Norfolk Division middle tracks

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Thu Apr 4 10:13:05 EDT 2013

Ben -
I suspect that the majority of the middle tracks were removed AFTER the permit
system became effective (about 1975). Prior to the permit system, mines shipped
coal to Lamberts Point without ever being sold. The loads would linger at Norfolk
for days as transhipers tried to find a market. Although Norfolk had ability to
store 24,000 cars or more on the Terminal, backlogs would mean filling the middle
tracks with coal until space was made available or until the stored coal was needed
at the pier. With the reduction in 1st class schedules, it meant that fewer inferior
trains were required to clear the main track, allowing additional storage for the
yet-to-be-sold coal. The permit system allowed N&W to supply empty hoppers only if the
coal had been pre-ordered. Railroads collected a rent on cars called demurrage.
For merchandise traffic, the receiver got two free days to unload before demurrage
was assessed, but for Lamberts Point coal, it was ten free days. The permit system
improved hopper car utilization and reduced the need for middle tracks. I'll review
some timetables and see if I can give you a better date.

Incidentally, despite all those middle tracks east of Poe, eastbound coal traffic
rarely cleared in the middle tracks. Maybe they'd become insufficient in length.
The Crewe dispatchers had a rule of thumb -- if a coal train didn't have a 90 minute
lead on No. 4, it would be held at Disputanta, the crossovers at the east end of
traffic control. So it was possible for a coal train to be held at Disputanta for a
No. 4 that was just approaching Blackstone.

Not a middle track, but where the VGN had paralleled N&W between Virso and
the Abilene Connection, N&W used the former VGN main line to store coal. With
regularity, Crewe would call a job to go to Virso to dig out coal. Problem was that
orders called for specific cars to be released for Lamberts Point. With a capacity
to store 400 or so cars, it meant holding onto maybe 50 or 60 loads to set one car
out on the Virso Connection, then putting the rest back. These crews regularly worked
up to the limit, leaving Virso in time to arrive Crewe before expiring. Harry Bundy

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