Our Railroad Relic Sculpture Garden
Shanty, Milepost, Signals, Motor Car and More
* Created April 2007 *
* Last updated December 2, 2009 *
Google is locking web pages, making additions impossible. If you are viewing this web page long after the last update above, I am sorry but that is probably what has happened. Improvements and additions are continuing.
From collecting small date nails found in discarded railroad crossties to actual railroad structures, the passion for railroad history is manifested and displayed below.
For us, the collection and arrangement of three dozen pieces from seven railroads makes our own Railroad Relic Sculpture Garden.
Having 10-1/2 acres helps keep normal life and the railroad collection in perspective.
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Abert: Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Watchman's Shanty from World War II.
Bell: Southern Railway switch engine of unknown number.
Railway Grade Crossing Lights from N&W with a VIRGINIAN RAILWAY crossbuck sign, a Southern Railway glass beeded track number sign and N&W crossing bell.
Milepost 141: Virginian Railway concrete mile marker located at Shorter's Spur near Abilene, Virginia on railroad's Norfolk Division.
Phone Box: C&O Ry. from James River Subdivision with vintage Stromberg Carlson crank phone.
Position Light Signal: N & W 1925 signal from the railroad's Shenandoah Division
Searchlight Signal: VIRGINIAN RAILWAY 1949 signal from the railroad's New River Division.
Color Light Signal: Chesapeake & Ohio Ry 1947 Abert, Virginia.
Color Position Light Signal: Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Parkersburg subdivision, circa 1930.
Right of Way Marker: Concrete post from Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, Lexington branch James River Sub Division.
Whistle Post from VIRGINIAN RAILWAY, Norfolk Division, Danieltown, Va.
Classification Light from VGN class MC number 468 used as a yard light.
Cast Iron Whistle Post from N&W's Norfolk Division Durham line from Lynchburg.
Call Box from VIRGINIAN RAILWAY New River Division, Guyandot River line.
Motor Car, Fairbanks Morse Sheffield model 41 built 1932 for VIRGINIAN RAILWAY.
Motor Car Shed Replica.
Firebox Fire Brick from VIRGINIAN shops Victoria, Va. (4).
Finial from VIRGINIAN RAILWAY.
Chesapeake & Ohio Switchstand Lights (2).
Switchstand from the abandoned Atlantic & Danville Railroad, Lawrenceville, Va.
PEARCH sign from Chesapeake & Ohio, James River subdivision, Virginia.
ND sign from ND tower/cabin Lynchburg, Va., N&W and C&O diamond crossing replica.
Pump House Light from New York Central Railroad Gauley Bridge, WV.
Brake Wheel used on log skeleton car from South River Lumber Company, Amherst County, VA.
Norfolk & Western Phone Box from N&W Scioto Division, Sargent,Ohio.
1902 Junction Box from C&O Ry Alleghany Division, Virginia. Manufactured by "M.I., Louisville."
Tie plates make excellent paths. They are from the VGN, Southern, N&W, C&O and A&D railroads.
The Watch Box, Abert
by Aubrey Wiley
In 1942, the United States FBI learned of a Nazi plan to sabotage strategic railroad targets in the United States. Two teams of highly trained saboteurs had been landed by German submarines along the northeast coast. Fortunately, they were captured before they could fulfill their objectives, but nonetheless, terror was struck in the hearts of Americans and American businessmen as they realized how vulnerable America was.
Interrogation revealed that their targets included locations on the Pennsylvania, New York, New Haven and Hartford, New York Central, Great Northern, and Chesapeake & Ohio railroads. For the targeted railroad serving Lynchburg, the Chesapeake & Ohio, one of the results of planning-by-preventing was to construct, locate and man small structures, manned by watchmen around the clock, at railway tunnels, trestles and bridges. Many were in use by the end of 1942.
One of these structures survives, thanks to the efforts of Aubrey Wiley, in Lynchburg, Virginia. The Abert “watch box” was such a structure, and when built, it was located on C&O’s vital artery for coal and other export shipments, the James River Sub-division of the Clifton Forge district. Abert was at milepost 154.7, nine miles west of the C&O’s Lynchburg yard. The exact purpose of the structure for homeland security being built at Abert is unclear. In Abert, there are two windows, at opposite ends of the long dimension, and a door with a window. In the blank back wall is carved, probably with a pocket knife, a small hole about four inches long by an inch high, for gazing toward the river, I expect. The windows slide open to the top, are self-storing and have a heavy wire grate cover over each window.These railroad watchmen who worked twelve-hour shifts, seven days a week. During their shifts, they would patrol in each direction, meeting their counterparts from other watch boxes. A lineside telephone was nearby and it was their link with the outside world, via the railroad dispatcher. Abert’s old railroad telephone box is also nearby. The shanty’s company furnishings were spartan; a chair, table and stove.
After World War II, Abert and her sisters found a second life, again as shelter for employees. The “track walkers,” or “bluff watchers” patrolled a section of track using a velocipede, but this time they were watching for rockslides or other natural dangers. In the mid 1970's, C&O officials were planned the demolition of all these shanties to lessen the amount of taxes paid. Being at the right place at the right time meant my obtaining permission from railroad to obtain Abert. In the fall of 1977 it was trucked away and moved to the author’s home. In 2001 the structure was recognized for its potential and after long and careful planning, the next year it was moved out from deep in the woods into daylight once again. Abert was tenderly placed in the back yard, at the edge of the woods, and arranged as it would have been in service. It has been cleaned and minor repairs have been made. The interior of Abert is furnished as it could have been during its latter years of service to the C&O; an iron stove, a coal scuttle with tender box, a well worn, wood chair, an old caboose desk sitting on a small table, vintage company posters on the walls, company employee timetables, note paper with a C&O company pencil nearby, kerosene lanterns to used on track patrols, paperback western novels, a sardine tin, tobacco tin, soda bottles, tins of Prince Albert tobacco, soiled work gloves, a railroad cap and coat, and sheets of galvanized metal to cover the windows in case of an air raid.
Southern Railway Bell
In 1969, about only 17 years after the last yard steam engine at Monroe, yard, Va. had dropped its fire, this brass bell was found in an antique shop in that area. Few details are known about the bell other than it had belonged to a retired Southern railroad yard engineer at Monroe. Tradition reveals that 0-8-0 type switchers were used in the latter years of steam at Monroe. The hanger is modern and designed to hold the bell. It is not railroad design. All bolts are welded to the steel mount!
