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Mon Sep 9 22:56:34 EDT 2019

I love these railroad stories! Keep them coming!
Charlie Long
(formerly on the Durham District)

On Sun, Sep 1, 2019 at 3:02 PM NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at>

> Mention of the Tug River Pool brought to mind another recollection.  Back
> when the Hours of Service law was 16 hours, a train and engine service pool
> operated east out of Williamson.  It operated to Bluefield, Eckman, Wilcoe,
> Iaeger, Richlands (through Iaeger up the Dry Fork) and probably to Luke on
> the Buchanan Branch.  They would take empties to these locations and turn
> back with loads.  It was a very competitive pool, operating first-in
> first-out out of Williamson.  Crews hated to get the Richlands jobs because
> they couldn’t make it back to Williamson and had to get rest at Richlands.
> A couple of noted engineers in this pool were Junior McCoy and “Sweetie
> Pie” Cline, who was one of the most level-headed employees on N&W – tobacco
> juice ran out of both sides of his mouth at the same time.
> Among these engineers was one Jay French.  When he came to Wilcoe to turn
> back, he always complained about his air test on his outbound train.
> Wilcoe had a third trick carman named Frank.  To comply with the Power
> Brake Law of 1958. Jay had to triple his train together (Wilcoe’s tracks
> held about seventy cars, and the River crews got their train off three
> tracks) and pump up the air within fifteen pounds of the feed valve setting
> on the engine, which was 75 pounds; this ment that they had to have 60
> pounds of air on the caboose, after which Frank would tell the engineer to
> set the brakes.  Frank would walk the set to the head end while the
> engineer made his leakage test.  When Frank got to the head end, the
> brakes  would be released and the train would depart, pulling by Frank who
> would see that they were all released.
> One fine warm summer evening, Jay put away his 200 empties and went over
> to the engine track, where he swapped two of his three inbound units for
> two of our mine run units to go back to Williamson for service.  Jay asked
> me what the hell kind of air test he was going to get tonight, and I told
> him just like usual.  Get 60 pounds on the caboose and Frank will tell you
> to set ‘em up, and he’ll walk to the head end and you can release them and
> go.  So Jay took his engines down to the far end of the yard to put his
> train together.
> Wilcoe Yard had no radio, although the engines and cabooses had them.
> Everything was going my way – I had two crews up the branch working busily
> at their usual chorse, so I thought I’d go out to the caboose and get the
> latest gossip from the Conductor while Frank watched the air gauge.
> The pressure was crawling up the gauge toward 60, and we listened on the
> caboose radio to another River crew about to leave Eckman with a train of
> loads.  Whoever got to Tug Tower first would go first, thus scooping the
> other crew by getting into Williamson first.
> So you can figure what happened.  Frank finally radioed Jay that he had 60
> pounds on the caboose and to set ‘em up.
> Frank and I had to get off the moving caboose; Jay wasn’t going to take a
> chance of having that other crew scoop him so he was leaving.
> Next time I saw Jay I asked him what kind of brake test he wanted, and got
> no printable reply . . .
> - Ed King, formerly(1962) third trick Assistant Yardmaster at Wilcoe
> (might have been the best job I ever had)
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