"Taking Twenty" with the Virginian Brethren

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu Nov 26 08:52:48 EST 2009

Last night, on the eve of Thanksgiving this year, I had the pleasure of
"Takin' Twenty" with 8 of the Brethren and Friends of the Virginian
Railway. We signed a sympathy card for Ken Miller, Historian and Past
President of the Roanoke Chapter NRHS, who lost his dad, Elbert Miller,
last Sunday. Elbert, who turned 90 in June, was a brakeman on the N&W's
Salem Shifter and Radford Division, and several of the Brethren knew him.
At the end of Elbert's funeral on Tuesday, the sound of a lonesome whistle
and steam locomotive seem to stop as the pall bearers prepared to take him
out, and continued sounding those familiar hisses, moans, and forlorn
blasts as Elbert was on his way on the westbound...

The ebay report this time includes the following Virginian Railway items:
slides of Squareheads #109 and #119 for $7.98; slide of VGN hopper car
#1045 for $5.55; slide of EL-2B #125 for $5.24; slide of 2-6-6-6-6 #905 for
$28.99; 1923 VGN Timetable for $24.99; 1956 VGN Timetable for $19,99; 1926
VGN Pass for $14.24 and a 1936 VGN Safety Rule Book for $19.99.

Several weeks ago Aubrey Wiley teased us with a question about a "second
Virginian Boat" (other than the WR Coe tugboat). It was a small row boat
used by VGN surveyors at Sewells Point. I suspected that our own Dewey
Houch, who started as a VGN Surveyor there, may know something about this
boat. He did indeed! Dewey told me that "yes the VGN provided them a boat
with oars but the job to measure the depths of the water near the coal
piers required about three men on board and a motor to move it in a
straight line. Dewey said that the surveyors actually took up a collection
and bought a motor for the small boat. He said they used a chain that was
marked off in feet with a spool on the end that would indicate then they
"hit bottom". Two surveyors on either side of the channel would mark their
indicated depth and use a transit to read the angle and therefore plot or
map the channel's bottom. Dewey said there were no radios. Communication
was by hand signals or "just yelling" and they took a depth every 50 feet.
He remembered repeating this mapping about every 6 months so the dredges
could keep the water deep enough for the collier ships to leave the pier
full of coal.

I gave the Brethren a brand new flyer about our part of Virginia being
named "Virginia's Rail Heritage Region" by our General Assembly. This will
allow signs to be placed on Federal and State highways and hopefully will
lure more tourists to our area to observe our rail history and visit our
museums. Jeff Sanders told the news people at the press conference about
the over 1300 people who recently rode our fall excursion trains coming
from all over the country, and got the best response from the audience.
This designation should also help us when we get the VGN Station and Depot
"up and running" in Roanoke. To get more information about this go to:

Landon Gregory was about half an hour late for the meeting and when asked
why, he responded "There are 28 traffic lights between here and the Parkway
where I live, and 27 of 'um were red". The best "slip of the tongue" of the
night was when VGN hogger Raymond East was asked what he wanted to drink by
a "rookie waiter". Raymond responded without a hitch: "Diet Coffee". He
meant to say "decaf" but the Brethren liked his answer better.

In our discussion last night someone brought up that earlier this month,
the State of Virginia executed a convicted murderer at the State Prison in
Jarrett. This prompted Landon to recall that Walter Grigg, whose father was
VGN agent at nearby Adsit grew up on the very land that is now the prison.
The execution was unusual because the condemned man chose electrocution
instead of death by lethal injection. Now in Virginia a death row inmate
has the choice. Most take the shot. Someone asked the question "Why is it
that if a Virginian Railway engineer were condemned to death, he would not
have a choice; he would have to choose lethal injection? The answer...are
you ready for this...it is because he is not a conductor!

Time to Pull the Pin on this one. Hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving!

Departing Now from V248,

Skip Salmon


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