Bill Harman Answers Questions in 1981

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Fri Apr 5 06:55:18 EDT 2013

In 1981, I was contemplating making a tape recording simulating the Radford
Division Train Dispatcher’s Telegraph Wire for a 24 hour period. The goal
was to use an actual Time Table from the 1890-1906 time period, take all
OS’s from open telegraph offices, and issue all Train Orders and Clearance
Cards necessary for the movement of trains. Some trains would have been
operated in sections, and actual tonnage ratings of the engines in use
during that time period would have been used. I went so far as to
determine the light weights of freight cars then typically in use, and
their typical capacities.

Like many overly ambitious projects in life, this one never came to

During my research for the simulation, it was necessary to consult Bill
Harman, a 1940-hire N&W Radford Division telegrapher about certain
procedural items, specifically the format for OS’s used on the N&W in
telegraph days, the N&W practices on “middle orders,” and the N&W
practices on “the clearing of trains” (i.e. issuing Clearance Cards to
trains for which there were and were not Train Orders for delivery,
etc.) I sent 12 typewritten questions to Bill, and he responded to ten of
them. Bill's father had also been a Radford Division telegrapher and he
acquired a great deal of information from him concerning the earlier
history of the railroad.

Recently I ran across Bill Harman’s responses, written in June 1981. They
were written in pencil, so the scans had to be cleaned up quite a bit to
make them legible. One of his answers (Question 8 on page 3) was continued
on the back side of the paper.

A PDF of Bill's hand-written responses is attached. Where else would you
ever learn that there was at one time a Yardmaster at Arthur? !!!

-- abram burnett

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