Lynden T. Harris - Shenandoah Division Telegrapher

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Sun Jul 28 12:12:52 EDT 2019

This is a great story!
Charlie Long
Lynchburg (the one in Virginia)

On Wed, Jul 24, 2019 at 1:06 PM NW Mailing List via NW-Mailing-List <
nw-mailing-list at> wrote:

> 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
> Source:
> 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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