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and Southern Track Number Sign
The railroad crossing sign is a cobbled collection of four parts from three Virginia railroads from locations hundreds of miles apart. The grade crossing lights were found in an antique shop in Fairfield, Va. in December 2006 for a very small fraction of the usual going price. The unit was retired from use at a grade crossing near Midvale, milepost 174 on Norfolk & Western's Shenandoah line. It operates by an alternating, flashing timer.
The N&W crossing bell, manufactured by Western Railroad Supply Company, was provided by friend Rick Rader in May 2009. It had been retired from use on the former N&W's Radford Division. The bell and lights are wired through a timer so that they are on for several seconds and then off for a few minutes.
The circa 1930 crossing sign ("crossbuck") with glass beaded letters was found in an antique store in southeastern Virginia in October 2008. It was stabilized and restored to appear in its old condition. In other words, it was cleaned, sanded, primed, repainted and restored to look old again. It was manufactured by General Railway Supply Company for the Virginian Railway. The location of its use is uncertain, but it probably wsa used around Jarrett, Virginia, about milepost 75.
The glass beaded track number sign was a gift from friend Garland Harper in February 2009. It had been used at a crossing at Barboursville, Virginia on the Washington Division on the Southern Railway's double track right of way, but it was discarded by the railroad many years earlier.
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VIRGINIAN RAILWAY Milepost 141, Norfolk Division
In 1916, the circus train of Buffalo Bill Cody suffered a horrific derailment on the Virginian Railway at Shorter's Spur near Abilene, Va. The last milepost his train passed was 141. This part of the old Virginian was abandoned by N&W about 1975 after the merger of the two roads in 1959. On March 12, 2007 it was excavated with help from Greg Elam. Restoration required about three weeks of work to replace broken and missing concrete. An automotive engine hoist was required to move it into place and plant it in a 32" deep hole. Weighing about 600 pounds and almost 8 feet long, it is thought to be a first generation concrete VGN milepost. It was never marked, repainted or spoiled by the line's second operator, N&W. Today it stands in our " Butterfly Bush Garden."
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C&O Ry. Phone Box
Until as recent as the 1970's, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway communicated along the James River Subdivision by means of lineside, hand crank telephones housed in wood boxes! That is when I was given this phone box which was used at the west end of Gladstone Yard. Radio communication to locomotives and crews was in the future for the C&O.
Today the phone box is beside the Abert Watchman's Shanty and an oak platform has been made for railroad workers to stand on when using it. Inside is a 1950's vintage C&O Stromberg - Carlson hand crank phone. In the picture on the right, a vintage C&O lock hangs by its chain to secure the phone box when not in use, as was done by the railroad. Stewart Shannon, a retired communications man on C&O, Chessie and CSX describes how these lineside phones were used: "The crank phones did not have a plug box; there was only a 'message line' available for the train crews (conductors) to use, at least in Virginia and West Virginia where I worked. They would crank a ring code to reach the desired or nearest station operator who in turn would relay a message to the dispatcher and his reply back to the train conductor. Even train orders were copied and relayed this way! It was an involved process!"
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In the twelve months of 2008 with the help (not a sufficient word) of friends, I was fortunate to acquire a signal from each of the four great Appalachian coal hauling railroads: Norfolk & Western, Virginian, Chesapeake & Ohio and Baltimore & Ohio. Each is different from the others, but each demonstrates unique technology for the time built. They are shown below in the order in which they arrived at our home. The N&W signal came in January 2008, followed by the Virginian signal in May and then the C&O signal in July. The B&O signal arrived in December, the day after Christmas.
Little did I know that a fascination for railroad signals was ahead when this picture was taken of me atop an N&W Position Light Signal in March 1962. I was an 18 year old student at Ferrum College at the time and I am holding my 4/5 Graflex camera and several sheet film holders are in the bag around my shoulder, waiting to photograph a southbound freight on N&W's famed Pumpkin Vine line, aka the Winston Salem line.
The timers for the signals and crossing warning lights are from LightsToGo. I have had a good experience with this company. Call and ask for Bill Andreas.
MP 206.3 Signal
Norfolk & Western Railway 1925 Position Light Signal
The eastbound N&W passenger train "The Pocahontas" weaves along the railroad's old mainline in Lynchburg, Va. in March 1960, passing a signal at milepost 206.3. This Lynchburg signal is the one replicated because it was a favorite picture location for me as a teen. Today this scene is part of the Lynchburg Bike Trail.
Our signal was actually in use on the N&W's Shenandoah Division probably between mileposts 229-210 (Lithia to Buchanan, Virginia) from 1925 to about 1995.
Jan. 5, 2008 - With help from friends Brian Trent and Jeff Sanders, Charlotte and Aubrey obtain an old N&W position light signal from Richard Shell and Ken Miller of Roanoke, Va. It was manufactured by Union Switch & Signal Company (USS&G) as model PL-1 and installed by N&W in 1925. Being on a lifetime restriction from my cardiologist, I am unable to lift more than 50 pounds. Obviously, there were many times when this project was in need of help with lifting more than Charlotte and I could handle. Not having another family member to assist, I am grateful for the help of the friends whose names are on this web page.
Feb. 5-9 - The signal is disassembled and sandblasted. Next, all parts are cleaned, primed and painted flat black. Rewiring is started. The signal alone weighs about 200 pounds and the face plate is 52" in diameter. Replacement lenses are used ones from Aubrey's collection.
Feb. 15 - A large pipe is obtained from the scrap pile of David Falwell of Falwell Well Drilling Company, a local well drilling company. Eventually the 6-1/2" outside diameter galvanized pipe will stand more than ten feet above the ground.
February - Research is continuing so that I may learn about the railroad's use of this type of signal. Much help is given by Fred Reburn, a retired N&W brakeman and conductor, and friends Larry Evans, Richard Shell and Ken Miller.
Feb. 22 - Charlotte and Aubrey rent a power auger to drill and dig a hole 42" deep for the signal pole. In the next few days, a power trench digging machine is also rented to dig a deep trench for the laying of an underground power line.
March 3 - Friends Harry Hughes and Bobby Dudley "plant" the heavy pole and nearly 600 pounds of concrete are soon poured into the hole and around the pole, forming an authentic looking base.
March 8 - Richard Shell cuts the original ladder to fit the needed size.
