The Four Yards at Roanoke in 1907

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Tue Aug 13 11:36:51 EDT 2013

Raymond P. Barnes, author of "A History of the City of Roanoke" (Radford, Va: Commonwealth Press, 1968) was an old Roanoke lawyer who spent countless evenings during the 1960s in the microfilm room of the Roanoke Library, reading microfilms of the old Roanoke newspapers. (Some evening I was working alongside him, on the second microfilm reader, abstracting my own kind of history from the newspaper reels.) Barnes' work runs 844 pages and is an abstract of local news from the newspapers, interspursed with his own memories of old Roanoke characters, families and businesses.

In his chapter covering the year 1907, Barnes (page 432) has this curious sentence: "The N&W had so extended its yards, these were divided into the north yard, the Park yard, the west yard and the receiving yard." (sic)

The interpretation of this sentence is problematic. Barnes, who had no great familiarity with railroads, is quoting a newspaper writer who may have had even less technical familiarity with railroads, and we do not have the benefit of the full context of the article from which the quote is lifted.

It seems rather obvious that "the Park yard" refers to the Park Street Westbound Receiving Yard ("the Pull Up Yard,") but what are the referents underlying the terms north yard, west yard and receiving yard? What, and where, were these yards? Remember, it was 1907, and there were as yet no facilities west of Shaffers Crossing.

Barnes does not give the date of the article he is quoting, but it appeared sometime between March 30 and April 12, 1907, the dates of two articles for which he does give citations. So an interested party could find it rather easily.

I think this points to the fact that someone needs to put together a good research piece on the history of the development of the yard facilities at "West Roanoke," as it was called. Surely the Archives hold enough material to furnish the basis for some good scholarship. If anyone needs a supply of Motivation Pills, I will gladly mail him a bottle!

-- abram burnett
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