VIRGINIAN RAILWAY PEOPLE

Former Employees of the VIRGINIAN RAILWAY

Compiled by Aubrey Wiley -VgnRy43@aol.com 

To protect the integrity and privacy of those people listed below, all material, data and pictures are copyrighted Aubrey Wiley 2007. Request permission to use this material.

~  ~  ~  Last updated Februray 10, 2008  ~  ~  ~


 

          In short, the Virginian Railway was created to transport high quality  'smokeless" bituminous coal from southern West Virginia to sea at Norfolk, Virginia.   Throughout its profitable fifty year history, the Virginian continued the William Page - H. H. Rogers philosophy of "paying up front for the best". It achieved the most efficient routes through the mountains, in the rolling piedmont, and across the flat tidewater terrain. Known for operating the largest and best steam, electric, and diesel locomotives, it became nicknamed the "Richest Little Railroad in the World."  When merged with the Norfolk & Western railroad in December 1959, it had an operating ratio of 56.1%!  That means for every fifty six cents spent by the railroad, it earned a dollar!  No wonder N&W wanted it!  There’s more!  The Virginian owned 56 electric locomotives, 64 diesel electric locomotives and over 17,000 freight cars. A large portion of the former Virginian trackage remains in service in the 21st century for the Norfolk Southern Railway. 

        But what makes the Virginian a railroad with meaning is its character!    In later years, the people who made up the railroad carried on the dreams of the founders and thereby they unknowingly created and maintained its character!  The magnificent machines that traveled the line were extensions of the employees; they were the vehicles; they were the tools of the people who made the Virginian so unique.  The Virginian was a first class operation; a first class railroad supported by first class people, people with devotion and character!  For many, even though its name is no longer on the sides of the trains as they pass by, that is why this little railroad survives.                                                                                                   - Aubrey Wiley, 2007

I have been helped greatly with this project by several people who have generously provided pictures and information. They include: Tom Marshall of Mullens, West Virginia; Greg Elam of Victoria, Virginia; and Jim Blackstock (NWHS), Harry Bundy, Ernie Hubble and Skip Salmon, all of Roanoke, Va. 

If you have a family member or friend,  living or not,  who worked on the Virginian Railway, please share that information! Contact the email address  at the bottom of this web page to start the process. It is easy!  Please be aware that material submitted may be edited. If you mail material and want it returned, include a self addressed envelope with postage. Please do not send photocopies of pictures. I need the originals or send them  through  email as an attachment.

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After the announcement of the pending Virginian Railway and Norfolk & Western Railway merger on December 1, 1959, the N&W Employee Magazine published some pictures of Virginian people, as a welcome gesture one could assume.        Picture used with permission of Norfolk Southern

Several decades have passed since the Virginian name was lost but the spirit of the Virginian People still exists as shown in reunion pictures interspersed along this page.   In the 1959 picture above , we recognize Tom "Cornbread" Victory standing in the back row, fifth from left end.  In this picture made by Tom Marshall in the fall of 2006, "Cornbread" is seen trying to calm two fellow VGN men, "Ruf"  Wingfield on the left and Jim Arrington on the right. The location is Princeton, WV.

   

 Left: Jim Arrington - New River Division. Jim worked Elmore and all over the New River Division, first as a Brakeman and later as a Conductor.                                                           Right: Frank Breedlove - Norfolk Division. Frank worked in Roanoke Yard as a Brakeman, starting in 1955 and later he became a Conductor.

   

Left:  Grover Austin - Norfolk Division Clerk.                 Right: Staley Butler Brinkley, Sr. - Norfolk Division. Staley started on the Virginian at Victoria in 1916 as an extra road and wreck train brakeman. In October, 1916, he helped clean up the wreck at MP 141 of Buffalo Bill's train and was photographed with the famed showman. In 1924, he returned to his first railroad employer, the ACL. In 1939, he returned to the VGN in Norfolk as a Terminal Trainmaster. From 1947 to his retirement December 1, 1959, he worked as: Asst. General Yardmaster, Elmore Yard; General Yardmaster, Elmore Yard; Terminal Trainmaster Roanoke Yard; and Assistant General Yardmaster and later General Yardmaster, Roanoke Yard. He is pictured with an unidentified man on the steps of a passenger car in Victoria about 1920.

