Who Took the Middle Track?

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Fri Apr 5 10:18:11 EDT 2013


Who took the middle track? The freight train or the passenger train? I
would assume the freight would take the middle track so that the passenger
train would not have to slow down at all. Also, were all of the middle
tracks long enough to hold a coal train or a hopper train? Also, were the
middle tracks accessible from either main line track? I remember the middle
track at Burkeville, but I was too young to be concerned with these
questions, and I never thought to ask my father about them later.

Bill Mason

Bill -

One would think that the freight would clear in the middle track, but sometimes there was
a wrinkle to it. Approaching Juniper on No. 22 in 1957, I saw that a coal train held the main track
and the passenger train passed it using the middle track. Coal train's crew had lined the
main line and crotch switch at both ends, so the passenger train didn't stop. Benefit ?
The coal train didn't have to pull out of the middle track, then pause to let the rear end crew
line the turnout for main track movement.

Probably in the steam era, the middle tracks were sufficient to chamber coal and hopper
trains. Middle tracks east of Petersburg were about 8500 feet long. With diesels, the trains
got longer. A quick sample of coal trains shown on the dispatchers' train sheets from 1970
indicates coal trains averaged 190 cars; hopper trains were less. So if you add two or
three units to the coal consist, the middle tracks could get pretty well stuffed.

One observation about the middle tracks on the East End -- Waverly, Wilson, Myrtle and others
had county roads that crossed, so pulling in the middle tracks without cutting the crossings
may have led to complaints from county officials. Harry Bundy

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