"Takin' Twenty" with the Virginian Brethren by Skip Salmon
NW Mailing List
nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu Apr 21 08:32:09 EDT 2011
Last night I had the pleasure of "Takin' Twenty" with seven of the
Brethren and Friends of the Virginian Railway. We signed a Happy
Birthday Card for Wis Sowder. Wis started his VGN career in March, 1951,
as a Crew Caller in Roanoke. There he served as yard Checker,
Booking-out Clerk, Roundhouse Clerk and Weigh-Master. At Alta Vista, Wis
was a Station Clerk, and he served at Sewells Point as a Barney yard
Clerk. After the N&W merger in 1959, he was Assistant Weigh-master,
Timekeeper, Piggyback Clerk and retired in 1987 from NS in the GOB East
with 36 years service. Recently I did a video recorded interview with
Wis, where he disclosed to me that his most unusual assignment on the
VGN was to keep the fire burning between rails at Sewalls Point to thaw
coal for unloading. He also mentioned a fellow clerk Richardson, who the
men called "Twilight" because he was "very smart but was always
'sidetracked'". Wis will be 85 this Sunday.
The ebay report this time includes these VGN items sold: 1921 Annual
Pass for $35.00; Slide of VGN 2-8-2 in 1957 for $27.79; Builder's photo
of VGN 2-10-10-2 for $33.76 and a Slide of VGN EL-C #139 in Roanoke in
1959 for $22.28. Relating to ebay, I was asked to give a "heads-up" when
I posted some VGN items for sale on ebay...so "heads-up"!
The Jewel from the Past is from March 24, 2005: "'Ruf' Wingfield spoke
of Otis Karnes, a General yardmaster, who liked for everyone to work 16
hour days. 'Cornbread' Victory remembered once thinking he might get
fired for not doubling over a shift. Otis was transferred to Norfolk,
and when the Fairbanks-Morse diesels were first in service, someone told
Otis that the MU receptacles, where the 27 pin jumper cables plugged in,
were radios. Otis was 'seen several times with the MU cover lifted
trying to speak to the Yard Office'".
The conversation turned to how much smoke was visible in the yard when
several yard steam engines were in service at the same time. Raymond
East and Wis Sowder commented on seeing "Smoke Abatement Inspectors"
visit many times. I told the Brethren about my grandfather, George P.
Craig, who ran a steam powered yard crane (and derrick car), and how
proud he was of his certificates of "Good Smoke Abatement".
Passed around was the March-April "NS-Biz". This issue has NS CEO Wick
Moorman on the cover because he was named "Railway Age" "Railroader of
the Year". Also this issue highlights a new NS Service Award to be given
after 2-1-11 to employees with 10 or more years service. They can now
choose between the traditional lapel pin or quality gifts from a special
catalog. The Brethren commented that the VGN " didn't have the pins or
Last Saturday, in the Roanoke area, the Blue Ridge Marathon, possibly
the most grueling 26 mile+ race in the nation, was held in a driving
rain storm. My friend Rae Brown sent me a photo of a friend of his, who
won a trophy in this race, that was donated by NS, made form a rail
spike. I showed the photo to the Brethren. Also passed around was the
latest copy of the "Oriskany Grapevine" with the cover story "Granddaddy
Newton's Trains", written by my brother Mike. This article tells the
story of the now abandoned C&O rail line and train that ran between
Eagle Rock and New Castle, VA. I helped him research this article with
the input of our good friend Louis Newton who wrote the book "Rails
Remembered" which documents this line. Several of the Brethren
remembered when the line was in operation.
I was very proud to show the Brethren my latest acquisition of VGN
artifacts, a January 1933 to January 1949 copy of the New River and
Norfolk Division Office of Road Foreman of Engines Seniority List. This
list was traced directly to our revered Russell "Slick" Inge. He gave it
to a good friend of mine, who I bartered for some other VGN items.
A dentist ran out of anaesthetic just before the last extraction for the
day was scheduled. He gave the nurse a very large needle, instructing
her to "jab it hard into the patient's butt" when the signal was given,
so it would take his attention away from the tooth extraction. It all
happened in an instant. Afterwards, the dentist asked the patient "Hurt
much?". The patient hesitated, "Didn't hardly feel it come out. And,
man, those roots were really deep!"
Time to pull the pin on this one!
Departing Now from V248,
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