Morley F. Baker - New River Division. Born in Canada, Morley came to the USA to work for the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad from 1913 to 1922, when he moved south, working for the AB&C(later ACL). After a year, Morley came to the Virginian and qualified as a road engineer on December 12, 1923. Family tradition has it that he ran the 800's as pushers over Clark's Gap as well as out of Page. He retired in 1942.

 

   

In this 1947 picture, we see a Virginian section gang waiting near Herndon, WV for the freight ahead to move so they can return to their tool house about a half mile away. Calvin W. ("Hoppy") Belcher is sitting at the near end of the motor car with his left hand up to his face. (Hoppy's daughter, Carolyn, supplied this picture.) Two of the other men are: Wes Farmer-left; and Doyle Davis -second from right. The others are: "The Boss" Ernest Stowers, Raymond Miller, Ray Davis, Arlie McKinney and Russell Mills.

 

 Right: Cliff Cawley - New River Division.  Cliff was the "power man" at the railroad's power plant at Narrows, Virginia, starting in 1951. He continued there until the N&W closed the plant and electric locomotive operation June 30, 1962. Cliff stayed on with the  N&W, working in Roanoke, and when he retired, he had a combined 38 years with the two railroads.Left: R. S. "Bob" Cawley - New River Division Freight Conductor. He worked on the VGN in two stints; 1911 to 1941 and 1942 into the mid 1950s.  In his second stint, he worked on Hill Runs from Elmore Yard and in his picture, he stands beside his caboose, the "43."  

    

 Left: Curwood Clark - Norfolk Division. AS a youngester, Curwood hired on as a "station hand" at Altavista in June 1942 doing odd jobs and handling LCL freight. After enlisting in the Army, he returned in 1945 as agent-operator at Altavista. He retired in March 1988.                                                                     Right: William Z. Clark - New River Division. William was general yardmaster at Elmore.

 

Right: At first glance, we could dismiss this picture as non-Virginian but after a moment's thought, the 516 was indeed a VGN engine, a class AC, 2-6-6-0, built in 1910 by Baldwin. Si Coleman was the agent at Slab Fork, WV but he is obviously posing with an oil can in her cab at Slab Fork. The 516 was cut up in 1933.   

 

 

 

Left: Jimmy Davidson -  New River Division. Jimmy started his VGN career as a road fireman in 1040 and qualified as engineer on Nov. 15, 1947.

Right: Bobby C. Dudley - Norfolk Division. Bobby's childhood home was at Seneca, Va. and he played around the coaling facilities as a kid, riding the passenger trains almost at will. He hired on the Virginian against his father's wishes in 1956 as a carpenter for the VGN at Sewells Point with the help of a neighbor. After a little more than a year, he moved to "greener pastures," the Southern Ry. in Lynchburg, Va.

 

Left: James Dunlap - New River Division. Jim started on the  Virginian prior to 1916 working in the backshop at Princeton. He became Roundhouse Foreman at Elmore in 1923 and qualified as yard engineer at Elmore later the same year.  Right: Right: Jack S. Dunlap - New River Division. Jack started his career painting the New River trestle at Glen Lynn in 1944. He made yard fireman at Elmore in 1947 and became yard engineer there Nov. 11, 1951.

 

 

 

Left: Bill Euchler - New River.  Bill spent his entire railroad career slinging lightening on the VGN! He worked as agent operator over the entire New  River Division and its branches and is shown working at Celco 1959. On December 31, 1954, it fell to Bill to OS the last run of passenger train 4 when the service was ending between Roanoke and Page. He is pictured in the Roanoke Times  newspaper erasing the train board at Ellett, Va.

 

Left:  George Raymond East -  Norfolk Division. Raymond's railroad career started in Victoria on the extra board as a road fireman in 1951. Not getting much work, he moved to Roanoke and began to fire in the yard in 1955, becoming road and yard engineer in 1957.  Raymond's career spanned 36 years!  