March 10 - An electronic timer from Trafficlights.com arrives to operate the signal lights through three indications; "stop and proceed, restricted proceed, and clear proceed at prescribed speed." Dealing with this company is a good experience! In the course of the signal work on this and other signals, I have obtained six timers, each custom modified from off the shelf items. Help is always available in a professional and friendly manner. Ask for Bill Andreas.
March 10 - A professional welder repairs some of the broken and bent parts of the signal ladder. Apparently when the railroad crews took the signal down in 1995, they must have cut the parts off the tower and let them fall to the ground. The railroad was sending the old signals to scrap anyway.
March 10 - A close friend, Jack Hammack, gives Aubrey good advice for making the project happen.
The signal spider frame is now mounted atop the pole.
March 11- After a long day of hard work, it is nearing completion! The spider frame was hoisted by a come-along hung from the top. Next the individual lights with their hoods were attached and wires connected. The face plate was lifted and attached but most lights had to be adjusted to match the small openings in the face plate. The unit has been converted from 10 volts when used by the N&W to 110 volt household current. A safe underground cable supplies power. The actual lights have 7-1/2 watt bulbs to yield a pleasing glow instead of the bright, fog and rain piercing light needed when it was used by the railroad. The final work phase concluded the day; attaching the finial. It sits tight on a peg made for and driven in the top of the pole. The only thing left at dusk this day was to take this picture on the right.
March 12 - The ladder is erected; that's the best way to describe it! Shown atop a step ladder, Charlotte is pictured placing the golden bolt in the signal ladder! The signal's assembly is completed just as the day closes. This has not been an easy-to-do experience. Restoring an old signal is more than sanding off old paint and doing some rewiring. It is more like rebuilding something as a kit with parts missing and without instructions! Making it an accurate representation of the signal at milepost 206.3 has required much research and several interviews, but the finished signal is certainly worth all the effort we have made.
March 13 - Painting is complete as is the underground wiring. Come visit and see this treasure!
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VIRGINIAN RAILWAY Searchlight Signal - Milepost 421.1
The Virginian didn't use many signals: They were clustered at each end of the line around Norfolk, Virginia on the eastern end and west of Princeton on the west end where several branch lines were signaled as well as the mainline. Signals also guarded approaches to spring switches on the mainline. Additionally, a couple were in the Roanoke area, protecting the N&W's Winston-Salem line crossing at JK Tower. On the west end, some signaled lines were controlled by the dispatcher in Princeton, WV while others were automatic block signals. The picture on the right was made by my friend Tom Marshall and shows the signal at Pineville, WV, a typical Virginian signal. Annual reports reveal these dates of signal installation: Mullens to Deepwater Bridge - 1941; Sewalls Point to South Branch of Elizabeth River - 1946; and Guyandot River branch - 1953.
This signal I have has a build date stamped inside of the mechanism case of December 1, 1949.The signal was used at two different locations. Its first life was along the mainline between Pax and Page, West Virginia, according to a former VGN signal maintainer. It probably was at Wriston, milepost 421.1, where the line was single track and it was a flag stop for passenger trains. The location is three miles west of Oak Hill Junction and three miles down a westbound falling grade of 2%! On the map on the right, the location is upper center pinpointed with a black dot.
After the merger with N&W in 1959, the railroad lengthened several blocks in 1972, eliminating many signals. The signal was disassembled and moved from mp 421.1 to a new yard which was being created at Pluckett, West Virginia on the Morri Branch of the former Virginian's Guyandot River line. The Interstate Commerce Commission had reduced the number of hours railroad trainmen could work to 12 and the railroad management knew that coal mine run crews could not complete their runs from Elmore Yard (Mullens, WV) to the coal mines of that area and return in twelve hours. Thus the Plunkett Yard was created as a home terminal and it had to be signaled. That was when my signal saw a second life until December 2007 when NS replaced it with a modern, hooded, color light signal. Its third life has started in the spring 2008 in our yard, standing tall and proud as in years past. It doesn't feel the ground shake with passing steam locomotives. It doesn't hear the squeal of passing wheels. No trains roll past it now: Just wildlife strolls by.
* Have you ever wondered what Virginian used for signal locks? Close inspection of the few published pictures showing signals will confirm what was told me by a retired VGN signalman. The railroad used "RACO" locks on signals and the related equipment cabinets. Manufactured by Railway Appliance Company, they are sometimes they are called "case locks" or "screw locks." They were opened with a tool functioning as a socket instead of a traditional key! Another interesting feature of the VGN searchlight signal is a sight on top of the case to be used by the installer and maintainers to align the signal to the most distant visible point on the track. The goose neck pipe on the right is one of two heat vents.
Any project such as this can become reality only with the help of friends. helping with the Virginian signal are people with special skills. Ben Blevins (pictured) has vast knowledge of railroad signals, especially N&W and Virginian. Tom Marshall is, in my book, the most knowledgeable person alive today on Virginian operations in West Virginia. George Lewis is a retired signal maintainer with first the Virginian and later with the N&W. Harry Bundy started his railroad career on the original Norfolk Southern and later worked for the Norfolk & Western. Harry's contact with the Virginian started with his NS work and grew while with N&W. Each of the signal poles came from the scrap pipe racks of David Falwell's Falwell Well Drilling Company, Lynchburg, Va.
Right: On May 22, the signal pole arrived and Charlotte and I used a rented power auger to make the hole for the erection of the Virginian signal. It was a productive physical workout! The signal will go where the hole, nearly 4 feet deep, and dirt pile are. In the background are the C&O shanty from Abert, Va. and the 1925 N&W position light signal.
On June 17, 2008, grandson Felix Guevara brought his brains and brawn as he and I got the signal pole erected; not a small accomplishment for two people without heavy machinery! But by using two come-along's, two cables, and a two legged teepee-like brace, we got it up. The top is over 13 feet above ground. Pouring the concrete base is the next step.
After studying pictures of Virginian's signal finials I concluded that it appeared to be shaped like a squashed mushroom. Looking through my collection of 6000+ hub caps, I found one that looked right and it fit perfectly!
Above Right and Right: Saturday morning, June 21, saw the signal light being successfully hoisted over 13 feet to the top of the pole and placed in its bracket and most parts were reassembled. Grandson Felix helped again.
