Train Orders - Roanoke - Part 2

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Sat Nov 28 08:15:38 EST 2009

Where would one find the first part of this article? Thank you in advance.

Dan Winter
Formerly Wytheville, VA
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Subject: Fwd: Train Orders - Roanoke - Part 2

> 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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