Right:   Cecil "Mopie" Edwards - "Mopie" started at the VGN Roundhouse in Roanoke as an Apprentice Machinist in December 1947.  He served his apprenticeship on steam engines at Roanoke and then when the FM diesels came in 1954 and 1955, he "learned as they came in."  After the N&W merger in 1959, Mopie went to Roanoke Shops as a machinist and retired from Norfolk Southern July 1, 1992 with 45 years service. The banjo is still an important part of his life, playing with the Blue Grass Inspirations band in 2008.  

                                        

 

     Left:  Marshall C. "Motorcar" Foor - Norfolk Division Road Fireman and Engineer. Foor was the sole cab survivor of the Hardy wreck 12-31-33.  As the west bound train rounded a curve west of the Hardy tunnel, the track was blocked by a large boulder.    Foor  held the record of the fastest time from Roanoke to Victoria on a coal drag for some time.   When the 1959 N&W merger took place, Foor was number five on the VGN road engineer seniority list, having started work on Nov.8, 1923 and number one on the road fireman list.    Use the link for "The Virginian Railway Augmented"  http://vrymp141.googlepages.com/virginianrailwayaugmented and select "Wreck of Extra 472" for more details on this wreck.  http://vrymp141.googlepages.com/wreckofextra472onnewyear'seve1933

Left: Harry G. Foster - New River Division. Harry's hire date is unknown but he was Roundhouse Foreman at Elmore before becoming a road engineer on Armistice Day 1923. He is pictured at Oak Hill, circa 1935. Right: Billy Goad - New River Division. In Billy's career on the VGN, he was always in engine service. He became a yard fireman in 1950. 

 Left: Jean Gay - Norfolk Division. Jean started on the Virginian in 1950 and she has many interesting stories to tell!  She was a stenographer in the Division Superintendant's Office in the Victoria station, with her office on the second floor. She describes her working conditions, "Women had to wear hose and dresses all the time. There was a 'Lady's Room' but it was on the first floor and we weren't allowed to go except during our half hour lunch time. We couldn't talk to each other nor the men except for official business!"              Right: Lewis Green - Starting his railroad career with the Virginian in 1951 working on a bridge gang based in Roanoke, Lewis Green carried out a variety of interesting assignments. Among them were jobs during the railroad's transition from steam to diesel power.  He worked to dismantle redwood water tanks and construct diesel fuel facilities, as well as the usual bridge and buildings work. In 1989 retired from NS as an engineer with 37-1/2 years.

 

Left: Lynwood Glen - Norfolk Division Fireman. Lynwood became a Roanoke Yard fireman in 1956.                                         Right: Landon "Speedy" Gregory - Norfolk Division Operator. Speedy  hired on as an operator in June 1956. In 1967, after the N&W merger, he qualified as dispatcher at Crewe.  Soon he became Night Relief Chief Dispatcher, then Chief Dispatcher for the Norfolk Division in 1982. Next he moved to Roanoke and became the Virginia Division  Chief Dispatcher in 1989.  In 1993, Speedy retired from that position after working for 37 years!

  

Left: Walter A. Grigg - Master Mechanic and Superintendent of Motive Power. Walter started his career at Mullens in 1939 and after WWII he became Electrical Foreman, based in Mullens. After the N&W merger, he was Electrical Engineer and later Master Mechanic, Norfolk Division.                                                                  Right: Hardy Harmon - Norfolk Division. Hardy worked his VGN career in the Victoria yard as a brakeman.  

 

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Every Wednesday evening, former Virginian men gather at Country Cooking restaurant in Roanoke for what they call, "Takin' Twenty,"  which is VGN lingo for a meal break. This picture was made by Virginian historian Skip Salmon, who didn't start his railroad career until after the VGN/VGN merger in 1959.  The picture shows the men attending the gathering on July 21, 2004. Sadly, some of those shown have passed on. 

