N&W in 1912--Tornado

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Tue Nov 15 21:02:58 EST 2011

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
February 22, 1912

Three Six-Room Houses Are Torn From Foundations by a Tornado
Extent of Damage, Full Details of Which Could Not be Learned Last Night, Probably Confined to One Small Section
Northfork was visited last night by a tornado, which commenced to blow a gale about 6 o'clock, the climax being reached about 9 o'clock when it suddenly took the force of a cyclone and without further notice swept over the town and, coming from the northwest, tore three six-room double houses from their foundations, while two one-story houses, occupied by colored families, were also blown over, and another pushed over to keep the fire, which followed the wreckage of the one-story houses, from spreading to the twenty-one houses which are located on Toney hill, and owned by Toney & Co. The fire was under control at 10 o'clock, and the wind had diminished in force an hour later.
[This was followed by a description of damages and injuries that did not mention the N&W and is omitted here.]
Dispatcher Ford's Novel Idea for Handling Emergency Situation

The Norfolk and Western experienced the same difficulty. Linemen were sent from all points early in the evening to look for trouble, which arrived thick and fast as the velocity of the wind increased, but by 11 o'clock it was impossible to reach a station west of Bluestone Junction. Telegraphic communication east of here was also down and the local division offices were facing the problem of directing a railroad, through the busiest section of the Pocahontas division without a telegraph wire or telephonic communication, when T. P. Ford, night chief dispatcher, in a desperate effort to get wires to the various telegraphic stations, called out electricians and sent them to the shops where they were instructed to wire a large passenger engine so that it could be equipped with electric search lights and other lights for use along the line in discovering wires which were down or swinging, and enable the linemen, who were put on a special car attached to the engine, to climb poles and make repairs where needed.
An hour was taken up in equipping the engine which was sent out for the first time in the history of the Norfolk and Western and, perhaps, for the first time in the history of railroading, to meet an emergency which many men would have laid down before.
The passenger engine which was pressed into service to do scout duty is equipped with a dynamo for the electric lighting of passenger trains, and it was the possibility of securing light from the operation of the dynamo, with the result that speed could be made, and the night made as bright as day, that prompted the ingenious night chief dispatcher to depart from the ordinary and cope with a situation as serious as has ever struck this section, since the Elkhorn flood of 1901.
Gordon Hamilton
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