N&W 7902 - Expanded to a Question about NKP & Wabash

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Sat May 25 15:03:40 EDT 2019

Abram - 

I was the first N&W operating supervisor sent to the Wabush after the merger.  Prior to going to Decrator I was at Portsmouth where I witnessed the acquisition of the Sandusky line and ran some trains up there as aRFE.

for four years (one in Decrater and three in Montpeculiar) I  listened to the Wabush folks who lusted for the opportunity to go down to Roanoke and teach the hickabillies How to Railroad.  One thing the Wabush folks learned from having belonged to the PRR way back when was that they, like the PRR, believed their own press clippings.  (PRR – Standard Railroad of the World – yeah, right, Abram . . .)  Wabash believed that nobody knew how to move freight like they did – they did, after all, scratch out a living in a competitive market, mainly by ignoring speed limits on the road.  They did know how to flat switch, which they needed to do at places like Detroit, Mountpeculiar and Decrater.

To the Wabush folks, led by ol’ High Horse Power (HHP) coal was just that black stuff N&W hauled in those funny looking cars with the weird bottoms – hopper cars.  Finding out that there were 250 classifications of tidewater coal came as a surprise to them, and so did the realization that N&W had made hundreds of millions hauling coal that way.  For years Wabushers had thought N&W had it easy.

It’s interesting how little change occurred after the Wabush guys got to Roanoke – even that empty suit Pevler was smart enough to understand how much money was made and what N&W had to do to make it (making money hauling coal downhill?  - then there was Elkhorn, Alleghany, Blue Ridge – even after absorbing the VGN it wasn’t that easy . . .  )  Pevler was lucky – ne had N&W’s transportation people to run the money-making part of the railroad for him.

Rural Free Delivery was no prize, but then neither was Joe Sailor.  Wabush had a couple of operating guys I respected – Al Gill and Paul Stitt, to name a couple – but I didn’t see anything exceptional other than them.  Ed Murry?  John Ormond?  The guy in Detroit when I went to Montpelier whose name I’ve thankfully forgotten?  Don’t kid me . . .

The guys that got the short end of the stick were the NKP folks.  George Crews made it somehow; the rest of them got shuffeled aside in favor of RFD’s cronies.

So spare me the sympathy for the Wabush and its people.   First class outfit?  In the 150-odd CTC miles from Landers Yard to Bement there was just one bonded siding.  The rest of them the guys highballed into the siding on a restricting signal and hoped there was nothing in the way.  Manual Block Remote Control?  Cheap.

As I listened to them rag on the N&W I didn’t know then that PRR had kept the Wabush afloat during the Depression.  Interesting.  N&W’s dividends helped keep the PRR afloat during the same time, and it’s ironic that the N&W indirectly kept the Wabush going.  Wish I had known that in 1966.

- Ed King

rom: NW Mailing List 
Sent: Saturday, May 25, 2019 9:35 AM
To: N&W Mailing List 
Subject: Re: N&W 7902 - Expanded to a Question about NKP & Wabash

Mr. Bundy -

You were a "boots on the ground" man, so your take on things is highly valued.

You wrote:


On the Dekrater and Moberly Divisions, there was a signal arrangement ID'ed as Manual Block - Remote Control.  Wabash dispatchers could give a signal to enter a siding, but the train crew had to manually align the turnout.  This system of controlling train movement became known as "Morphodite Traffic Control". 


I always perceived both the Nickel Plate and the Wabash as being first class, high-speed, classy, good operations before the N&W management got hold of them, single tracked them and made a disaster out of them both.

You know the true story, so please tell us.  What were the NKP and the Wabash really like before the N&W's Richard Freeman Dunlap rode his Black Horse of Death onto the scene?  It would also be interesting to know why those two roads would ever want to get in bed with the N&W, given the N&W's reputation for people like Saunders and Dunlap.  Shucks, those two roads did not even connect with the N&W, so where were the imagined synergies?

  -- abram burnett,

only a turnip farmer

                  Sent to You from my Telegraph Key
Successor to the MAGNETIC TELEGRAPH LINE of 1844

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