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This mid 1950s picture was made by noted Virginian historian Harry Bundy. It conveys the feeling of everyday railroading very well. Virginian's main line passenger trains were usually three cars long, two being coaches. Standing on the closed stair platform on the right is Conductor J. C. Meador, the conductor on the last run of train number 3 from Victoria into Roanoke on January 29, 1956. On the left is Trainman Ed Daniel.  On December 2, 1957, working freight service, Daniel was the flagman on time freight number 72 the night the trestle collapsed under the train at Cub Creek near Phenix, Virginia.  
 

                                                                                                                                                                   Left: Edgar B. Goad - New River Division. Making his home at Mullens, E.B. qualified as a Yard Fireman  in 1950 and then Engineer in August 1947. He is pictured in the cab of switcher 249, which was acquired second hand from the C&O in September 1950.  Right: E. Mike Hart - Norfolk Division. Hart was a road engineer who ran out of Victoria,  mainly east to Norfolk.  He qualified as road engineer on Jan. 26, 1948.   

 

 Left: Ben Hancock - Norfolk Division.  Ben worked at Roanoke yard as a Clerk and later the Yardmaster.   Right: Earnest "Toby" Hobson - New River Division. Toby was a High Tension Lineman, working out of Salem. In vintage pictures of scenes around the Salem station, Toby's company truck is often seen.

 

   Left: Robert E. "Abner" Glass - Norfolk Division - Abner started his railroad career in Feb. 1944 as a messenger then a call boy in Roanoke.  Later he moved to Norfolk and worked as clerk, checker and weigh master at Sewells Point. He continued working after the N&W merger, retiring in 1989 after 45 yeras service!                       Right: Standing on the left side, Henry Raine "Captain Red" Harvey  was born in the 19th century in Keysville, Va and when old enough started work for the N&W, he hired on the Virginian and qualified as a conductor September 1909!  On December 31, 1954 he made the last run of a passenger train west from Roanoke to the state line. He retired prior to the N&W merger.  The other men in the picture are not identified. 

 

Left: Dewey Houch - Dewey started with the Virginian in Mullens as a chain man on May 17, 1956. The territory of his gang stretched from Deepwater to Sewells Point, incluidng all branches in between. He surveyed everything from mine sights  to taking soundings at Sewells Point.  After the N&W merger, he worked out of Bluefield on the Pocahontas Division.  He was promoted to Labor and Material Analyst and then to Assistant Manager Material in Roanoke, General Supervisor Roadway Material Yard and in 1985, under NS, he was transferred to Atlanta as Assistant Manager Material.  Dewey retired from NS in 1990 with 34 years service.

 

Left: Ernest J. "Red" Hubble - Norfolk Division. He hired on in Victoria after WWII as a machinist. Before the N&W merger in 1959, Red had worked also in Roanoke, Sewell's Point and back to Roanoke. After the merger, he continued to work in Roanoke and then in Mullens. At his untimely death in 1966, he was planned to be the Roundhouse Foreman at Shaffer's Crossing, Roanoke.                   Right:  John Ransom Hubble - Norfolk Division. Hubble and his bride moved to Victoria in 1909 where he worked in the Victoria roundhouse until his death in April 1959.

 

Left: John Rufus Hubble - Norfolk Division. A brother of Red Hubble, John worked as a machinist in Victoria for many years. Around the community he was known as an inventor and handyman, even teaching mechanics at the local community college, having only a third grade school education himself.                                Right: Ralph E. Hubble - Norfolk Division. Also a brother of Red Hubble, Ralph worked his entire Virginian career as a machinist in Victoria and Roanoke.

  

Ronald "Scotty" Hunter - New River Division. Scotty started his VGN career in Elmore Yard in August 1945 where he worked as a hostler, operating all types of the steam locomotives assigned to Elmore.  He is an avid HO modeler and VGN historian.  Scotty says that "You've never lived until you've slept in a tender's coal bunker."

