Lynden T. Harris - Shenandoah Division Telegrapher

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Wed Jul 24 11:38:44 EDT 2019

Lynden T. Harris
1932 - 2019

Staunton - Lynden T. "Buck" Harris, 86, widower of Barbara A. Harris, of Staunton, died Friday, February 22, 2019 at Brookdale.  He was born February 24, 1932 in Augusta County, a son of the late Frank N. and Lena (Ramsey) Harris.  Mr. Harris was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force having served in the Korean War.  Prior to retirement, he was employed by the ITT Corp-Defense Systems. Buck was an avid poker enthusiast.  Family members include a son, Lynden T. Harris, II and wife, Marcy, of Atlanta, GA; a daughter, Tammy Puckett of Cloverdale; a sister, Margaret Whitmer of Staunton; a sister-in-law, Mary Lou Harris of Virginia Beach; three grandchildren, Tara Yevick Simmons, Lauren Harris, and Kendra Puckett; a great grandchild, Kamryn Simmons; and special friends, Margie Ramsey and Fred Strickler.  In addition to his wife, he was preceded in death by a brother, Frank Harris.

A graveside service will be conducted at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, February 26, 2019 in Thornrose Cemetery by the Rev. Karen Allamon.  Memorials may be made to Hospice of the Shenandoah, c/o Augusta Health Foundation, P.O. Box 1000, Fishersville, VA 22939.  Henry Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.
Condolences may be sent to the family at

Published in The News Leader from Feb. 22 to Feb. 25, 2019

As of: July 24, 2019


Gift honors Shenandoah's past; Former railroad telegraph operator Harris donates his 'key' to the town's museum room 
By Ted Hayes, 2013 

SHENANDOAH - Lynden Harris is not the usual retiree. 

	Harris, a vigorous 85-year-old former Korean War veteran and onetime telegrapher for the Norfolk and Western Rail-road in Shenandoah, has a keen 
sense of history.   About a year ago, he decided he should donate his old telegraph key to a museum. A telegraph key is a general term for any switching device used primarily to send Morse code, in its earliest forms.  "I knew my kids wouldn't be interested in that kind of thing after I'm not 
around," he said. 
	Harris considered donating to the large museum in Staunton, where he now lives.  "But it's such a big museum, I know my small item would have gotten lost," he said. So, early last month, Harris showed up at Town Hall in Shenandoah, where staff have been assembling a small museum of local items in a room just off the main entrance.   And there the key now stands, on its own portion of a table-top, easily visible to any visitor who enters the museum room. "It's a wonderful addition," said Shenandoah Assistant Town Manager Juanita Roudabush. 
	The key represents not only a part of Shenandoah history, but also an important part of railroad communication history.   The "bug," as Harris calls it, is a five-pound, stainless-steel, forefinger-and-thumb operated device that he used to direct engines onto the right track, and to start and stop, for miles around Shenandoah. During Harris' years, from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s, the town was the site of two main lines, several sidings and a major regional switching yard, which included a roundhouse with a dozen engine stalls.   Trains approached town on the main lines at speeds of more than 60 miles per 
hour; in town they all had to slow, and some had to get to the right siding with the right train of cars before pulling out onto the main line again. It 
was hazardous business, and the telegrapher's job was crucial. "You couldn't make mistakes on which track you told the engines to take," 
Harris said. 
	Harris' key was the successor to the original telegraph key - a much simpler, 9-ounce, forefinger operated machine that sent out "dots and dashes," a 
revolution for its own day.  In contrast, Harris' key operated by sending electric vibrations. The vibrations sent individual letters, with the operator using both thumb and forefinger. Harris could type 60 to 70 words per minute on his key which, in 1948, cost just $48. The "vibrating key" served for some 20 years in railroad telegraphy before it was replaced by the telephone, and now by cell phones. 
	"I made $3.40 an hour, union scale, which was good wages then," Harris recalled. "I was a relief operator, and worked the whole line from Pennsylvania to the Carolinas." The chief operator at the Shenandoah station in Harris' time was Henry Fix, who was also the town's mayor. 

Source: The Valley Banner (Elkton, Virginia) July 4, 2013

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