Tye River – Aftermath of Hurricane Camille 1969

The cover photo on Southern’s employee magazine shows a train crossing the rebuilt Tye River bridge three weeks after Hurricane Camille blew though the area causing widespread damage beyond comprehension.

In the early morning hours of August 20, 1969, a storm of catastrophic proportions moved into Nelson County, VA including the community of Tye River. The remnants of Hurricane Camille which had entered the US at the Louisiana coast had worked its way north and east to this community located approximately 40 miles south of Charlottesville.

The crew of a Southern local had reported heavy rain to the dispatcher of the Eastern Division, at that time, as it was traveling south from Charlottesville. The track supervisor for the area, Elmer Hodge, was alerted. He began working north from Lynchburg about 20 miles south of Tye River. All trains fortunately were stopped between Charlottesville and Lynchburg.

It was a night of terror for residents of the area. Over 27 inches of rain had fallen in a three hour period. As the night turned to day, damage from Camille had become apparent. Over 200 people lost their lives and thousands more lost their homes and property was destroyed or lost. Even Mr. Hodge was thought to be among the missing during the night as he was not heard from for over 30 hours. Highways were blocked everywhere in Nelson County and communications were knocked out. It was learned later that Mr. Hodge was trapped between two landslides while driving to reach his territory to asses damage from the storm.

When all was over, there were nine major washouts ranging from 100 to more than 500 feet in length. One exception was a 30 foot washout. They were on fills from 20 to 50 feet high. Drainage structures at these locations had been mostly washed away. In addition there were 56 locations where landslides occurred in cuts that required clearing, where sides of fills had been partially washed away or locations where ballast had been washed away from the ends of ties over long stretches of track.

Left photo is looking northbound. Tye River flows from left to right. Right photo shows welded rail strands over the river.

Close up view of the North abutment of the bridge.

While numerous washouts occurred in the area, the biggest loss was that of the double track Tye River bridge. Aerial views showed that 480 feet of the 630 ft long bridge was completely washed into the stream bed. Some of the spans were found near where the bridge had been but others were carried by the force of the water to a low level highway crossing of Tye River about a third of a mile away. The bridge was 95 feet high from top of tie to the lowest point in the stream bed. It was determined that several of the 60 ft deck girder spans could be reused but many others were damaged beyond repair.

Tower bent being constructed south of the north abutment

Another view of the tower bent under construction. Foundation of the old bridge was reused.

After being notified that most of the Tye River bridge was washed away, Joel W. DeValle, Chief Engineer of Bridges began making his way from the Atlanta bridge office to the site. Also senior engineers from the office headed to the flooded area. Some who were on vacation were called in to help. Accompanied by a bridge contractor, Mr. DeValle and the contractor were able to get to the site after talking their way through police roadblocks and asking local citizens about road conditions.

Welding steel piling in 80 ft lengths continued day and night

Template being placed in position in the river around which 16 steel piles will be placed to form a tower bent

Wooden forms for Concrete Foundation

Piles were founded on bedrock then concrete poured to create a solid foundation

Time was critical for getting rail service restored. Southern had arranged with neighboring railroads to reroute freight and passenger trains. Some trains could be rerouted on other branches of Southern as well. Much coordination was required to keep delays to a minimum but they were inevitable.

Steel piles in place and ready to be cut off at the proper elevation for placement of steel built-up caps on which deck plate girder spans would be placed

After surveying the situation, Southern’s bridge engineers developed a plan on site to rebuild the bridge. Engineers determined that three 60 ft girder spans from the washed out bridge could be used. That left 300 ft to be spanned. It was known that 100 ft girder spans were available at Tugaloo River north of Toccoa, GA. The bridge originally carried two tracks with separate girders for each track. Many years ago when Centralized Traffic Control was in place, one of the tracks was deemed unnecessary so the rail and ties were removed from the one track.

Tower bents under construction. Notice that caps are in place for the bent in the right foreground ready eventually to receive spans

Aerial view from Google Maps of Tugaloo River (Lake Hartwell). Circled area shows three missing spans that carried a second track. Those spans were shipped to Tye River nearly 400 miles away by rail.