 

Left: George Russell "Slick" Inge - New River Division Brakeman, Freight Conductor, Asst. Trainmaster, Norfolk Division Trainmaster.  He is pictured with his father's passenger brakeman's hat. As a youngster, Slick worked at the Sands & Company commissary in Elmore, just so he could be around railroad men!  Slick hired on the Virginian in 1939, retiring from N&W in 1976.  It was Slick, who as Trainmaster, ordered the addition of ten loads of coal to time freight 72 on Dec. 1, 1957. After midnight at Phenix, Virginia the train derailed and 38 cars fell from the trestle, destroying much of the trestle. The added coal hoppers spaced the caboose further back in the train and it did not fall!   Right: Jack King - New River Division. Jack worked the Car Distributor for Virginian in the Superintendent's Office at Princeton.  In the years after  the N&W merger, Jack  became the Assistant Superintendent of the Pocahontas Division. 

  

Left: C. D. Johnson - Norfolk Division. C.D. started his VGN career as a "station helper" at Alatvista in February 1947.  He worked his way to agent-operator, working at various stations, primarily between Victoria and Roanoke. In the years following the N&W merger, jobs were cut out and he retired in 1965 as a call boy at Crewe.              Right: K. T. Jones - Norfolk Division - Victoria. Jones began his career on the Virginian as a brakeman in 1956.    

 

Left: Richard Kerr - Norfolk Division Leaving his home in Altavista, Virginia, Richard realized his dream to work on the railroad in 1943 when he was hired as a fireman trainee in Victoria. He soon qualified as a fireman and then road engineer in 1952. During his career, he mainly ran the west end of the Norfolk Division, retiring from N&W in 1978. Right: Richard Kirby - Norfolk Division.  Richard had a unique connection with the railroad, an insurance agent, working 1953-1965. His wife worked as secretary for the Master Mechanic (Grigg) in Victoria.  

 

Left: Ryland Marston - Norfolk Division. Ryland hired on the Virginian as a road brakeman May 11, 1957, running between Sewells Point and Roanoke. He became a road conductor and after the N&W merger he made engineer, retiring in 2000. Ryland MC's the annual Virginian Employee Reunions in Victoria on the last Saturday of October each year.Right: George M. "Rusty" Mann - New River Division. In 1948, Rusty started work on the Virginian as a clerk at Elmore.Later he worked as a call boy and in a section gang. He was in the US military from 1951-1953, returning to the Virginian in the signal and telegraph service. He soon became furloughed by the Virginian so in 1955, he hired on the N&W as a brakeman. Later he qualified as an N&W  conductor and retired with 40 years service in 1990.

  

Left: J. Garland "Mokie" Morton -  Norfolk Division. Mokie worked out of Victoria on the road as a brakeman and later conductor, serving with VGN, N&W and fianlly the NS. Mokie's VGN caboose, the 307, is restored and in Mullens, WV.  He hired on the railroad in 1937.                                                                      Right: Wannie Everett Marshall - New River Division Brakeman for approximately two years until his death at age 19 about 1911. 

  

Left: Thomas Ray Marshall - New River Division Brakeman and Conductor.  Marshall started on VGN in 1947 and worked through 1977 when he started a career with the Federal Railway Administration which continued into the early 1990s. Known on the railroad as "T. R." he is pictured working Slab Fork by an N&W photographer in 1960.                                             Right: Wannie Everett Marshall, Jr. - New River Division Wannie worked as a sectionman at Surveyor, W.Va. in the 1930s.

 

Left: Berkley "Red" Mills: Red's career with the Virginian started with his being appointed General Agent at Beckley in 1937.  In a year he become an Assistant Trainmaster and soon a Trainmaster on the New River Division.  In 1941, Red became Superintendent of the Norfolk Div. and later took the same position on the New River Div. in 1943.  Assistant General Manager was the next level of management for Red, which he obtained in 1953. In Sept.1959, he was named Acting General Manager for the railroad, a position he held until the merger with N&W.                   Right: Phil Milligan - Norfolk Division. Phil qualified as a brakeman in Feb. 1946 and conductor in Dec. 1956.  He continued to work on the railroad after the N&W merger, retiring in 1983.     

