Montvale Turn

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Thu Sep 7 00:05:02 EDT 2006

Accounts of Norfolk Division operations often cite the “Montvale Turn”
in reference, as I understand it, to “fill” trains EB out of Roanoke,
whose coal consists were parked at Montvale, to be drawn upon by
subsequent through drags so as to aggregate consists of up to plus/minus
200 loads (depending upon the hopper mix) for EB movement, with the last
Appalachians challenge (Blue Ridge) now behind. Fill consists having
been deposited at Montvale, the head-end power (the pusher normally
having cut away at Buford’s Gap just east of Blue Ridge station) as a
rule would head back westward (unless directed to the WB pusher siding
at Irving, several miles to the east). Hence the (re)turn designation.

Question 1. Do we know when, approximately, the Turn action was
launched? Through what period did drags EB out of Roanoke (minus the
pusher after Blue Ridge) in fact routinely go straight through to EB
destinations without stopping at Montvale (no Turn, no aggregation
action at Montvale, in other words)? Lewis Jeffries in Giant of Steam
(revised ed, pp. 46-47) cites a mid-’51 run out of Roanoke (Y6b 2184
w/pusher), 96 loads, which, minus pusher beyond Blue Ridge, steams
straight through to Crewe. An anomaly, with the Turn already the rule,
or “business as usual” with the Turn not yet operational?

In an e-posting of several years ago H.E. Hale did not recall fill
action in Montvale while a resident there in ‘47-’48. That would
indicate the coming of the Turn sometime after ’48. Can anyone give a
more definitive year?

Question 2. Texts maintain that in the Turn era Roanoke coal departures
were headed by single and double-headed steamers (all with pushers). Ed
King (The A Mercedes, p. 98; N&W In The Appalachians, pp. 20-21, 28) and
others describe single head-end Y action for 90-100 drop-off loads at
Montvale and double-headed (A + Y helper) sequel trains of up to 150
loads bound for Montvale, for aggregation to some 200-load consists to
Crewe/Phoebe, where the Y would uncouple, leaving the head A from
Roanoke to finish the coast-bound job. The normative Turn plan, I
presume. I have seen occasional references to double-headed Turn (not
through) fill trains with up to 150 loads to Montvale. Infrequent

Question 3. Even during the era of the Turn, did some double-headed
drags out of Roanoke, up to some 150 loads (or even single
engine-powered consists up to 90-100 loads) operate as through trains
with no Montvale action?

Thanks for help on these inquires.

At mid-century I lived in Bedford, some 12 miles east of Montvale; I
recall, vividly, EB action pounding through town with coal consists of
awesome length. Just curious as to the Turn details permitting such
stunning order-of-the-day consists.

Frank Gibson

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