There was disappointing news however when it became known that new the bridge supports could not be built in the same manner as the former bridge as fabricated steel could not be obtained in an acceptable time. Because of this, engineers decided to build a substructure of steel pilings encased by poured in place concrete foundations on bedrock which the piles were founded on. This type of construction worked well for steel trestles constructed at lower heights that were built to replace timber trestles in an ongoing program as well as for use in emergency situations to replace bridges damaged by fire or accidents. Because of this, Southern had acquired an emergency stock of steel piling that was delivered to a storage yard in Chattanooga, TN. Engineers were confident that this type of construction would work for the new bridge.

Two 60 ft deck plate girder spans have been set on the north end and one of the 100 ft spans being maneuvered to a position where cranes can lift the span

Therefore a contractor was hired and its subcontractors were employed to begin the work of building a new bridge. Steel pilings were loaded on freight cars in Chattanooga and were sent toward the site. In the meantime contractors were calling in workers from scattered locations throughout the South and Middle West. These included welders, carpenters, and workmen of many skills from the Lynchburg-Roanoke area.

Two large cranes positioning the first 100 ft span on the tower bents

Huge cranes were required for the job. One crane located in West Virginia was dismantled and moved to the site. Another crane in Ohio that was on its way to another project, was diverted to Tye River. Smaller cranes along with bulldozers and other equipment were pulled off other jobs. Dozens of welding machines were needed to weld pile sections together as well as for other applications.

The last 100 ft deck girder span being placed into position. The southern most 150 feet of the bridge at the right side of the photo not damaged by the flooding waters was reused.

While this was going on, track crews worked tirelessly around the clock to restore the roadbed in a manner that was quicker than expected. During this time more than a half-million tons of rock and earth were moved. More than 600 carloads of ballast were used. Several thousand feet of prefabricated track panels were shipped from Southern’s Fab Plant in Atlanta.

Rail is being attached to bridge ties at the north end of the new bridge.

This was especially good news for the bridge engineers. With the track restored close to the construction site, the three 100 ft deck girders could be shipped by rail to the bridge. Earlier, highway routes were studied, however, many obstacles too numerous to mention would have delayed shipment even further.

One of the first trains to cross the new bridge during daylight

On Saturday August 30, 1969, the first tower bent was erected on top of the northern most pier footing as it remained firmly in place despite the force of the flood waters. This was the shortest bent in height constructed. Work progressed to build the remaining tower bents. Bridge ties and rail were attached to the spans after they were lifted into place.

Although the bridge that was destroyed was a double track structure, the new bridge was rebuilt to carry just one track as it does to this day. Because of this, alterations to the signaling system had to be made. This included erecting new signal bridges and relocating others. Care was taken to check out the new installations to make sure trains would roll safely for the new track arrangement.  Similarly communication facilities had to be checked out and readjusted in some instances.

At 4:26 am on the morning of September 8, the first train crossed the new bridge. The Southern mainline was out of service for a total of 19 days. The new Tye River bridge was completed in 10 days. That was quite an accomplishment considering that communications back then were not what they are today.

Author’s Note: Track Supervisor Elmer Hodge was found to be ok. He had been trapped by high water and landslides. He had a radio and heard conversations on it, but was not able to transmit to the dispatcher his location and what situations he was running into. Unable to get to locations that he needed to check, even on foot, Mr. Hodge got in his truck and took time to transport people who were in need. After about 30 hours Mr. Hodge was able to get to a phone to call the dispatcher. The dispatcher in turn called Mr. Hodge’s wife to let her know that he was ok.

Most of the color photos in this piece were scanned images of aged 35mm slides which were part of a presentation used back in the later part of the 1970s when Southern conducted meetings for non-union Maintenance of Way & Structures employees at their facility in South Carolina. I somehow came into possession of these slides many years later. The black and white photos are from Ties Magazine.

I was fortunate to have started with Southern Railway in September, 1973 as a management trainee in the MW&S Department at Valdosta, GA. A year later I transferred to the Bridge Office in Atlanta. Joel DeValle was Chief Engineer of Bridges then. I remember a few of the engineers sharing their experiences at Tye River. It was something that I know would stay with them for the rest of their lives. I salute each and every one of them.




Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Veterans Association and Specials


C&O E8 4010 along with sister units 4000 and 4005 with 21 cars preparing to leave for Detroit, MI after a day of fun for veterans at Camden Park in Huntington, WV. They can be seen loading up in the background.        F. Douglas Bess, Jr.

