The Lowly Bill Box at Blue Ridge

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Thu Jun 28 19:30:37 EDT 2012

Someone recently sent me an old turn-of-the-Century (20th Century, that is) photo of a country depot on another small railroad I'm interested in, and asked for some interpretation on things shown in the photograph.  One of the items he inquired about turned out to be the Bill Box.  Having sent him the interpretations he requested, it strikes me that some N&W Listers may be interested in a small portion of my answer , as Bill Boxes and Station Agents and Operators and Depots and Waybills are now so far in the past that the new generation may be unaware of them.  So I share the following...


...  The wooden box on the front of Pine Grove  depot is the Bill Box. Every station had one and they were always locked with a switch lock. If a train came through and set off or picked up during hours the Agent or Operator was not on duty , the Conductor placed in it or picked up from it the  waybills for the cars he had set off or picked up.

The neatest bill box I ever saw was at Blue Ridge, Va, a dozen miles east of Roanoke and right on the crest of Blue Ridge Mtn.  The Station Agent had cut a large hole right through the wall   of the station building and through the back side of the Bill Box, so that he could access the Bill Box without having to leave the depot and go outside, to place or retrieve his  waybills as needed. After Bell telephones came into use at railroad depots, he wo uld place the Bell telephone in the bill box at night and on weekends, so that the crews could use it if necessary.  (But no train crew would really have the need to place a "Bell call," and I never saw anyone use it.)


Hopefully this is not inflamatory or prevocative to anyone's sensibilities...

-- abram burnett

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