"Taking Twenty" with the Virginian Brethren

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu Jun 4 08:21:10 EDT 2009

Last night I had the pleasure of "Takin' Twenty" with 8 of the Brethren and
Friends of the Virginian Railway. We signed a card for Tom "Cornbread"
Victory, who is now living in an Assisted Care Facility. Tom is one of the
first of the Virginian Brethren who allowed me into this precious group of
living railroad history. He says that I gave him the name "Cornbread" when
I commented that he "ate an awful lot of it", just after I started meeting
with the Brethren in 2004. His memory is now failing him, but the sparkle
is still in his eyes, and he loves to talk about the "Ole Virginian". If
you would like to send him a card, send to: Tom Victory, Berkshire Health &
Rehab, 705 Clearview Drive, Room 69, Vinton, VA 24179.

I told the Brethren about speaking to about 75 members of NARVRE (National
Association of Retired & Veteran Railway Employees) Tuesday at the Roanoker
Restaurant. I spoke on the activities of the Rail Groups in the Roanoke
Valley and upcoming events. They especially liked the November excursion
trips to Bluefield and Shenandoah. I told them some "Cornbread" stories and
explained what we are doing to restore the Virginian Station in Roanoke.

The DVDs shown were taken at (1) Wabun at the "remains" of the last
Virginian Transformer Station from Narrows, for 88,000 volts to be
transformed to 11,000 and 220 volts for VGN electric locomotives and power
for Roanoke facilities; (2) Riverside, of a coal train just released from
the passing siding at Kumis and (3) a coal train passing through "downtown"

From last week's report, Abe Burnett's mother's cousin, Arno Lawrence (not
Arnold) was a telegraph operator at KV (Kelleysville).

Passed around was the July 2009 "Trains" Magazine with several good
stories. One was about Amtrak food being tested by celebrity chefs before
being fed to passengers; another was about railroad "truths": one implying
that the 4 foot 8 and 1/2 inch standard gauge did NOT originate from the
width of two horses rear ends; the one the Brethren liked best: an
explanation of how "red light" districts for bordellos got their nick name.
Seems that train crews would leave their lanterns, still lit, outside the
"houses of ill repute" to let the callers know where they were, so they
could be "apprehended" for their next run. Also the article gave an
explanation of the term "cut and run", coming from steam engines, running
low on water; they would cut off from their train and run to the next water

The ebay report this week includes the "deal of the year": a copy of H.
Reid's "The Virginian Railway" was purchased on the "Buy it Now" feature
for $4.99. Other sales: 3 Slides of VGN Electrics for $64.98; Print and
negative of 2-8-4 #507 for $11.11; Article from "Railway Age" about "Tunnel
Lining on the VGN for $21.78; Pullman Co. annual pass on the VGN for $9.99;
1926 article about the VGN Power Plant at Narrows for $27.00 and a 1935 VGN
Stock Certificate (20 Shares) for $24.99.

Landon Gregory remembered early in his career on the VGN, staying at a
Boarding House in Altavista. He said there were about 20 fellows staying
there with only one bathroom that had no windows. Meals were 25 cents and
the room rented for 50 cents a night. Showers were taken at the nearby
Barbershop for 15 cents...

Rufus and Raymond discussed an incident that happened in the Roanoke VGN
Roundhouse when "Hustlebubble" Mattingly was on his way to work and passing
through. Being a very "curious" fellow, he saw that the front cover door
was open on one of the big steam engines. He proceeded to climb up to "take
a look". As was normal in those days, most employees smoked almost
"anywhere and anytime". When his cigarette entered the locomotive opening
there was a small boom and "Hustlebubble" was thrown to the floor. He was
not injured but "didn't light one up for a long time afterwards".

Time to pull the pin on this one!

Departing Now from V248,

Skip Salmon


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