As mentioned in a previous post, one of my favorite places to photograph trains was at the Huntington, WV station because of the proximity of my grandparents’ home to the station.

One Saturday afternoon in September, 1967,  as I was arriving at the station, activity was going on like I had never seen before. Pullman sleepers from various railroads as well as C&O’s occupied both tracks at the station plus a few on the 10th Street spur just east of the station. Later investigation revealed that these were special trains that had carried veteran C&O employees to Huntington for a day of meetings and fun at Camden Park, West Virginia’s only amusement park located just west of the city limits of Huntington.

The veteran men and women who had 25 or more years service with the C&O consisted of telegraph operators, dispatchers, yard masters, clerks, conductors, engineers and maintenance of way personnel just to name a few. Spouses were included, so the meetings had a truly family atmosphere.

Special with C&O E8s 4015 and 4022 with 11 cars about to depart for Columbus, OH. F. Douglas Bess, jr.

Columbus special on the left passing Detroit special. F. Douglas Bess, Jr.







The concept of an association of employees dates back to the presidency of George W. Stevens. Mr. Stevens became president of the C&O in 1900 succeeding Melville E. Ingalls. Stevens began his railroad service with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in 1864 and later with the Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific from 1873 until Ingalls appointed appointed Stevens as General Manager in 1890. He served in that capacity until Ingalls resigned over a management disagreement at which time Stevens assumed the presidency. Because Mr. Stevens came up through the ranks, he was well liked by employees who gave him the nickname “Uncle George.” As a general manager he was always on hand to handle the toughest of problems.

Each June 29th during the years he was president, Mr. Stevens invited officers of the company to his home, “Virginia Manor” to celebrate his birthday. It was located near Glasgow, VA, west of C&O’s Balcony Falls Yard along the James River.  An idea came to Mr. Stevens one year that it would be nice if employees of the company could get together and become better acquainted. Mr. Stevens thought it would secure greater loyalty to one another as well as to the company. Thus was born the Chesapeake and Ohio Veteran Employees Association.

The association was founded in 1916 by Lyle G. Bentley. Mr. Bentley began his railroad service in 1896 as a telegrapher. By 1908 he was made superintendent of the Hospital Department. In 1913 he assumed the added duties of secretary of the General Safety Committee and editor (and founder) of the C&O employees’ magazine. In 1918 Bentley was made General Safety Agent and remained in that position until his retirement on July 1, 1947. He was instrumental in improving C&O’s safety record so much that it won the E.H. Harriman gold medal award one year. During his 51 year career, Bentley presided over the veterans association annual meetings and served as their president from 1947 to 1950.

GP7s 5893 and 5895 with 9 cars ready to pull special train for Hinton, WV September, 1967 This was the only special that carried all coaches as the trip home would arrive in the late evening hours. F. Douglas Bess,Jr. 

On June 30, 1917, the first annual meeting of the association was held at the famed Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, WV. Seven years earlier, the C&O had purchased the historic resort property and in 1913 built the hotel. At the first meeting, 163 of the 253 charter members were present of which two were women. The association was organized with offices of president, vice president, secretary, assistant secretary and treasurer. A Constitution and By-Laws was implemented of which Section 1, Article 3 stated “Any person having been in the service of The Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company and its predecessor companies for twenty-five years in aggregate shall be eligible for membership.” Annual dues were $1 and payable each year beginning in January.

First annual meeting of C&O Veterans at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WV. Photo courtesy of the C&O Historical Society

Following the first meeting, President Stevens placed a notice in the September, 1917 issue of the C&O employees association magazine stating that he was surprised at the large turnout at the first meeting. He remarked that “a spirit of comradeship was developed and hoped next year’s meeting would be more largely attended.” Mr. Stevens also urged those present at the first meeting to encourage more eligible employees to join. Mr. Bentley, editor of the C&O employee magazine, printed excerpts of letters from employees who had nothing but praises for the meeting.

While no information was available for when and where the second meeting in 1918 was held, it could be assumed it took place at the Greenbrier Hotel.

The third annual gathering was held on Saturday, July 19th, 1919 at the Greenbrier. By this time it was necessary to add additional sleeping cars to regularly scheduled passenger trains.

