Takin' Twenty with the Virginian Brethren by Skip Salmon

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu Dec 12 08:55:58 EST 2013

Last night I had the pleasure of "Takin' Twenty" with ten of the Brethren
and Friends of the Virginian Railway. We discussed the current Christmas
season and how everyone is busy getting ready for it. Since Christmas
and New Year's Day come on a Wednesday this year, we decided to be with our
families and after next week, the next get-to-gether will be January 8, 2014.

For Show and Tell I took the Oct-Nov-Dec 2013 "Turntable Times" newsletter
magazine of the Roanoke Chapter NRHS. This issue has a spectacular photo
on the cover of a scene in Roanoke taken on Christmas Eve 1975. With snow
on the ground, an Amtrak E-8 #412, painted in the original Amtrak red blue
and silver colors, eases the eastbound Mountaineer into town. On page six
is a photo of the Chapter's latest restoration, an N&W yard shanty rescued
from the scrapper in Christiansburg, painted in the pre-1950 cream and red
scheme. An inside photo shows the pot bellied stove in place. The
Brethren did not recall any shanties like this one on the VGN. Anyone out
there know of any?

The Jewel from the Past is from September 27, 2007: "On Tuesday night this
week I spoke about trains to West Salem Baptist Cub Scouts and parents. I
took a lot of VGN items and told several of my 'Cornbread' stories. One
item I showed the group was a brake stick, used to tighten hand brakes on
rail cars. Of course the Cubs thought it was a funny looking baseball
bat. I decided to take the stick last night and got several good reactions
from the Brethren. Cornbread recalled the old brake wheels that were
parallel to the rail being called 'Stemwinders'. He said if the wheel
latching device failed on one of these, when tightening the wheel with a
stick, it would release quickly, and once one 'backfired' and he was almost
thrown off the hopper. He said he liked the 'Ajax' or vertical type of
brake wheel better. Landon called the stick a 'Brake Bat'. Rufus said he
used the brake stick mostly for 'busting up big chunks of coal for the Warm
Morning heater in the Yard Office'. Jimmy Whittaker called the stick a
"Brake Club' and remembers them being used to settle disputes 'and
persuading others to agree'. Glen McLain said he carried one in his truck
for over twenty years as protection. The newest 'hand brake releasing
tool' that Norfolk Southern uses is a light weight telescoping device, that
even the lady 'brake persons' can apply and release hand brakes on cars
from the ground. Now they are not allowed on top of the cars".

Felix Price told several stories about how he made friends with N&W
President Dunlap after he come over from the VGN, and his work as an
electrician on the Roanoke Shops Line Gang that maintained the N&W power
lines all over the system. I asked if one story I had heard was correct:
"Ace" Ludwick told me once that "after putting a power pole in the loose
ground near Lamberts Point one Thursday, the Line Gang returned on
Fridaymorning to find the pole sunk into the sand up to the cross
arms". Felix
said it was just an old "electricians tale".

I usually end this report with something on the light side, but since we
are in the Christmas Season I would like for you to check out this "you
tube" story that our Friend Gordon Hamilton sent me. To see this jewel, go


If you can not get to you tube, contact me and I will send Gordon's link.

Time to pull the pin on this one!

Departing Now from V248,

Skip Salmon


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