that putrid-smelling ooze. Both feet went out from under me and I took a painful landing directly on my derriere with a concussion sufficient to turn one's backbone into shards and fragments. I have never seen so many stars in my life. Then I discovered that the viscous mud had me virtually glued to the ground. Fortunately we were on the way home, as I don't think I could have endured working an entire tour of duty coverd with that vile, stink
ing stuff !

-- abram burnett
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