Badges from various association meetings. Michael Rhodes Collection. Photo courtesy of Michael Rhodes.

The fourth annual gathering at the Greenbrier on Saturday, September 25, 1920 was attended by over 350 members. President Stevens announced at this meeting a new pension plan for employees. He shared with them that in appreciation of their faithful service and devotion to the railroad and its officials, they would receive a pension of one percent average of wages during the last 10 years multiplied by the number of years they had spent in service. He assured employees that they would retire with at least 40% of all that they were making. Sadly this would be his last time to meet with the veterans as Mr. Stevens passed away on the porch of his cottage at White Sulphur Springs on November 3, 1920 at the age of 69.

Again no information was available for the meetings from 1921 through 1923. However it could be assumed that they were held at the Greenbrier Hotel.Veterans with 50 years service in Huntington, WV for the 1924 meetings. Courtesy COHS

Huntington became the host city on July 26, 1924 for the eighth annual meeting of the veterans. The city went all out to welcome the nearly 1,000 veterans, their spouses and their children. According to The Chesapeake and Ohio and Hocking Valley Employes’ Magazine, the veterans were treated royally. A local group called The Committee of 100 took the veterans and families with their own cars to local hotels and clubs where they were served breakfast. After that they were given a tour of the city and surrounding areas for an hour before ending up at the city auditorium for meetings. Later they were taken to Camden Park by car and streetcar for an old fashion picnic and fun. It was reported that everything went smoothly. By evening, it came time to board the trains back home for a tired but happy bunch.

On Saturday July 11, 1925 Cincinnati, OH was selected as the location for the meetings. Also the following year in August, 1926, the 10th meeting took place in Cincinnati. Thousands of members and their spouses were in attendance arriving by special trains.

Early arrivers at the Mosque Theater in Richmond 1947. Courtesy COHS

Veterans enjoying a meal at the Taft Auditorium in Cincinnati 1947. Courtesy COHS








Jumping ahead to 1947, apparently with the increasing number of veterans and their spouses attending the yearly meetings, there was not a venue available to handle them at one location. So it was decided to hold the 31st annual meeting on successive Saturdays in June in two locations. The first meeting took place on June 21 in Richmond, VA with 1,600 in attendance. It was held at the Mosque (now Altria) Theater. The second meeting in Cincinnati on June 28 had 2,250 in attendance. It was held at the Taft Theater. The Richmond meeting included those employees who lived and worked in Handley, WV  and points east. The Cincinnati meeting included those west of Handley. Handley is located approximately 25 miles east of the capital city of Charleston and for many years served as a crew change point for freight trains.

Veterans taking a break during the 1948 meeting in Richmond. Both photos courtesy COHS

L.G. Bentley being presented a gold wrist watch at the 1948 meeting for his service to the association.








The following year in 1948, the 32nd meetings were again held in Richmond and Cincinnati on June 19th and 26th respectively. Highlights of the meeting included honoring L.G. Bentley with a gold wrist watch commemorating his founding the association. Also he was re-elected president of the association for an unprecedented second time.

The 34th annual meeting again was held in Richmond and Cincinnati on the last Saturday in September and the first Saturday in October, 1950 respectively. The veterans were greeted by C&O President Walter J. Tuohy and other top executives of the company. President Tuohy ascended to the office in 1949 after previous president R. J. Bowman resigned due to illness. L.G. Bentley principal speaker and founder of the association was serving his last year as president of the association. A combined total of 4,100 veterans attended the meetings.

The 35th and 36th annual meetings were held in the Fall of 1951 and 1952 at the same venues as the 34th meeting. The combined 1951 meeting had just over 4,000 in attendance while the 1952 meeting had 4,600.

Ninety-two year old retired yard conductor H.E. Myers entertaining the crowd as C&O president Walter J. Touhy (seated second from left) looks on. COHS

President Touhy visiting with Logan Subdivision employees Ozias Lewis, Mose Patterson and Willie White at the 1951 meeting. Mr. Touhy visited with as many employees as time permitted. Courtesy COHS








Nineteen fifty-three marked the return of the annual meetings to a location that would accommodate all veterans. The Greenbrier Valley Fairgrounds (now the State Fair of West Virginia) in Fairlea, located south of Lewisburg, hosted the event. The veterans were welcomed by President Walter J. Tuohy along with several other officers. C&O Tracks Magazine noted that 10 special trains brought 5,000 veterans and their spouses from all over the Chesapeake District. The original C&O became known as the Chesapeake District after the merger of the Pere Marquette into the C&O on June 6, 1947. They arrived in Ronceverte and shuttle buses carried them to the fairgrounds from the station. It is interesting to note that former Pere Marquette veterans were still conducting their own meetings at this time.