Above Right: Tuesday, June 24: After dozens of hours of work and help from my wife and grandson, it shows a red signal, "Stop and Proceed." Virginian's single light signals were used in "Automatic Blocks," meaning they were not controlled by a dispatcher. These signals were the only type on the railroad which had vertical number plates showing the milepost.
July 11: Except for some fine adjustments, a ladder and the timer to show red, yellow or green indications, the restoration of the Virginain Railway searchlight signal, known first as 421.1 for westbound trains on the mainine and later as 8.6 on the Morri Branch, is complete.
August 9: Rick Rader (left) brought a correct ladder and platform and a real finial to replace the hubcap I was using. Thank you so very much Rick!
August 13: The ladder, its old paint removed, has been sanded, primed, repainted and erected to make the Virginian signal more complete. Rick's finial sets it off!
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Chesapeake & Ohio Signal - Milepost 154.7
Standing near the original location of the C&O Watchman's Shanty shown at the top of this page, was a signal for westbound C&O trains. It functioned was an automatic block signal, just as the other two signals I have, but the C&O railroad called it an "Intermediate Signal." Therefore I have chosen to replicate the signal shown in the picture at Abert, milepost 154.7, as it appeared in late steam and early diesel years, the mid to late 1950's. Abert was west of Lynchburg, Virginia on the James River Subdivision. A retired C&O signal man told me that the location was often called "West End of GW Cabin." In this instance, "cabin" does not mean an interlocking railroad tower, but it refers to a place on the opposite shore of the James River where weekend getaway cabins had been. They were named "GW Cabins" and in earlier decades, a rope ferry would convey travelers from the C&O, across the river, to the little vacation spot. The picture was made in the early fall 1975, just a few days before I obtained the structure from the C&O and moved it from the right of way to our home.
This signal was discarded in a massive signal modernization program in West Virginia. The signal, manufactured by the Union Switch & Signal Company (US&S), model R-2, and put in service by the C&O in 1947, was originally installed on the mainline in West Virginia. I have been guided through the restoration and installation by friends Matt Crouch, Mike Mullins and Scott Greathouse who are knowledgeable of C&O signal practices. Charlie Long is a long time friend whose company is always enjoyed and treasured. Charlie eagerly supports this signal restoration project with hard work. Felix Guavara, our grandson, is a joy to be around and is a hard worker. He has helped me avoid several mistakes. Charlotte was always ready to help when I got myself into a corner. Rick Johnson, Jr. did the impossible in obtaining a ladder platform for me. Pictured on the right is the disassembled signal on July 19, 2008.
Left: Mike works on his C&O dwarf signal at his West Virginia home. Center: Matt and Scott examine a C&O signal's insides. Right: Charlie has a power auger buried four feet deep! Later in the day, Charlotte joined in the "auger fun."
Left: On Monday, July 28, Felix prepares the 16 foot pole by attaching a cable with two come-alongs. Right: The pole is being raised slowly by the come-alongs and kept from swinging sideways by 4/4's bolted together as a cradle.
August 6: In the afternoon, Charlie Long and I were making great progress; we had hoisted the bottom and top mounting brackets for the signal. We had the signal mounted to the brackets and were afraid to say too much because things were going so well. Then it happened, I fell from a ladder, landing flat on my back! Charlie says he never felt so helpless as he watched it happen and could do nothing to prevent it. The doctor confirmed that nothing was broken or fractured. He said I was lucky to have only soft tissue damage and that the discomfort should be gone in three months. Charlie, being the friend he is, returned that night and worked to make the fitting of a lens hood better. Most hood screws were broken off so we were having to drill and tap new screw holes. This is when he realized that the signal case was not made of cast iron or cast steel, but cast aluminum! I completed the wiring, largely from down on the ground. Using a test wiring harness, the three of us, Charlotte, Charlie and myself, see the sixty year old signal come alive again!
Thursday, August 7 was our victory day! With Charlie leading the charge, the vintage C&O finial is placed 12 feet above the ground, the face plates were attached along with the side braces and touch up painting was completed. The timer was installed and adjusted so that it cycles through the various indications. Then two very old brass "C&O Signal Dept." locks was attached. Using the picture at the start of this account, pictures in my personal collection and referring to past issues of the C&O Historical Society's Magazine, I found documentation for this placement of lights and number plate for my automatic block signal. Almost a year passed and the single light with background, which is more often seen on C&O in pictures was obtained. It show in the right picture below.
However, the drive for using an authentic piece has overcome my drive for complete accuracy. After trading for the original mile number panel from Gobbler's Knob signal, milepost 172.5, I decided to use it instead of the one I made for Pearch, even though it is 17.8 miles west of Pearch.
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This panel of three pictures shows the edge of our back yard with the forest.
Left - Right: VGN signal, C&O wooden phone box, C&O watchman's shanty from WWII; N&W grade crossing warning lights, N&W position light signal; C&O color light signal.
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Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Color Position Light Signal
The B&O Color Position Light signal came as a gift from Bob Stockner of Chicago. Bob grew up along N&W's Pocahontas Division mainline in West Virginia but he also has interests in B&O and C&O. Knowing of my work in signal preservation, he asked Rick Rader and Larry Evans, who were visiting him, to bring it to me. Rick lives only 60 miles away from our home and it was delivered on December 26, 2008, left picture. The picture on top left shows Bob (left) and Larry as it is about to start its journey to Virginia on December 15. Research indicates that the signal was a type U CPL, manufactured General Railway Supply Company and installed circa 1930. By having the lunar white lenses at 5 and 11 o'clock, it was a "home" signal, I understand. It stood for scores of years on the old Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (later CSX) about milepost 377, about seven miles east of Parkersburg, West Virginia at Kanawha Station, West Virginia. CSX severed the line from Grafton, West Virginia to Parkersburg, West Virginia in 1985. The last train to run over the trackage of the former Cumberland - Cincinnati - St. Louis mainline was a passenger excursion on September 1, 1985. The Grafton to Parkersburg section was known as the "Parkersburg Branch," although it certainly was not your typical branch. It was an important mainline! There is much work to be done on this fine old signal as can be seen in the picture of its back. The 42" background is cast iron and remarkably, all the glass lenses are unbroken! There some place on the background where rust has eaten though, however.
December 31, 2008 - I was given five back light covers by Eddie Mooneyham and Rick Rader for the ones I was missing.
