NW-Mailing-List Digest, Vol 152, Issue 9 - Potts Creek continued from C&O side

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Wed Oct 11 15:01:33 EDT 2017

Mr Burnett,

The Potts Creek ran just past branch MP 22 near Bess per a Charles Pickett
Barnett 1910 property map of the watershed area.  Another map shows the ROW
was graded another two or three miles, but never built.  This end of the
map shows the Potts Valley Mining and Mineral Company (a property and
mineral rights holding company) butted up the Fenwick Properties that ran
over the crest into Craig Valley and its existing branch line running from
New Castle to Eagle rock on the James River.

The N&W Roanoke investor folks were more interested in getting to the Craig
Valley properties than the Potts Creek properties and their iron ore for
their local blast furnaces.

Al Kresse


QUESTION:? The N&W held charter rights to extend (what became) the
Potts Valley Branch all the way to Potts Creek, Va,? five or so miles
north of Paint Bank, Va.? Did they ever exercise this privilege, and
actually build to Potts Creek ?

I have just spent two days with Google Earth, mapping and scaling off
distances given in Radford Division T.T. No. 35,? dated April 20,
1930.? (Google Earth is a powerful tool, and enables one to scale off
and measure distances on the satellite imagery to tenths of a foot.)?
I was looking for places which no longer appear on maps, e.g. Crafts,
Foley and Petit?listed in the T.T. (none of which had sidings in 1930.)

One thing for which I was looking was the highest elevation on the
Branch, and I found it to be about a mile south (Time Table "east") of
Kire, Va., at 2700 feet.? This was the watershed between the Big Stony
Creek which flowed southward to New River, and the Potts Creek which
flowed northward to the James River at Covington.

I was unable to locate Petit and Foley with any reasonable accuracy.?
The T.T. gives a distance of 7.5 miles between Ray Siding and Kire,
which are known points.? (Ray Siding at 15.6 miles south of Paint
Bank, Petit at 19.2,? Foley at 21.9, and Kire at 23.1.)? The Time
Table overstates the distance between Ray Siding and Kire by better
than a mile, so measuring along the right-of-way? from either known
point (southward from Ray Siding, and northward from Kire) gave
conflicting locations for Petit and Foley.? And there is? virtually no
possibility that the present highway in the area uses an alignment
different from the railroad's alignment.? ?The T.T. is simply wrong...
it is not that far from Ray's Switch to Kire.? Only an examination of
the Valuation Maps would resolve the issue.

As someone who spent 20 years as "keeper of the Time Table" for
one-forth of a certain major Eastern railroad (about 3,000? miles of
it,) I am well aware of the subjectivities and vagueries of Time Table
mileages.? First of all, they are (usually) given to only one decimal
place, which introduces a potential measuring error of 1/10th of a
mile,? 520 feet.? Second,?almost never were they subjected to scrutiny
or the attempt to correct them... whatever had been printed in the
T.T.? forever was just perpetuated in following Time Tables.? ?Third,
in the absence of a depot or station name sign, mileages were usually
stated by referring to the first switch of the passing siding,
calculating from MP 0.0 on a branch, and those things often changed,
or even went away entirely, and I am unaware of the N&W's practice of
assigning T.T. mileages with respect to siding switches.

Here is a little story to show you how such things go...? Some years
ago I was involved in a six month project to install a big
interlocking where three main lines and one branch line came
together.? One problem was that the new interlocking was over a mile
long.? What mile post + decimal would I use to show it in the T.T. ??
?Some investigation and conversations with the oldest heads in the
System Signal Department Office (guys who had been around forever and
knew everything) revealed that the protocol had always been (but
unknown to me) to use the location of the "instrument house" as the
decimal location for an interlocking.? But this new, big interlocking
was over a mile long and had THREE "instrument houses," with express
cable extending between them, and they were not close together.? We
finally decided the right thing to do was to base the Time Table
mileage on the location of the PRINCIPAL "instrument house," that is,
the one with the most relays in it.? And that is what we did, and the
Time Table mileage I used for that interlocking two decades ago still
stand in the present N.S. Time Table for that territory, although I am
sure no one left today understands why that number was chosen !

The USGS Topo maps have been of little help in my investigations, as
maps were only published for this area in 1923 and 1945 (after the
branch was abandoned.) The 1923 topo does not show the Potts Valley
Branch extending north of the wye at Paint Bank depot.? And the 1945
topo does not indicate abandoned railroad grades.


Your reward for having read through all the above blathering is the
attached PDF, which shows the Potts Valley Branch? station pages from
the 1930 T.T.

-- abram burnett

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