No meeting was held in 1954 due to depressed business conditions, however in 1955 the Greenbrier Valley Fairgrounds served as host again for the 38th annual gathering of the C&O veterans with 4,000 in attendance. One highlight of the meeting was the recognition of the six Long brothers who all worked on the eastern part of the C&O. A seventh brother was unable to attend due to illness. Also the Greenbrier Valley High School band entertained the crowd. Twenty-seven churches from the Lewisburg and Ronceverte area supplied food which included 2,500 chickens, 15,000 rolls and 900 gallons of coffee.

The six Long brothers being recognized at the 1955 association gathering from left to right W.G., A.M., E.C., G.E., V.S., and W.S. Courtesy COHS

The 39th annual meeting was once again held at the Greenbrier Valley Fairgrounds in the fall of 1956. As before special trains brought approximately 5,000 veterans and their spouses to the fairgrounds. Tracks Magazine noted in the November issue that stock barns were converted to dining rooms. Twenty-one area churches prepared more than 5,000 complete chicken dinners and also lunches for the return trip.

Two retired 94 year old veterans were recognized at the 1955 meetings. On the left is Dr. R.S. Griffith and next to him is H.H. Woods. A number of retired vets enjoyed attending the meetings. Courtesy COHS

From 1957 through 1962 only four gatherings were held at unknown locations. However in 1963 Camden Park just outside the western city limits of Huntington, WV hosted the 43rd annual meeting of the veterans. No information was available attendance wise but I am sure everyone had a great time at West Virginia’s only amusement park. The 44th annual meeting was held at the Greenbrier Valley Fairgrounds.

Two examples of the many cars from the Pullman pool supplied to the C&O for the specials trains for the 1967 meeting. On the left is Southern Railway Cashiers Valley (a 14-roomette, 4-double bedroom) sleeper. On the right L&N Whispering Pine  (a 6-section, 6-roomette, 4 double bedroom) sleeper. These two cars came to Huntington on regularly scheduled train 22-2 from Louisville, KY.  F. Douglas Bess, Jr.

On September 15, 1967, Camden Park again hosted the 47th annual reunion of C&O veterans. The attendance was a staggering 6,000 people. Six special trains plus additional cars on existing C&O passenger trains did the honors. Lunch consisted of 2,500 chickens, 1,500 pounds of baked beans, 1,600 pounds of potato salad, 840 dozen rolls, 750 pounds of tomatoes, 650 gallons of coffee and 250 gallons each of soft drinks and iced tea. Noted speakers at the event included C. Vernon Cowan, VP Operations of C&O/B&O and Hayes T. Watkins, VP Finance and Accounting. Four years later Mr. Watkins would become CEO of C&O/B&O. The Baltimore & Ohio RR came under control of the C&O in 1963 however the event was basically C&O Ry employees. Mr. Cowan noted that “This is a C&O reunion, but we are no longer Chesapeake and Ohio. Our family is growing larger, embracing thousands of other fine railroad men and women on the Baltimore & Ohio, the South Shore (Chicago South Shore and South Bend) and soon hopefully the Western Maryland.”

Consist of specials arriving in Huntington on the morning of September 16, 1967. Information courtesy of Bob Withers.

Information and photos are scarce concerning equipment used to operate the specials during the years that the annual meetings were held. By the time of the 1967 meeting, the C&O relied on the Pullman pool to provide enough sleeping cars beyond the number that was still in C&O’s possession. Pullman cars used in the specials included those from the Seaboard Coast Line (Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line), Great Northern, Louisville & Nashville, New Haven, Pennsylvania, Southern Railway, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific. That made for a total of 99 Pullmans and 16 locomotives. I was fortunate to have photographed some of these cars and locomotives.