January 5, 2009 - All of the lights are disassembled and are ready for cleaning. This includes the hoods, retaining rings, springs and glass parts. Looking at the original lamp bulbs I see that it operated on 13.5 volts and 17 watts! Also on this date I have obtained a steel pole on which to mount it.
January 10, 2009 - As I get more into the individual lights, I find many interesting details, such as this plate with the manufacturer's name from the late 1920's! I am amazed to find the original wiring was still be used! The signal was designed for the wiring to be all outside and exposed to the elements! Notice how the cloth insulated wire is badly frayed! But it worked for 60 years! I am replacing it with single, 12 gauge copper wire.
January 16, - 2009 - We have endured extreme cold temperatures for about ten days and I am suffering withdrawal. Working for a half hour at a time and dressed in many layers, I have made progress. Some of the light back covers had small holes, which I patched with Bondo. By now, everythng has been cleaned, sanded, primed and painted. Some parts have been blasted. Working in the cold for several days, I have thought of a friend who is a retired signal maintainer. He said he worked in all weather conditions; it was the nature of the job. His coldest was 14 below zero on the Virginian near Herndon, West Virginia.
January 18, 2009 - The rewiring is completed and I have started installing the glass lenses. The inner lens is colored and concave. Next is a small lens held in place by a brass spring. The outer lens is convex and it is positioned as it was when disassembled. I had to do lots of note taking when disassembling to be sure everything is placed correctly.
January 22, 2009 - The eight restored individual lights are assembled, installed and caulked. With a favorable weather forecast for the next four days, the pole is placed in its hole Charlotte and I dug weeks ago, it is trued and the concrete is poured. The night time temperatures are low but still above freezing and to be safe, I erected a tent using an old tarp. Inside, I placed a 40 watt shop light. I could feel its effectiveness!January 29, 2009 - After waiting for a week, I hung the signal and attached the hoods which was easier than I expected. Next comes attaching the conduit with wiring inside.
January 31 - The conduit is completed and painted; everything works as I ganged all the aspect wires together for a test! B&O signal historian Eric Davis has helped much with my understanding how the B&O CPL's worked. He explained how each back light cover was locked in place! Including a lock for the junction box, that is nine locks on each signal! Below: Dressed in warm work clothes, I know I look like something that just crawled out from under a rock. I am standing on my scaffold putting finishing touches on the top light. The finial was provided by friend Bobby Dudley.
As with other projects, I appreciate the help from several good friends: Bob Stockner who gave me the signal; Rick Rader, Larry Evans and Steve Smith who delivered it to Lynchburg from Chicago; Eddie Monneyham and Rick Rader for replacement light back covers; Rick Johnson, Jr. for a lens; Bobby Dudley for making the finial; my wife Charlotte for her physical labor and support. On Tuesday morning February 3, 2009 we received a light snow, perfect for pictures of the finished signal showing "Restricted Proceed." Not bad for just five weeks! But I am retired! The correct timer finally arrived from LightsToGo on Tuesday, February 24 and after some repair work, it was installed and working properly.
Signal indications used by the B&O were unique from most other railroads because of their use of the "lumar white" aspect. Left to right, the indications are:
CLEAR - RESTRICTED PROCEED - RESTRICTED - APPROACH
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VIRGINIAN RAILWAY Whistle Post
A close friend, Greg Elam (right) brought me a most unique gift, an actual whistle post from the Virginian Railway! The concrete post is nine and a half feet long and weights about 350 to 400 pounds. Railroads placed whistle posts to alert approaching engine crews of a road or highway crossing ahead so that they would start sounding the correct warning as their train reached the crossing. Some railroads had metal whistle posts but on the Virginian, they were cast in concrete. In the left picture, it is being unloaded (l-r) by grandson Felix Geuvara, Charlie Long, Greg Elam, Landon Gregory and Brian Trent.
Below: Charlie Long smiles after planting of the VGN whistle post. Charlie and I used a 2 man power auger to make the hole. I am really happy as I use a level in making the post true. It stands beside the walkway to the "Circle Garden" in the back yard.
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Virginian Railway Locomotive Classification Light
and Norfolk & Western Railway Whistle Post
(All bolts for the light and whistle post are welded in place.)
Our yard light is a steam locomotive classification light from a Virginian Railway steam engine class MC number 468, 4-6-2 wheel arrangement. The engine was in the railroad scrap line Princeton, WV November 1959 when an employee gave me permission to retrieve it. When in use, it told of the class of train being pulled by the color light it displayed. The whistle post was used by the Norfolk & Western Railway on its Durham District line from Lynchburg to Durham. It is cast iron and was a gift in 1966. When in use by the railroad, these signs were located about 200 yards prior to a road crossing with the railroad where track conditions allowed faster running and 100 yards in advance where trains would be limited to lower speed restrictions. It indicated to engine crews were to start blowing the whistle to warn traffic in the area of the road crossing. It works well for me with my name starting with a "W!"
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VIRGINIAN RAILWAY CALL BOX
All large railroads had lineside phone boxes for train crews to use to communicate with their dispatcher under certain conditions. Research indicates that Virginian probably had lineside phones as early as 1909!
On the Virginian Railway, they were called "Call Boxes" and they served additional purposes. For example, Delbert Whitlow of Kellysville, WV, located just west of the Virginia state line, tells that in his childhood, the Virginian call boxes were always left unlocked! Having no other link to the world, the call boxes were made available for the local residents to use in case of emergencies. Residents could call the railroad dispatcher who in turn would summon the needed emergency agency, be it police, fire or rescue.
A Virginian freight conductor who worked out of Mullens, West Virginia wrote a poem inside many of the call boxes he used. Ever the railroad's president saw them and once the two men met in a Mullens drug store. "Hello Shakespeare," the president said as a greeting to the man. The creative writing went as follows: "Old John Morgan, Conductor of his train. His head in the call box and his ass out in the rain."
Victoria, Virginia resident Harry McLaughlin was a Virginian passenger and freight conductor. He remembers these call boxes being at many places along the line; at each end of a passing siding and at stations. Often the operator at most stations did not work at night so a call box was the only way for a conductor to communicate with the dispatcher. Harry also tells that it was large so that a conductor could have working space to copy train orders. The phone was mounted on the left wall and had only one line, to the dispatcher and other stations in the division.
