Fwd: Train Orders - Roanoke - Part 2

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Fri Nov 27 23:07:41 EST 2009

In further answer to your question about how operations were
conducted at the time I hired, in 1964...

Although I hired on the Radford Division and have always considered
myself a "Radford Division man," I moved around a lot. Back in the
1960s, work fluctuated incredibly. Winters were especially bad and
it was not unusual for a younger trainman to be "cut off"
(furloughed) anywhere from two weeks to two or three months. I recall
that, just after I hired, the 1955 men were wondering if they would
be furloughed during the upcoming Winter. If you were furloughed and
heard that another Division needed men, you scrambled down there as
quickly as possible and "hired out as a new man," i.e. with new
seniority. However, you retained your seniority on your previous
Division, and when recalled to your previous Division, you could go
back there or stay where you were. It was not uncommon for some men
to "hold seniority" on three Divisions simultaneously by doing
this. By moving around this way, I worked a considerable amount of
time on (and held regular jobs on) "the Valley" (Roanoke to
Shenandoah) and "the Punk" (Roanoke to Winston-Salem.) Although I
worked a good bit on the Norfolk Division (Roanoke-Crewe,) it was
always a "We need a man to go to..." situation, and I never held
seniority there.

We were paid on a mileage basis, and the longer the Division on which
you worked, the more money you made. A "basic day" for pay purposes
was 100 miles... for that you received 8 hours pay. Anything more
than a hundred miles was a bonus. If you ran 150 miles, you
received 1 1/2 days pay. Roanoke to Bluefield was only 100 miles, so
you received only a "basic day" for that. Roanoke to Bristol was 150
miles, so we were paid 1.5 days pay for that. Roanoke to Shenandoah
was 132 miles, Roanoke to Crewe was somewhere around 130 miles, and
Roanoke to Winston paid 123 miles. So, in figuring out "where to
stay" after recalled to your former Division, you always kept in mind
that the longer districts had better paying jobs. (A brakeman's basic
day when I hired was $17.56 per day.)

If you were a Radford Division man, you could count on spending most
of your time "on the River," i.e. running to Bluefield. "The River
side" had 16 to 18 pool crews hauling coal, plus 6 (sometimes 8)
crews in assigned Time Freight service. But the Bristol Line only
had 6 pool crews handling the Time Freights. This meant that the
senior men took the longer, higher paying Bristol Line jobs and the
only way a younger man worked them was off the Extra List.

There were also Radford Division locals, but they were all "up the
road" jobs and no Roanoke man wanted to be forced on them: (1) The
Ripplemeade Turn out of Bluefield, (2) the Short Run, Bluefield to
Radford, out of Bluefield, (3) two Radford-Bristol local freights,
(4) the Abingdon Branch job out of Bristol, and (5) daylight and an
afternoon Glade Spring to Saltville Turns. (6) There was also a
North Carolina Branch job out of Pulaski, but those guys NEVER
marked off and I never knew of a Roanoke man being deadheaded to
Pulaski to cover it. There may have been a one man extra list at
Pulaski to cover it... I don't remember... but Roanoke men never got
deadheaded to Pulaski. (7) The only local out of Roanoke was the
five-day-a-week Salem Shifter and obviously the old heads stayed on
that run. (When I hired, a 1926 man, Otis B. Irvin, was the
Conductor on that job.)

When I hired, the lay of the land on the Radford Division was that
the 1945 men were on the Conductor's Extra List. The 1940 men were
holding regular Conductor's jobs on the pool crews hauling coal "on
the River." The 1926 men held the Bristol Line jobs and the Time
Freights on "the River." The 1918-1926 men were on the passenger
trains. And I remember there was still one 1917 hire brakeman
running around... Jasper Wilkerson, who had never "taken promotion to
Conductor." Jasper was on a Bristol Line job, obviously.

To get back to train operations...

The whole "Roanoke District" of the Shenandoah Division (Roanoke to
Shenandoah) had been made CTC in the late 1940s. So it did not take
Train Orders to run there. But there was the Time Table requirement
that all trains get a Clearance Card (and orders if necessary) at the
initial terminal. At Roanoke, one got Train Orders and/or a Clearance
Card from the operator at DO Shaffers Crossing, and in Shenandoah at
AN in the Shenandoah Yard Office. Some stations along the way still
had Train Order signals and could deliver Train Orders if
necessary. Hollins, Cloverdale, Buchannan, Grottoes, Elkton, and
Glasgow come to mind... I would have to think about any others that
may have still been open.

The Norfolk Division between Roanoke and Crewe (including the
Virginian Ry portion) was also CTC, except for the "Old Line" via
Farmville, which was single track automatic block with no current of
traffic, and Time Table superiority still prevailed here. I recall
catching Train Orders at Farmville giving us right over No 26, to
operate via the Old Line. I cannot recall whether it was APB
(absolute permissive block) or not, but we were so il-ilnformed back
in those days that we would have had no concept of what that
meant. The Old Line through Lynchburg (Phoebe to Forest) was still
in, but was used only by the Lynchburg based crews. I never made a
complete trip over the Lynchburg Old Line, although I did make one
dead-of-the-night move from Forest to Lynchburg during a wreck detour
of some kind. The East End of the Norfolk Division (Crewe to Norfolk)
was till double track with Rule 251 (one-direction signaling) +
current of traffic, as I recall. Thus, if a train had to cross over
and run against the current of traffic on the East End, it took Train
Orders. But since I never worked the East End, I cannot give you specifics.