Unfortunately no information is currently available whether the meetings continued beyond 1967. While the C&O and B&O were separate companies after C&O’s control of the B&O in 1963, some departments of both roads were being consolidated in either Huntington or Baltimore. A number of C&O employees based in Huntington were transferred to Baltimore and vice versa. By 1972, holding company Chessie System, Inc. was created to bring under one umbrella the C&O, B&O and by then the Western Maryland Railway. To have a combined veterans association meeting at one location or even split over a couple of weekends may not have been feasible, therefore the 1967 gathering may have been the last one.

In all the research that went into writing this piece, I just wanted to share a few observations:

  • At each meeting, employees with 50 years service were recognized and presented diamond pins personally by the president or other high ranking officers of the C&O and gold passes to travel for free on the system.
  • C&O executives at the meetings shared how the company was doing and praised the men and women who worked hard to keep the C&O to the high standards it enjoyed all of those years.
  • The veterans association provided entertainment including bands, employee performances and the like while the C&O provided transportation to and from the events.
  • Most meetings prior to 1953 were indoors and more formal than those from 1953 through 1967. Being outdoors during this period made it a more relaxed atmosphere which appears to have suited the veterans.
  • Over a six year period from 1957 through 1962 only four meetings were held. No reason could be determined except it could have been for the same reason that the 1954 meetings were cancelled.
  • Besides the Pere Marquette and the B&O, a number of other railroads had their own veteran employees association such as the Pennsylvania RR, Chicago & Northwestern and the Milwaukee Road.

The one thing that struck me about the meetings was that current and retired employees looked forward to them each year. It was a time they could get together and share their experiences and memories long before the days of cell phones and social media. Mr. Stevens remarked positively about the comradeship after the first gathering in 1917 and it seems to have carried over throughout the life of the association gatherings.


  • Tom Dixon with the Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society who provided information and without whose help it would not have been possible to write this piece.
  • Michael Rhodes who provided pictures of badges veterans wore at the meetings and other photos from the COHS archives.
  • Bob Withers for providing consists of specials and copies of Chessie/B&O News for the 1967 gatherings and for making me aware what all the activity was about in Huntington.
  • Chessie’s Road by Charles W. Turner which is a detailed history of the C&O up through the early 1950’s.

Dickinson Yard and Other Locations in the Kanawha Valley

New York Central F7-A #1745 Dickinson Yard August, 1967

Dickinson Yard located approximately 14 miles east of West Virginia’s capital city of Charleston, was the largest yard of the former New York Central’s Kanawha Secondary. The secondary ran from Corning, OH, about 60 miles south of Columbus, through Charleston and Dickinson to Swiss about 10 miles beyond Gauley Bridge, WV. Under Penn Central the secondary was known as the Southern Branch.

Another view of #1745 followed by another F7-A and F7-B. Note coal hoppers on left have reporting marks TOC for the Toledo & Ohio Central. I believe this was done to designate them for unit train service. The T&OC was once a subsidiary of the NYC. Someone jokingly said it stood for Train Of Coal.

Norfolk & Western units mingle with NYC’s at Dickinson Yard in August, 1967. N&W had trackage rights on NYC from here to Deepwater Bridge as a result of acquiring the Virginian Railway on December 1, 1959.

Cabooses of the N&W and NYC in Dickinson Yard August, 1967. N&W cab was formerly Virginian #322 built by St. Louis Car Company.

Dickinson Yard served as a gathering point for coal from mines located beyond Swiss on the Nicholas, Fayette & Greenbrier Ry, then jointly owned by the NYC and the Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. Also chemical shipments originated here from surrounding plants such as DuPont. Dickinson Yard also served as the terminus for Norfolk & Western trackage rights trains from Deepwater to Dickinson  For more in depth history of the secondary please visit my blog http://thetracksidephotographer.com/2016/08/11/railroad-town-nitro-west-virginia/ Also detailed information on the NF&G can be found at https://hitopbranchmodelrr.com/history-of-the-secondary/. Also you will find a history of the Hitop Branch of the NYC that my friend Steve Campbell models.

NYC F7-A #1768 on wye track at Dickinson Yard that is used to turn locomotives


Evidence of the February 1, 1968 merger of the NYC with the Pennsylvania RR to form Penn Central. Ex-PRR GP35 #2353 at Dickinson Yard in April, 1968.