Pictured on the left is a call box near the Roanoke Scale House located at the west end of the yard in 1956. The center picture by Bob Slavy shows two former VGN men at Mataoka, WV in 1966. The right picture shows my call box before being discarded by the railroad. Notice in the two pictures of the call box in service, the front has 2/4 legs added to support the sagging front. In the color picture above, notice that I used tie plates as footings for the support 2/4 legs. I believe using them is typically Virginian!
The map below shows the location of my call box at Pineville, West Virginia, on the Virginian's Guyandot River line, milepost 12.8. The Guyandor River line reached westward from Elmore for 41.62 miles to a connection with the C&O and N&W railways at Gilbert. The line was built by the Virginian Terminal Company, a subsidiary of the railroad, and put in operation on June 13, 1933. A section gang was based at Pineville and the call box was adjacent to their tool shed for communication with the dispatcher. The branch to the Pinnacle Creek coal mine was built by N&W in 1971 and after the section gang's tool shed was no longer used, the call box was still used for train crews working the branch to use as they reached the Guyandot River line.
Judy Long of Lynchburg has a unique interest in this particular call box. Her grandfather was Wilford P. Hornbarger, who was a section gang foreman on the Virginian and worked the Guyandot River line. He is pictured below, third from left with his gang. Judy feels it is probable that he used this very call box many times during his railroad career.
Weighing about 130 pounds, it is 32 inches wide, 24 inches deep and 40 inches tall. My Virginian "Call Box" was discarded by the NS railroad in West Virginia in 2009, having survived nearly fifty years after the VGN-N&W merger! It may have been 70 years old when discarded! Restored to its appearance during Vrginian years, reinforced as needed and having an old railroad phone like those used by the Virginian reinstalled, it now stands near my Virginian searchlight signal, also from the old Virginian's New River Division in West Virginia. Retired VGN signal maintainer George Lewis described to me that not all phone boxes had the jack box, but he is certain this one from Pinevlle did. "It would have had three holes," he said, "one message line, one dispatcher's line and the third one was unused there." The third hole would have been for the power director in the electrified district. My jack box has two hole and the third is blocked by a bakerlite plug, "Just right!" he said!
I am indebted to these friends for information and pictures: Ben Blevins, Judy Long, Tom Marshall, Harry McLaughlin and Delbert Whitlow.
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VIRGINIAN RAILWAY Motor Car
Fairbanks Morse Sheffield model 41
The Fairbanks Morse-Sheffield Model 41 motor car was received by the Virginian in January 1930 at a cost of $265.00! It has an 8.5 horsepower two cylinder engine which could run on either a mixture of oil and kerosene or oil and gasoline. This model was produced from 1919 to 1936. Originally, it was open top but according to AFE records, in 1957 the railroad had the unique half front cabs installed. Virginian signalman George Lewis started on the Virginian after World War II as a signal installer and maintainer. He worked installing the railroad's signals on the Norfolk Division and in 1953 was transferred to the New River Division. He recalls that the maintainer at Matoaka, West Virginia (milepost 356.2) has this model motor car. Mr. Lewis' motor car was similar and had the same method for starting; push the car to start and jump on board quickly! When the two cylinder, direct drive engine was running, the car moved! Once he stopped at a call box to talk to the dispatcher. He thought he had turned it off but as he was talking, he heard it sputter away! He said he was much younger then and he "hot footed it" down the track and finally caught it after a two mile chase! He was scared to think what could have happened if he had not caught it!
A replica motor car shed has been being built to house this prize obtained from friend Rick Rader. The front was sanded slightly by Rick and the original VGN marking shows through. It was VGN motor car number 109. After the VGN/N&W merger on December 1, 1959, it became N&W N109, then N&W 1033 and finally NW 1031. Rick states that it was still on the NW equipment roster in 1984! After being sold as surplus by the railroad, it was owned by a collector in Ohio who housed it indoors for over twenty years. Then Rick obtained it and now it is ours. We plan to restore it to operation and enjoy riding it. According to Rick, who has owned several motor cars, there are only five more Sheffield 41's in existence. He has one of them and says the 109 is in the best original, unrestored condition of them all. We will restore its Virginian lettering.
It arrived July 20, 2009 at 6:30 pm and with four people pushing, it was unloaded from Rick's trailer and placed on the rails of the motor car shed. In the left picture, Charlotte smiles with excitement. In the right picture, I am excited too.
In the left picture, friend Garland Harper lifts the front end and Rick Rader guides the back onto the 30 pound rail of the motor car shed. The right picture shows the move completed by 6:45 pm, taking only a few minutes to unload and place on the set-off track at the shed!
A field phone manufactured by General Railway Supply and used by VGN signalmen and linemen is shown on the VGN 109 motor car. Clips were used to tap onto a communications line and the battery powered handset could be used to communicate with a dispatcher.
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VIRGINIAN Motor Car Shed
I found this picture which became my inspiration for building a 2/3 size replica motor car shed to house the motor car. I worked from Virginian company plans supplied by Tom Marshall. It was called "First Design" by the railroad. As was with the prototype, the roof is tar paper but I applied roofing tar on the marine plywood roof first. The sides are board and batten with a gravel floor.
On June 15, 2009, after the site had been cleared of an nearly dead tree, Charlotte and I broke ground by using a rented auger to make holes for the corner posts which were then set in concrete.
Work continued almost daily and the roof was completed and most of the side batten was attached by June 25. The finishing touches and second coat of paint to the structure were completed on July 1, 2009, 16 days after strting. However more work is ahead as it will need "track" and ballast to be ready for the VGN motor car. By July 13, ballast and ties are laid.
On July 15, Rick Rader brought me some 30 pound rail from a mine that once operated near the Franklin & Pitsylvania Railroad in nw Pittsylvanis County, Virginia. The set-off track of 18 feet is finished on July 17. A replica Virginian safety sign is made and hung on a door on July 27. It is seen in the top photo in this section.
Although a typical Virginian motor car shed may not have had electricity, I did bury an underground electric line in October 2009 to enable my using power tools to strip the old paint and to repaint the metal front of the motor car. The light over the front is an actual VGN light, coming from a railroad structure in Victoria, Virginia. It was made possible by Edwin Massie and Greg Elam. Edwin retired from Norfolk Southern in 2009, being the last original Virginian employee in employment. When he retired as an engineer, he ran a fast container freight train between Lynchburg and Norfolk. The number plate, 1547, represents a location on the Virginian's Norfolk Division. Historically, milepost 154.7 was at Terry, between Phenix and Cullen. Motor car 109 had been in service on the Norfolk Division.