 

 Left: Russell R. McDaniel - Norfolk Division. Russell started with the Virginian in 1948 becoming  assistant engineer, assistant roundhouse foreman and then Victoria Master Mechanic in January 1957.  After the N&W merger, he became master mechanic Norfolk Division and was later named to the same position in the Pocahontas Division.                                                                                     Right: Harry E. McLaughlin - Norfolk Division.  Also known as "Harrymac,"  he started work as a brakeman in 1945. Harrymac was a passenger conductor to the end,  January 29, 1956.

W. C. "Sarge" McGhee - Sarge started his Virginian career in 1947 in Roanoke , then moving to Norfolk in Bridge Service. He qualified as yard fireman in the same year, 1947, becoming yard engineer in 1951 working at Elmore - Mullens.  Sarge retired in Mullens in 1984 with 37 years service but he has maintained  his connection with the VGN by painting several murals of Virginian scenes on the sides of Mullens, WV buildings, drawing newspaper cartoons, crafting railroad models, writing and telling  railroad stories.

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  On the last Saturday in October (and at other selected times) Virginian men and women gather in Victoria to swap memories and have lunch together. Often outsiders attend, such as fans from "The Friends of the Virginian."  Leading this following of retired people in the Victoria area is Greg Elam, who has also lead the work to create the town's "Rail Park."  The anchor for the park is the restored caboose 342, shown below during the April 2007 Friends of the Virginian Road Trip on Saturday. Use this link for more coverage of that weekend. http://vgnry43.googlepages.com/friendsofvirginianrailwayatmilepost2007-2

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  Left: Ken G. McLain - Norfolk Division clerk at Sewell's Point. He left the railroad when the merger with N&W took place in 1959 but he still had put in 15 years!   Right: R. P. "Bob" Rowland - Norfolk Division clerk in Roanoke yard. Bob staretd his VGN career in December 1949 and before working as a clerk, he was also a crew caller.

 

George Russell Poole - Norfolk Division.  Poole lived in and worked out of Victoria, qualifying as a road fireman in 1925 and as an engineer in 1941. His career spanned the switch from steam to diesel locomotives as shown in these two pictures. In left picture Poole (right) is standing with an unidentified fireman by their engine, BA class 506. In the right picture, Poole is at the controls of a Fairbanks Morse H 16-44 diesel. He retired in 1957.

 

Left:  Lee Phenix (Pennix) - Norfolk Division worked at Sewells Point.                                                                   Right: W. Marshall "Dirty Face" Snead, Jr. - Norfolk Division. Snead came to the railroad known as "Junior."   A conductor hung another nickname on him, "Dirty Face."  Dirty Face started as a brakeman on the Norfolk Division in  Victoria in1951 and became road conductor in  1956.

 

Left: Clarence Robertson - New River Division. Clarence worked almost all of his railroad career at the Narrows Power Plant, about milepost 317. Hiring on as a laborer on November 1, 1948, he went on to be an oiler, pump man and power plant fireman until after the merger, when the N&W ended electric locomotive operation in June 1962. He continued working other jobs for the N&W until the spring of 1965 when he accepetd a "buy out" offered by N&W.    Right: Felix Price - Felix started his career on the Virginian on May 21, 1949 as a Laborer in the Power Plant in Narrows. Later he worked there as a Turbine Operator, relief Power House Director and in the Electric Gang. In 1962 when the wires came down and the Power Plant was shut down, he went to N&W's Roanoke Shops, working in the Engine Gang and Line Gang. After working for 36 years, he retired in November 1985.

 

Left: J. H. Smith - Norfolk Division.  Jimmy started work on the Virginian as a road fireman Dec. 11, 1951, making road engineer in 1957. Work became slow in the early 1960's so he picked up work on the Atlantic & Danville railroad for a few years. Jimmy retired from the VGN/N&W after 35 years of service.                                              Right: Keith Sowder - Norfolk Division clerk. Keith started on the Virginian in October 1950 as a Car Checker at Sewells Point.

