Translation sought of '50s era terms - and Elwood J. Higley

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Mon Dec 11 14:04:56 EST 2017

As a general statement:


When the N&W started building toward Pocahontas in 1881 it created the New River Division and mileposts were measured from New River Depot.


When the N&W starting building down the Bluestone River, it referred to the extension as the Flat-Top Extension and measured the miles from Bluestone junction.


When the N&W started building the Elkhorn Tunnel it was referred to as the Elkhorn Extension and miles were measured from the east portal of the tunnel.


During the period 1881 to 1889 the N&W was also exploring/surveying routes to the Ohio River with a whole other set of mileposts.


When the N&W finally agreed on a Ohio Extension Route MP-0.00 was set near the forks of Elkhorn Creek.


Because of the different reference points,  in 1891 the N&W established N&W system MP 0.00 at Norfolk, with mileposts being referenced to MP-0.00. Bluestone Junction which had been NR-72 became MP 373.84 or 373.84 miles from Norfolk.


In 1892 the N&W renumbered its bridges with the new bridge across the New River at Radford being numbered 800 and the main line series of bridges from Radford to Ohio being numbered from 800 on.


Mileposts were firm locations on survey maps and the milepost locations did not change. Although the distances from Norfolk did because of realignments and double tracking, which started in the 1890 and were not completed in West Virginia until 1917. When the N&W did its ICC Valuation chain surveys in 1916 and 1917 the valuation team used a 100-foot chain to measure 5,280 feet to the mile and measured the location of each existing milepost. On the Pocahontas Division survey station 0+00 was set at MP N-361.09 and there were 544,838.7 feet MP N-361.09 and the western boundary of the division at MP N-470 in Williamson. The distances between milepost did vary.


When the Big Sandy Low Grade Line was built between 1902 and 1904 the mileposts had already been set by the Ohio Extension which went along the 12 Pole River, so a new milepost prefix was use between Naugatuck and Kenova on the low grade line.


Mileposts location were still in use for stations and siding in 1924, but had been changed by 1939. Mileposts were still used on track charts, but stations and sidings were referenced to actual distance from Norfolk. Actual distances changed a number of times.


NWHS’s newest book, “The Norfolk & Western in West Virginia,” to be published in 2018 provides the following:


“Mile Posts (MP) are used to define locations on a railroad as can be seen on track charts. Because mile posts are used to

define the locations of stations, bridges, tunnels, structures and other relevant points on a railroad, once established, mile

post locations remain in place, even though distances between the mile posts can be changes by new railroad construction

or realignment of tracks.


When the Norfolk & Western started its expansion into West Virginia in 1881 Mile Post NR-0 was set at New River Depot. Mile

Post NR-0 stayed at New River Station Depot until the new New River Bridge, Bridge 600, was built at Radford in 1889. When

the bridge opened the new starting point for the extension into West Virginia became MP N-302 or 302 miles from Norfolk.


When the Ohio Extension was built the mile posts were measured from Norfolk. However when the New River Connecting

Branch was built it reduced the mileage by 4.22 miles. Rather than change all of the mile posts, the miles were measured

east from MP N-309, where the new line joined the old line, toward the junction at Walton where the new line and old line split.

The hand-written notes on the segment of N&W Drawing 2882, dated March 24,1899, show the distance between MP

N-297 on the original main line and MP N-302 on the new main line into West Virginia as 0.78 mile. The 4.22 miles disparity had no affect

on existing mile post locations as related.


However in the 1930s the N&W Stations and Sidings Lists were changed to reflect the true distance from Norfolk rather than

the mile post distance. Whereas Bluefield station is shown at MP N-363.1 on track charts, it is listed as 353.24 miles from Norfolk.”


Alex Schust   


From: NW-Mailing-List [mailto:nw-mailing-list-bounces at] On Behalf Of NW Mailing List
Sent: Monday, December 11, 2017 9:30 AM
To: NW Mailing List
Subject: Re: Translation sought of '50s era terms - and Elwood J. Higley


On Sun, Dec 10, 2017, at 8:40 PM, abram wrote:

These were station numbers, which in the case of more important points, were letters.


D is East Radford.  E is Pulaski.  U is Bluefield.  R is Roanoke; N Norfolk, S Shenandoah, H Hagerstown,  C Crewe, L Lynchburg and if I recall correctly, Williamson was W.  Glade Spring was G.  Conductors used these station numbers on their CR-10 wheel reports, handling and delay reports, and in their Train Books. Station Numbers were issued by the Accounting Department and probably had their origin in the needs of the Car Record Office.  You can find them in any edition of the official "List of Officers, Agents and Stations."


For stations of lesser importance numerals were used, loosely indexed to the mile posts.  A few I recall were 272 Elliston, 285 Christiansburg, 292 Walton, 302 Dry Branch, 306 Eggleston, 310 Pembroke, 314 Ripplemeade, 321 Pearisburg, 330 Glen Lyn, 337 Oakvale, 345 Blake. On the "main line," the numbers had no letter prefix, but stations on the Shenandoah Valley carried an S prefix; on the Roanoke & Southern an O prefix, and on the Bristol Line a P (for Pulaski) prefix.  For instance, Bassett was O-52, Waynesboro was S-142, and Wytheville was P-36.

Of course, you will recognize that that the Radford Division station numbers given above do not exactly correspond with the mile posts.  West of Roanoke, they are off by about five miles.  I have never determined the developmental history of this situation, and it would be a good research project for Senator Aitch Bundy. My guess is that the station numbers originally corresponded to the mile posts.  But over the years, various small realignments of the right-of-way shortened the total length of the railroad.  The mile posts were never adjusted to reflect the shorter overall distance, but the station numbers were.  (Railroads all over the country have miles which are both longer and shorter than 5280 feet.  I know of one case, not far from where I am sitting, where the distance between two adjacent MP's is just a tad over 2000 feet, due to a realignment.)

I do not recall the mile post situation west of Walton.  The 1902 move of the railroad from Schooler Hill to the Low Grade route between Walton and Bellspring obviously  knocked a few miles off that route, but I do not recall the situation with MP's versus station numbers for that territory.


​The Walton cut-off did change distance but not mileposts. See for research and comments that have come up on the list in the past, including a link to a track chart from the '70s that shows the odd "miles" at Walton.


Bruce in Blacksburg



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