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VGN Steam Locomotive Firebricks (4)
Arranged in a row in our fern garden, near the collection of other railroad relics, are four large boiler fire bricks discarded by the Virginian Railway shop force in Victoria, Virginia in 1959. The writing cast into it reads, "American Arch Security Company." Future research may provide more information. They are the gifts of Greg Elam and Edwin Massie, both of Victoria.
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Virginian was known for its thrifty ways, but the railroad did flirt with extravagance on a few occasions. This cast iron finial is an example, being 17 inches tall and weighing about 20 pounds. It most likely came from a pole holding a relay case at Altavista, Virginia where the railroad had a connection with the Southern Ry. It came to me from the collection of a dear friend, Kenneth "Hoppy" Hopkins, a Southern Railway Danville Division agent-operator who worked many years at the Southern depot in Altavista. He trained me as an "Agent-Operator- Leverman-Telegrapher on the Southern during the summers of my first two years in college. He were livelong friends until his death in February 2009. His daughter Cindi saw to it that I received this finial. Hoppy admired the Virginian, often saying it was "the best railroad in the country!"
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Comfortable evenings, sitting on the gazebo outside a bedroom door, are lightened by the soft colors glowing from these two Chesapeake & Ohio Railway switchstand lights. The light with green and red lenses and reflectors was located on a switchstand where a siding converged with a mainline track. The light with green and yellow lenses and reflectors was located on a switchstand where another side track or spur converged with the siding track.
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Atlantic & Danville Railroad Switchstand
Eventually reaching 205 miles between Norfolk and Danville, Virginia, the Atlantic & Danville Railroad was started in 1883 and completed in 1890. It was owned by British investors. Its freight and passenger traffic was never overwhelming to say the least and in 1899, Southern Railway leased it for fifty years. It operated independently between 1949 and 1962 when N&W bought the operation and changed its name to Norfolk, Franklin & Danville Railroad. However, the NF&D faded into the Norfolk Southern fold altogether 1n 1983. Mile by mile, unprofitable track was abandoned and removed until by the end of 2008, less than 90 miles of the original line remained. Acquired from the abandoned right of way of the old Atlantic & Danville Railroad near milepost 95, this early 1900's switchstand was saved from a scrap heap's fate. As with the other RAILROAD SCULPTURE GARDEN pieces, help was gratefully accepted from Greg Elam and Jack Hammack. It is pictured 7 days after being obtained, repaired, cleaned and installed on two crossties.
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Chesapeake & Ohio Railway
Pearch was located on the James River subdivision of the C&O Ry at milepost 161.3, 13 miles west of Lynchburg, Virginia. In the mid 1970's a C&O coal train derailed at PEARCH, dislodging this sign. The railroad cleanup crew discarded it, and gave it to me. It sits atop its original 6/6 wood post just a few yards from the C&O signal.
Pearch was originally called Pedlar's but it was changed to Pearch in the early years of the 20th century. The original name probably came from the fact of the confluence of the James and Pedlar rivers being just to the east. In its hey-day, apples and timber were shipped as well as grain mill products. In addition to the mill there was also a combination store, agent's office and telegraph office, all in one structure. In addition to the C&O railroad, Pearch was connected to the outside world by a gravel road to the east to Holmcomb Rock, running close beside the C&O right of way. From the late 1800's into the early 1900's, a cable ferry crossed the James River to Amherst County. The lumber probably was produced on the Bedford County side of the river and the grain and apples came from across the river in Amherst County.
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Chesapeake & Ohio Railway - N&W Ry.
ND Cabin Sign Replica
In 1924, C&O Ry built a two story, brick interlocking tower in Lynchburg, Virginia beside the diamond of the N&W Ry crossing. The N&W double tracked "Old Mainline" tracks were from Island yard and points east, and to Union Station and points west in the opposite direction. The C&O tracks were from Richmond to the east and Clifton Forge to the west. The 1924 brick structure replaced an old wood building, also constructed by the C&O. To both railroads, it was known as ND cabin/tower. The Southern Railway also passed nearby but it crossed the N&W a few hundred yards to the west at "X" tower and for several decades all three railroads had passenger trains using Union Station, as well as streetcars of the Lynchburg Traction & Light Company. Both ND and NC towers were replaced about 1950 by the one story "NC" tower which was located across the N&W tracks, in front of Union Station. NC controlled movements on the nearby tracks of N&W, C&O and Southern Railways.
Having an original diagram book for railroad signs published by the C&O, I was able to make an accurate replica of the ND sign which was attached to the side of the brick building. Originally, there were two signs on either side of the southwest corner, at second floor level. On the eastern side, hung a sign, "N&W Crossing" which lasted into the 21st century!
The replica sign was finished and hung March 19, 2009. The picture of ND Cabin was made in February 2009.
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New York Central Railroad Pump House Light As the old pump house built by the NYC railroad was being destroyed near Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, this outdoor light fixture was miraculously not crushed. It was rescued and is attached to the end of our replica Country Store-Texaco Gas Station. The light illuminates the portion of our yard known as our "Railroad Sculpture Garden." The pump house building drew water from the nearby Kanawha River for the NYC steam locomotives working on that coal mine branch out of Charleston, West Virginia. It is painted with green and white enamel paint and has seen many years of use.
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South River Lumber Company Brake Wheel Operating from 1916 until 1938, the South River Lumber Company had a system of three and a half foot gauge tracks stretching from a connection with the N&W's Shenandoah Division at Cornwall into three Virginia counties in the Blue Ridge Mountains; Rockbridge, Amherst and Nelson counties. Statistically, the line had five two truck Climax locomotives and hauled over 100 million board feet of logs to its saw mill at Cornwall, Virginia. The brake wheel with a bent shaft was found while hiking an eastern most section in Amherst County. The log cars that used this wheel were link and pin coupler type, very dangerous for the railroad workers.
Pictured with a steam loader and log a car is Climax number Three, built in 1906 for a logging operation in Pennsylvania. It came to South River when it started in 1916 and after the line closed in 1938, it was sold in 1941 to the Wm. Ritter Lumber Company, Maben, West Virginia.