 

 Leftt: Wis Sowder -  Norfolk Division clerk.  Wes followed his brother to the Virginian in March 1951 and worked in Roanoke,  putting in 36 years                                       Right: Tom Spradlin started his railroad career on the Deepwater Railroad about 1906. He must have been one of the orginal "hires!"  In 1907, his railroad became the Virginian and in 1913, he became a brakeman.  Eventually he became a conductor, working out of Elmore. This picture is thought to be from about 1915. 

 

Both Flora and Raymond Smith of Victoria were in the Virginian family, but Raymond was the only one on the company payroll.  In her kitchen,Flora fed  just about every railroad man who happened to Victoria.  As you will read at the bottom of this page, railroad workers spent a lot of off duty time away from home. Their neighbors were railroad men too, R. R. McDaniel and Lemonhead Smithson lived across the street. Raymond spent his VGN years in the Victoria shops, keeping the locomotives in good repair.

 

 Left: Bill Turner - Norfolk Division.  Bill came to the Virginian after a stint with a foreign line, the N&W! Starting in October 1950 he worked on the "W" in a M of W group. With the outbreak of the Korean War he enlisted. When he returend in August 1957, he had been furloughed by the N&W so he went to VGN Roanoke yard and was hired as a brakeman. He retired from Norfolk Southern in December 1991 as a conductor. His favorite VGN memory was when VGN President D. C. King came to one of his Safety Meetings to give an "on target" speech on Safety.

  

 Left: H. E. "Governor" Tyler - Norfolk Division clerk. Governor started work at Roanoke Yard in April 1947.                        Right: Tom "Cornbread" Victory - Norfolk Division. Cornbread started as yard brakeman and then became conductor at Roanoke Yard. He worked for the combined railroads (VGN-N&W) for 39 years!

 

At the annual Virginian Reunion at Victoria, Oct., 2007, many stories are retold and memories refreshed. Here (L-R) we see Sonny Gallian who started at Victoria as a call boy and became a yard fireman in December 1951, Mokie Morton was a freight conductor and Harry MacLaughlin was a passenger conductor.

 

  Left: Clyde Weatherly - Norfolk Division. Clyde hired on as an Operator and worked many years at JK Tower in Roanoke.  He is credited with preventing several wrecks. Clyde was the last railroad man to see the engine crew of extra 800 east alive on April 1, 1941. Less than 15 miles east, the boiler of 800 exploded, killed the entire engine crew!                                                              Right: Jimmy Whittaker - Norfolk Division clerk. Jimmy started his railroad career by working as a call boy in Roanoke in 1951. He then became clerk and at times was called to be a fireman on one of the electrics!  Jimmy describes how he once "fired" on an EL-2b (streamliner electric) from Roanoke to Elmore and all he did was trun on the windshirld wiper!  A few years after the merger, he transfered to the N&W General Office building. When he retired, he had worked 44 years for the VGN and N&W.

 

Left: Ruffus "Ruf" Wingfield - Norfolk Division.   Ruf  started on the Virginian in 1944 as a call boy in Roanoke. Encouraged in 1949 by his boss to move up the ladder, he bid for and was successful in winning a clerk's job in Norfolk. During the period of the Korean Conflict, he served in the military, but when he returned he worked various extra jobs on the Norfolk Division. In 1956 he became an extra clerk at Roanoke Yard where he was when the N&W merger took place in 1959. When Ruf retired after 44 years in 1988, he was Yardmaster at the old VGN yard in Roanoke. Ruf summarizes his career by saying that when he retired in 1988, he was making in one hour, what his wage was for a month when he started in 1944!    Right: Tommy Wright - Norfolk Division. Tommy worked as a Road Conductor for the runs east and west from Victoria. He is shown in 2005 swinging on board the restored caboose 342, on display in Victoria through the efforts of Greg Elam. 

 

 Left: Tom Williamson - Norfolk Division. On January 5, 1944 Tom started on the Virginian as a road brakeman. On February 14, 1955, he qualified as a road conductor. In 1988 he retired with 44 years of service to VGN and N&W.

