N&W in 1912--Slides

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Mon Feb 27 09:45:19 EST 2012

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Wed., April 3, 1912

All Streams Out of Banks and Norfolk & Western Suffers to Extent of $75,000
Tracks, Roadbed and Bridges Throughout the Coalfield Damaged and One Passenger Train Reaches City Nine Hours Behind Schedule Time
Fully $75,000 damage was done yesterday along the Norfolk and Western by the rain which has been seeping through the mountains for the past few days. Trains were late, No. 4 arriving in this city nearly nine hours behind schedule time, while other trains from the west ran on a similar schedule, except No. 2, which came here from Welch, about a half hour late. The rain storm was general, visiting the Chesapeake and Ohio, the Virginian and the Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio. So bad was the outlook at one time that the Chesapeake and Ohio feared it would not be able to handle the train on which Teddy Roosevelt is to go from Hinton to Charleston today, and inquiries were sent here asking if the Norfolk and Western could handle the Roosevelt train in case of emergency.
The railroad embankments through which the rain has been seeping for days, and from which the frost recently emerged, were ripe for slides and when the heavy rain of the previous night pounded itself into the spongy ground it gave way and covered ditches, tracks and even the lots near the railroad. Every stream was overflowing. Tug River, Elkhorn creek, Bluestone river, Spice Creek, Clear Fork and Dry Fork were all flowing out of their courses, while the small streams which run down from Bottom Creek across the yard at Vivian, through a wide culvert, became blocked in some way. The water forced its way through the bridge and spread over the entire yard, wiping out and washing out tracks and road bed, until it is claimed the damage at that point will reach several thousands of dollars. Sweeping down the tracks it followed the old road bed to Kimball, at which point bridges had to be built so people could make their way around. Every shallow place in the ground became the scene of a lake and the waters rushed towards these places as though they could get relief from the onrushing force behind.
The Virginia-Pocahontas mine is reported to have been flooded by water continually pouring in, and a report was heard at Jed that eighty men had been drowned inside the mine. There was no truth in the report. At Switchback the siding was submerged, as is usual, while all the other sidings from the Widemouth branch to Williamson which lie below the high water mark were swamped, and it will be impossible to tell what the real damage is until the water has gone down sufficiently to permit of examinations. Fortunately at Vivian the main line tracks were above water and the trains which could get to Vivian experienced no trouble.
The greater trouble was on the western end of the division. From 2 o'clock yesterday morning until nearly 2:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon the tracks were blocked. At the latter hour one track was clear from Bluefield to Williamson. Either the westbound or the eastbound track was covered by slides in some place or other, but arrangements had been made for sending trains over them. Forces of men at work under General Superintendent George P. Johnson, Superintendent W. S. Becker, Assistant Superintendent W. R. Dawson, Trainmaster Harry Weller and all the assistant trainmasters and foremen were at work all day. Two steam scoops were put into service and.tossed the muck and rock aside as though it were so much chaff, but in some places the slides were over ten feet deep and several rails in length. Last night an additional force of men was secured from the Scioto division, together with an American ditcher and these crews will help out the Pocahontas division forces. Little attention was paid to anything yesterday but getting the main lines in condition for travel. Today the forces will get a chance to turn their attention to the branches, that is, if the rain stops and gives the embankments along the main line a chance to dry a little.
Reports reached here yesterday telling of slides at the following places: West of Williamson, near yard, cleared at 7:30 a.m.; at Alnwick, slide came in about 2:30 a.m. and was not cleared until 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon; four slides between Panther and Hull kept the eastbound track blocked from about 5 o'clock yesterday morning until 11 a.m. and the westbound track blocked until 10 o'clock last night; a heavy slide at Wilmore which was about ten rails in length and over ten feet deep in some places blocked traffic, but clearance was secured after hours of work; at Delorme a slide which it took four hours to clear swamped in on the track; at Honaker, on the Clinch Valley, a slide which it took two hours to clear blocked the main line and delayed the passenger trains; at Ritter, on the Iaeger-Southern branch, a slide which will take fully eight hours to clear came in yesterday afternoon; at No. 11 works at Gary a small slide occurred in the afternoon, and will be cleared today. On the Clear Fork branch four bridges were either washed out or so badly twisted that it will take the bridge carpenters a day or two to repair them. On the Northfork branch, the Dry Fork branch, the Spice Creek branch, and Dry Branch bridge bents were washed out by high water and the entire bridge force will be kept busy for two or three days making temporary repairs.
Trains Nos. l5 and 4 were behind slides and did not move until yesterday afternoon at 2:30, from which time the tracks were kept clear. Several thousand men were kept at work all day and some of the forces will be kept on for several days to come.
W. S. Becker, superintendent of the Pocahontas division, arrived in the city last night after having been out on the road all day. Mr. Becker reported that, good progress had been made in taking care of the slides that occurred yesterday. He said the slides had been more numerous than at any time during the past three or four years, but he thought the colder weather of last night would help the situation considerably. Train No. 16 arrived in the city about two hours late. No. 2, due here at noon, did not reach Bluefield until 7 o'clock last night.
In addition to other slides reported, slides occurred at Marytown, Big Four, Raven and Cleveland, with the result that every man who could be put at work was busy yesterday and last night getting the road in shape. It was thought the main lines would be in good shape by midnight.
At Bull Mountain, near Honaker, where a slide occurred yesterday morning, a little twelve-year-old girl flagged train No. 86 as it was approaching the scene. The engineer saw her signals and pulled his train to a stop which was easily done, as the train was running up grade.
Gordon Hamilton

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