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Norfolk & Western Ry. Phone Box
The steel Norfolk & Western phone box was probably used by the railroad at the north end of the passing track at Sargents, Ohio in the railroad's Columbus, Ohio district of the Scioto Division. I believe the box came from that location because the box has the number "20" on each side and that would be about the correct milepost for Sargents. The milepost numbers start at Portsmouth and go to Columbus, mp 98.20. Inside the door, there is a card holder for the ring codes of frequently used locations. There was no card in it when I received it but some names were faintly visible from being penciled on the sliver paint: Lucasville, Waverly, Renick and Chllicothe. The phone had two different lines, one for the dispatcher and one called a "message line" for local area conversations of company matters of course. A crank ringer was used to call the desired location. For example, Lucasville was one short, one long and one short. Based on the last battery inspection date of Dec. 12, 1985 on a tag inside, it must have been taken out of service about 1986. It is pictured, above left, with restoration and installation in our relic garden compete. On the left top of the wood post is an insulator which secured the communication wire and the phone box door is locked with a vintage brass N&W lock. * The small above ground junction box seen to the right of the phone box has a build date stamped inside of 1902 and it came from the old C&O near Lewis Tunnel, Virginia.
If you would like to visit, please contact us.
On Saturday, August 9, 2008, the Blue Ridge Chapter (Lynchburg) of the NRHS held its annual RAIL DAY. 2008 marked its 30th year! As part of the afternoon tour which featured some fine home model railroads, we welcomed visitors to enjoy our outdoor junk collection. Over two dozen guests from across Virginia and West Virginia signed our guest book.
Below left: Friends with a special interest in signals visited and they are standing and kneeling to my right. l-r: Aubrey, Rick Rader, Larry Evans, Landon Gregory, Percy Wilkins, Steve Smith, Eddie Mooneyham with Jeff Shelton kneeling. On the right, NS engineer Percy Wilkins went back in time at seeing the whistle post from Danieltown on the Virginian. After the VGN/N&W merger, as an N&W Norfolk Division engineer, Percy said he blew for that road crossing!
Above left: Brad Dobbins and Tom Harris are amazed at the size of the N&W PL-1 signal. They said they had never seen one up close before. Above right: Some of our visitors enjoyed Charlotte's cookies and lemonade as they rested in our "Country Store-Texaco Gas Station" and recalled their younger days.
~ ~ Aubrey's 65th Birthday Party in 2008 ~ ~
The setting for my birthday party as I passed the big 65th milepost was a natural, the backyard. A few dozen close friends came for a morning brunch and activities planned and carried out by my wife Charlotte, daughter Amy and grandson Felix.
~ ~ ~ Lynchburg Rail Day Aug 8, 2009 ~ ~ ~
Below are pictures of friends who visited our home for the afternoon.
LEFT:Carol and son Martin Moorefield of Altavista, VA are at the VGN motor car while 3 friends from Charlottesville stand on the far side. RIGHT: Aubrey describes the operation of the B&O CPL signal to Marsha and Patrcik Cooper.
Matt Crouch took this picture of part of our garden. Charlotte is talking with Chris Crouch and Aubrey is listening to Rick Johnson, Jr.
LEFT: Tom Clay of Huntington, WV and Brian Trent of Brookneal, VA soak in the features of the 1921 motor car. RIGHT: Bob Leslie and Aubrey talk about the signals.
At the country store, Tom Clay, Brian Trent, Robin and her Mom, Frances Kennedy, Bradley, Marsha and Patrick Cooper chat.
Visiting the model railroad based on the VGN, C&O and N&W railroads in August 1954 are (L-R): Matt Crouch of Charleston, WV and Elizabeth and Lloyd Lipscomb of Lynchbugr, VA.
Doing what comes naturally in the "garden" are (L-R): Dolly Payne, Lloyd and Elizabeth Lipscomb of Lynchburg, Tom Clay of Huntington, WV and Richard Ayres of Goode, VA.
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October 9, 2009 - Bobby and Judy Wade came for their first visit. Bobby's interest in our railroad relic garden is unique, especially for the C&O Watch Box from Abert. Bobby grew up along the C&O at Abert; his father and grandfather worked in this actual C&O Watch Box! Bobby said he was taken back many years to his youth as he sat inside the small structure and recalled the furnishings. The coal stove was different when he played there as a youngster and missing now are a few wood boxes that were nested out of the way when not arranged together making a cot of sorts. The placement of the phone box was correct, he said, but a small wooden coal bunker was beside the shanty at its original location. Two lanterns are in Abert as they were when it was in operation, he noticed; one with a clear globe for illumination and another with a red globe to stop an approaching train in case of an emergency. Bobby said the Watch Boxes were placed five to six miles apart and that the watchmen walked both east and west to inspect the track and to meet the neighboring watchmen. The watchman to the east came from Reusens while the watchman from the west came from Holcomb Rock. The railroad had three houses for sectionmen at Abert, two close to the tracks and a third up a hallow. Other buildings at Abert included a store with a post office and a few private homes and farms at Abert. Abert was at the west end of a passing track and a spur track, or house track, was on the south side of the tracks. There was not a station but passengers could wait for one of the four passenger trains in a three sided shelter, which was common along the C&O at such rural locations. Bobby described how timber was cut on the hills behind the community and a sawmill made the lumber, which was shipped out on the C&O. An apple orchard also shipped from Abert. He remembers watching trains of troop cars in World War II passing slowly and soldiers pushing off cases of canned vegetables and processed meat for them.
Our meeting resulted from his wife Judy searching the Internet for genealogical information and our making contact. How fortunate!
October 10, 2009 - Three friends from Huntington, West Virginia came. Pictured are Ernie Clay, John Rakes and Tom Clay with Aubrey in front of the C&O Watch Box. The three came to the Lynchburg area to examine another Watch Box that Tom will be obtaining.
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In November 2009, a talented young videographer, Martin Moorefield started filming segments which he will pull together into a nice video presenting our Railroad Relic Sculpture Garden as a virtual tour for the Internet and a DVD.
~ ~ ~ Changing Seasons ~ ~ ~
Fall Colors in October 2008 -
A light snow on December 6, 2008 -
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An ice and snow storm in late January 2009 enhances the Virginian signal and A&D switchstand-
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Spring 2009 is illustrated by this picture made April 24th showing wild butter cups and grape hyacinth blooms in the foreground and Dogwood and Redbud trees blooming in the woods behind.
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Morning Fog, 6:45 am, Sunday, November 15, 2009 -
During the 15 minutes I was making these pictures, I could see that the fog was burning off quickly.
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