 

Left: Greely Wyatt  - New River Division.  Greely was the Electrical Foreman at Mullens and known on the line as the "geru" for the road's electric locomotives and later the Fairbanks Morse diesels.                                          Right: Floyd Montgomery Whitlow - New River Division.  Although Floyd started work on the Virginian early, in 1908, he had already worked for the N&W a few years. At about 24 years age, Floyd started as a track laborer at Kellysville and continued his career with section gangs in that area until his retirement in 1947. After that retirement, he became a mail carrier at Kellysville for a time, and daily when 3 and 4 arrived with mail, he carted  mail between the post office and the trains in a wheel barrow.

 

Section Gang                                             Harper, WV is at milepost 400.6 on the Virginian but just west of Beckley on state highway maps. This undated picture, from the collections of Tom Marshall and Jack Feller, shows the men of a section gang all cleaned up for their picture at Harper.

     Terminals Away From Home

Understanding terminals for road crews can be complicated.  On Virginian's eastern division, the Norfolk Division, road engine and train crews were based in Victoria, midway between Norfolk and Roanoke. In VGN days, the railroad did not provide housing at away-from-home terminals, such as Norfolk and Roanoke. When away from home the train crews most often stayed in their caboose, since it was assigned to their conductor. Cabooses for crews not on duty were placed in caboose tracks at yards and often, some of the crew members actually lived in them! However, some men took rooms in private homes. After the merger with N&W in December 1959, N&W provided away from home housing in Roanoke and Norfolk. Tom Marshall describes of hearing of a preacher at Mullens, discouraging railroad men of his congregation from staying in the Roanoke railroad hotel because it also had a bar. Few men followed the preacher's admonition!  Mokie Morton laid out the following tale to Skip Salmon, "He said that after the merger, one of his first trips was to Roanoke and he had to 'lay over.'  They took him to the Crystal Towers (nee Ponce de Leon Hotel) here in Roanoke.  He could not believe the accommodations!  He said 'They even had clean sheets and everything.'  He was used to staying on his caboose or in a 'beanery' where 'one man would get out of a bunk and you would get right in."  Harry Bundy relates a conversation he had many years ago with G. Corning of Victoria: "G. Corning told me about one of VGN's home-away-from-home arrangements. At one time crews on the passenger trains went off duty at Terminal Station at Norfolk.  Apparently, this is when VGN had their locomotives serviced at Carolina Yard (and probably the cars were serviced at the coach yard at the terminal).  VGN crews were put up at a hotel on East Main Street.  Norfolk is a navy town and East Main Street is where the 'tars' went to the burlesque, the tatto parlor, and hotels that rented by the hour."   

At several locations, there was a commissary operated by Sands & Company where railroad men could sign a pay deduction slip and buy groceries, smokes and some clothing.  We know of Sands being at Elmore, Roanoke, Victoira and Sewells Point.

On the New River Division, which extended from the west end of Roanoke Yard to the end of the line in West Virginia, some railroad owned housing "beaneries" were at Elmore and Page. Otherwise, most men lived in Roanoke, Princeton, Mullens (Elmore) or Page/Oak Hill. Runs from Elmore to Deepwater and the NYC yard at Dickinson were turns from Elmore.  The "Hill Runs" for some eastbound trains and pusher crews were also turns from Elmore. Mine runs west from Elmore along the Guyandotte River to Gilbert and the branches off that line were turns in later years. However in earlier times, some crews were assigned to run out of Shannon Yard, near Baileysville.  The V&W branches and the Winding Gulf to Raleigh were also turns from Elmore, but they must have been horribly long days! Virginian's passenger trains 3 and 4 ran with the same crew all the way from Roanoke, through Princeton, Elmore and the end of the VGN trackage at Deepwater, into Charleston on the New York Central! In later years, Virginian ended passenger service at Page. The home terminal for the crews of 3 and 4 was Roanoke, as was for freights 63 and 64. Other New River Division freights had Elmore as the home terminal.

Thanks to Tom Marshall of Mullens, Harry Bundy of Roanoke and the Norfolk & Western Historical Society for information about this interesting terminal phase of the railroad's operation. Additional information came from company seniority bulletins from the 1950s.