N&W in 1910--Huge rocks

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Wed Sep 30 20:34:57 EDT 2009

I grew up in Boone County in the southern WV coalfields between Charleston (the capital city) and Logan. The area was served by both the N&W and the C&O. Based on the stories told by the "old-timers" as I was growing up, most of that area of the state was "wide open" during the early 1900s. And this area is where a lot of the violence took place during miner union organizing. If you have a chance to see the movie "Matewan" it is not far from the truth. It is a popular legend in southern WV that the railroad town of Thurmond hosted a poker game that was in continuous play for over ten years as various players came in and out of the game.

The danger wasn't just limited to rail travel. It was just a dangerous place to live. My grandfather was the manager of a company store for years in a small town in southern Boone County. For the first few years that the town existed the only access to the town was by rail. There were no roads.

Rick Huddle
N&WHS #3689
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Subject: RE: N&W in 1910--Huge rocks

Would anybody care to speculate how dangerous it was to travel by rail "back in the day". I've seen so many articles (thank you Gordon and others) now about train wrecks, malicious vandalism, fights, shootings, etc. Was train travel just that much more dangerous in general around 1910, or was it the areas served by the N&W railroad resembled the "Wild West"? Or maybe it was that so many more people traveled by railroads?

Mike Weeks
Greenville NC

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Subject: N&W in 1910--Huge rocks

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
March 8, 1910

Tracks Near Ada Badly Torn Up And May Not be Cleared Before Afternoon

Nathan Neal, colored, was slightly injured in a wreck which occurred one mile west of Ada last night about 8 o'clock. Eight cars were thrown crossways on the track and two cars overturned. Engine 1057 [M1, 4-8-0, Richmond 1907], with Hugh Carney at the throttle and Fireman T. S. Simmons plunged into two rocks weighing a ton or more each, which had rolled off the bank on the track directly in front of the train. The engineer did not see them until he was within three or four car lengths and although he applied his air as quickly as possible, the engine went ploughing into the obstructions, but only suffered the loss of its pilot. Neal, who was injured, was standing on top of a car near the engine and when he saw what was happening he jumped, spraining his back. If the engineer and fireman had jumped they might have been killed. As it was both stuck to their posts and came out unharmed.
The rocks must have fallen some time before the train came along as a farmer who lived nearby saw them on the track and was putting on his clothes to go out and warn the train men of the danger when suddenly the headlight of a freight came in sight and the wreck occurred.
Dr. Cornett was put on a special engine to the scene of the wreck to attend to Neal's injuries, but they were so slight that he was able to go to his home on No. 16.
Train No. 3 was delayed by the wreck and it was necessary to transfer passengers to train No. 14 while No. 3 went back to Roanoke as No. 16 and No. 16 came west as No. 3.
The wreck was one of the worst small wrecks the road ever had. The track was badly torn up and estimates last night said that the east bound track would be cleared and repaired by 7 o'clock this morning while the westbound track cannot be cleared and repaired before the middle of the afternoon.
A boy who was riding in the car with some cattle was uninjured although the car he was in was picked up by the force of the wreck and turned around so that it was thrown across the track. A pail of milk, which was in the car was not even overturned while the car was cavorting around like one of the young heifers. A dog which was in the car added his howling to the noise of the smashing timbers and the boy who was tending the cattle was more interested in quieting the dog for fear that he would stampede the cattle than he was in fear of personal danger.
["...riding in the car with some cattle...." I have heard of drover cabooses on some western railroads where the drovers could ride while accompanying a shipment of cattle or sheep, but in the car with cattle? And, a boy at that!]

Gordon Hamilton

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