Now to my favorite of them all, the Winston-Salem District of the
Shenandoah Division (Roanoke to Winston-Salem.) That's where I
learned real railroading ! This district had automatic block
signals, but there was no CTC. The only thing the automatic signals
did was space out following moves and prevent two opposing trains
from entering a single track between passing sidings and coming to a
"Mexican Standoff" situation. Everything on the Winston District was
still run by Time Table superiority, right, class and direction, and
Train Orders.

All three districts of the Shenandoah Division were run from UD
(which had originally stood for "Union Depot") the Train Dispatchers
Office, located on the second floor of the Roanoke Freight Station on
Commerce St. UD had originally been in the Union Depot at
Hagerstown; was moved to the upper floor of the old Roanoke passenger
station at the time the Shenandoah Valley RR reached Roanoke; had
thereafter been moved to second floor of the old Park Street Office
Building, until that building burned sometime around 1935; and had
thence been moved to the Freight Station.) In my time, UD had on the
daylight shift a Trian Dispatcher for the Valley and one for the
Punk, but on second and third tricks one Train Dispatcher handled both.

The crew of a Punkin Vine train departing Roanoke received Train
Orders and a Clearance Card when reporting for duty at DO. But a
long time (acouple of hours) elapsed before the crew actually hit the
Punkin Vine. The crew had to get the engine out of the Round House,
proceed to Park Street, couple to the train, knock off the hand
brakes, make a brake test, and then wait for it's turn to
depart. Even after departure, it ran by signals (controlled by
Randolph Street) to JK at Walnut Avenue in South Roanoke. Due to
this elapsed time of an hour and a half or so, the Dispatcher
addressed any serious orders for the southward train (meets, waits,
etc) for delivery at JK. Quite frequently we would get seven or eight
Train Orders at JK, such as the "work extra" order for the
Martinsville and Bassett Switchers and meets on opposing
trains. (Conductors were required to "register" their trains at JK
when going in either direction, but that's a story for another time.)

By the time the southward train got to Starkey or Wirtz, the
operating situation had changed and there were more Train orders
changing the meets. Rocky Mount and Henry always had more orders for
you (Lanahan had been torn down by the time I went to work, and
Ferrum had just been closed but was still standing.) Payne was a
night-only office (11PM to 7AM.) Martinsville was open first and
second tricks, but was closed third trick. Stoneville, Madison and
Mayodan were open daylight only... no, Madison may have been open two
shifts, I can't remember. Walnut Cove was open continuously as I
recall. South of Walnut Cove, all the other stations had been
closed, so that was the last place you could get orders. Or was
Walkertown still open? I can't recall. It was quite ordinary to get
22 to 24 Train Orders during the course of that 123 mile run... and
that was after the passenger trains had been taken off ! As I
recall, Walnut Cove was the only Train Order Office ("telegraph
office" in N&W-speak) which had a color light signal for train orders
-- all the others had semaphores. (Kenny on the Norfolk Div also had
a color light signal for TO's.)

As for radios... There were none in use on the Punkin Vine except
that the station agent had one at Bassett and occasionally his clerk
would call one of the Bassett switchers with instructions for
siding/customer work. The Roanoke District of the Shenandoah
Division had radio operable in one or two locations, but it wasn't
widespread or reliable. The Norfolk Division seemed to have better
radio coverage than any other Division, but that was probably because
of the Virginian's route having been integrated into the N&W
operation about three years before I hired, with the necessity for
better communications and the desire to get rid of what the industry
calls "train order operators." General, however, if you needed to
talk to the Train Dispatcher, you went to a telephone box and cranked.

Another interesting topic is switchtenders. In my time, there were
switchtenders at Park Street; at "606" which was at the east end of
the Receiving Yard at Shaffers Crossing; at 30th Street, known as the
"Motive Power Switchtender," handling engines to and from the Round
House; and at "672" at the west end of the Receiving Yard, also known
as "the Pull In" or "the Stock Pen." My father spoke of a
switchtender at Henry Street, handling the switches just west of the
Passenger Station... this job lasted up into the 1950s, I
think. Earlier on there had also been switchtender jobs at the east
end of the Passenger Station. And one at Shaffers Crossing just west
of the tunnels, along the Westbound Main Line, to handle trains
coming up the Running Track from the Pull Up Yard and trains into and
out of the east end of the Empty Side Yard. There was also a
switchtender somewhere east of the Bristol station before CTC. The
switchtenders had their own roster and, as their jobs thinned out,
were given seniority on the trainman's roster in (I think) 1957.

All this seems to me as if it were just yesterday, although it was
before you were born !

-- adb

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