1907 Article on N&W Improvements: Line & Grade, Yards

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Sun Mar 27 09:07:59 EDT 2016

The 1907 number of the Railroad Gazette carried a four-part serialized
article on various improvements which had been made on the N&W Norfolk,
Pocahontas and Scioto Divisions.  The improvements discussed include
revisions to line and grade, and enlargement of the terminal facilities at
South Norfolk, Roanoke, Bluefield, Williamson and Portsmouth.  Since the
articles started appearing in March 1097, it is safe to conclude that the
improvements were made in 1906 (or perhaps 1905-1906.)

I have put all four parts into a single PDF, and attached them.

Additionally, I have lifted from the article all the line drawings of
Roanoke Yard and merged them into a single PDF, which is also attached.
For reference, I added designations for Mason Creek, the Stock Pens at the
west end, 24th Street [which wasn't really a street in 1907,] and the West
Roanoke Round Houses.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the trackage arrangements is the
location of the Running Tracks.  Note that the pull-in switch for the
Running Track to be used by eastward trains off the Radford Division was
located well west of Mason's Creek.    Also note that Park Street Yard
ended around 10th Street, until the mid-1930s, when the West Roanoke Round
Houses were torn down and Park Street Yard was lengthened westward to "the
Pull Up" at 16th Street.

Also note on the drawing what appears to be a stock pen at the location of
the later (1917) Shaffers Crossing Round House, of which I had previously
never seen or heard mention.  Why would stock pens be needed on what was
(in essence) the "westbound side" of the yard.  Was not the principal flow
of livestock always from the west to eastern markets?  Perhaps these stock
pens served loads of livestock arriving off the Shenandoah and
Winston-Salem Divisions (sic !).  If so, the move would have been an easy
one:  Grab the livestock off incoming trains at the west end of Park Street
Yard and run it up to the stock pens located at what is now called
"Shaffers Crossing."

My one disappointment with the article is its discussion of the Roanoke
Hump.  It is not stated explicitly whether or not this was the FIRST
gravity hump constructed at Roanoke.  But since the first gravity hump was
built less that 15 years earlier (May 1891, at Honey Pot Yard in
Wilkes-Barre, Pa, on the Wilkes-Barre Division of the PRR,) it is probably
safe to assume that the hump mentioned in the present article was, indeed,
the first hump constructed at Roanoke.

This, of course, raises the further question:  Where did the N&W construct
its first gravity hump?  (And Bluefield doesn't count,  since Mother Nature
provided Bluefield with a excellent opportunity for switching-by-gravity in
both directions.)

And finally, I leave you with a block-buster question:  When, in the
railroad's published literature, did the name "Shaffers Crossing" first
appear?  It is not used in this 1907 Railroad Gazette article.  I believe
we agreed, in discussions years ago, that there was probably very early on,
a grade crossing in this area, most likely on lands of a farmer named
S(c)haffer, but that, due to all the cutting and filling which has occurred
over the years, it is today not possible to identify today the precise
location of said crossing.  My "block-buster question" does not deal with
that issue at all.  It asks, rather, when did the railroad begin using the
term "Shaffers Crossing" as an identifier for the railroad facilities in
this area?  Was it only after the 1917 construction of the Round House in
that area?

-- abram burnett

Sent to You from my Telegraph Key
    ... better than AT&T 4G LTE

Gazette_vol 42_1907.pdf
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