N&W in 1911--Floods

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Sun May 29 22:23:23 EDT 2011

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
October 3, 1911

No Trains Operated Yesterday Over Four Branches of Norfolk and Western
Tracks and Bridges Washed Away in Pocahontas Field and Towns and Villages on Northfork Were Heavy Sufferers

The Norfolk and Western was not able to operate passenger trains on the Northfork, Simmons Creek, Goodwill or Crane Creek branches yesterday, due to track or bridges having been washed out by the heavy rain of Sunday night. Up to a late hour last night assurances that the trains would be run today, except on the Northfork branch, could not be given.
The main line was clear over the entire road, so far as could be learned at the local offices, and trains ran about on time, many of them keeping on schedule and those falling behind being delayed by other causes than rain. No slides were reported.
Practically all of the coal operations had trouble yesterday with washed out tracks, or bents on bridges, while at Switchback it was impossible to move trains, as was the case on Northfork and branches extending from what is generally known in its entirety as the Widemouth Branch. The rainfall west of Welch evidently was not quite as heavy as east of that point, so the only trouble reported from there comes from the Clearfolk branch, which is not seriously in trouble, only minor repairs being necessary. In the immediate Pocahontas field, however, coal operations were prevented from getting out their full output and in many cases work had to be suspended. In one instance, on the Northfork branch, five cars standing on a siding, loaded with coke, were overturned in the creek when the water washed away the track. It appears that McDowel and surrounding villages on Northfork were the heaviest sufferers, bridges and track being washed out, while at Switchback it was impossible to estimate the damage done until the water subsides to such a point that the tracks can be seen.
A telephone message from the Virginian Railway offices stated that that road did not have any trouble, and this statement was commented on last night by railroad men, because the Virginian was in the path of the storm and it has been a heavy sufferer from recent storms.
Trouble from the Clinch Valley district has not been reported, although it is known that the river was unusually high yesterday and during the night as a result of the heavy rain. New River, east of Bluefield was also a sufferer, to the extent that its banks were overflowed, while the water raged down the broad river in a torrent, each feeder adding its swollen contents to that of the over-flowing stream.
In the Crane Creek, Widemouth, Goodwill and Simmons sections the rain seems to have done considerable damage, covering the tracks at many points and washing out the bridges with the result that trains could not move and coal business was at a standstill. The same conditions existed on the Northfork branch and on all the coke sidings in the Pocahontas field proper.
The Norfolk and Western had a number of extra forces and forces borrowed from contractors at work clearing up the tracks yesterday, while all the carpenters and bridgemen who could be secured were at work under the personal supervision of officials.
Situation Shows Improvement
At 2 o'clock this morning the flood situation in the coalfield had shown a decided improvement, and it is believed that by afternoon the situation will be well in hand so that trains can be operated on the Northfork branch. Passenger trains were in operation on the Crane Creek branch yesterday until a bridge gave out at Crystal, which prevented further use of the tracks until repairs had been made. It is thought that arrangements can be completed whereby trains can be run into Mora, via the coke track at Crystal, then going around the trouble. It has been found that the Goodwill branch was nearly submerged with water, and that no damage was done to the bridges, with the result that trains can be run on that branch with cars.
The situation on the Northfork branch is still troublesome, but the damage, it is said, is not so serious as was first believed, as bridges were not weakened to such as extent that repairs cannot be easily made. Five or six carloads of lumber were loaded for use in repairing the bridges and it is believed that this will be all of the lumber needed. The situation on the Clearfork branch was exaggerated in first reports and outside of high water little damage was done to railroad property.
The greatest damage evidently was done on the Northfork branch as all operations had to close down until the track and bridges could be put in shape. On the main line between Switchback and Vivian the coke tracks are considerably damaged by high water and washouts, but repairs will have been made by afternoon so the mines can be in operation tomorrow.
It is not expected that the damage at Switchback will be serious, the only difficulty being from submerged tracks. It is not thought the track is seriously damaged.
The bridges mentioned are in all cases small affairs with but a few feet clearance and on account of being small spans the damage to them is easily repaired. The railroad telegraph wires were not seriously hampered, and the railroad telephone was not hindered.
The rainfall since Sunday has probably been the heaviest since the cloudburst of 1901. Up to 2 o'clock this morning fully three inches of rain had fallen.
It was reported here last night that two men were drowned at Kimball.
[In this day of no passenger trains in the coalfield and dependence on highways, there wouldn't be this much newspaper cover of storm mischief on the railroad.]

Gordon Hamilton
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