N&W Time Freight #72 led by Alco C-628 #1122 (pictured at Dickinson Yard) on NYC trackage through Smithers, WV heading to Deepwater Bridge and home rails. Freight crews of the NYC were qualified to run on the former VGN to Elmore Yard near Mullens and vice versa.

Penn Central GP35 #2318 (former PRR #2318) switching at Cannelton Coal Company’s operation across the Kanawha River from Montgomery. This was the first unit I saw painted for the PC.

Former NYC F7-A #1859 with sister unit PC #1659 at Port Amherst Just east of Charleston in July, 1968. Cleanup underway after derailment under the US 60 bridge.

Side and end views of NYC transfer caboose #18191 at Charleston, WV in February, 1968 just shortly after merger day. Everything looked the same but that was about to change

While the NYC ran on the east side of the Kanawha River for its entire length, the two track mainline of the Chesapeake & Ohio entered the Kanawha Valley approximately four miles west of St Albans and ran the remaining length of the valley. I have covered the C&O in other posts on this website but below are photos at two other points in the valley.

C&O GP9 #6211 with GP7 #5758 switching Appalachian Power’s Cabin Creek substation at Cabin Creek in 1968. Today the power plant and the spur are gone.


Eastbound coal drag at Winifrede Jct across the Kanawha River from Dickinson Yard pulling upgrade with an unusual consist of GP7 #5869, followed by SD18 #1807 and a GP30. Soon the train will arrive at Handley Yard for crew change.

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A Brief History of Southern Railway’s Atlanta Office Buildings

View looking south along Spring Street, SW of Southern Railway’s  Atlanta office complex. Photo was taken some time in the late 1950s or early 60s. Photo courtesy of O. Fenton Wells.

Railroad office buildings for the most part are not normally a subject covered so extensively as with other aspects of railroading. I did not even think of them during my early years of rail-fanning until I began my 30 year railroad career with Southern Railway in September, 1973.

The Southern Railway office complex was located on then Spring Street, SW in downtown Atlanta, GA. The concrete buildings were quite impressive. The east side of the buildings faced Spring Street, while the west side faced the Atlanta to Macon main lines of the Southern and Central of Georgia railroads. The buildings housed various departments including information technology, operations, car accounting, engineering (maintenance of way and structures) to name a few. I worked in the Bridge Department for 29 years which was a part of engineering.

Aerial view of what was then Southern’s Office and Warehouse buildings taken around 1919.  The 99 Building had six floors while the 125 Building was three stories high. Nelson Street bisects the two buildings. To the left of the 99 Building was Atlanta Terminal Station which was torn down in 1972. This photo hung in the lobby of the Thrift Credit Union which served Southern and later Norfolk Southern employees. It was given to me by the president of the credit union at that time, Ken Heller, and it now hangs in our home.

What became known by Southern Railway employees as the 99 and 125 buildings were constructed some time around 1912. They were bordered by Madison Avenue (some maps show it as Madison Street) on the east side and became known as the Madison Avenue Freight and Office Building. The 99 Building was at that time six stories high from ground level and contained offices. The 125 Building was only three stories and served as a freight station. Nelson Street ran between the two buildings on a bridge, and the buildings were connected underneath the bridge.

In 1922, the City of Atlanta began construction of a viaduct that would open up Spring Street as a main traffic artery from today’s Amtrak’s Brookwood Station to the industrial district on the south side of downtown, the area where the Atlanta offices were located. The viaduct spanned the east-west railroad lines of the Western & Atlantic and the Georgia railroads. Ceremonies were held on December 20, 1923 to officially open the viaduct for traffic. The Spring Street Viaduct, joined an already elevated Madison Avenue, after which Madison Avenue, became Spring Street.

 Map of area prior to the extension of Spring Street

 Map of the area after the extension of Spring Street. Notice the change in some street alignments. Maps courtesy of the Atlanta Historical Society.

A retaining wall supporting Spring Street was located approximately 35 feet from the front edge of both buildings. This left a gap between the building and the street. Spring Street was approximately level with the second floor of both buildings. So in order to provide entry to the buildings from the Spring Street level, a series of bridges were constructed across the gap to provide pedestrian entry to each building and also to provide parking for company officials.

During 1928, the floors of the 99 and 125 buildings were extended upward. That made each building eight stories high. An enclosed walkway bridge was built between the buildings for the convenience of access between buildings from the fourth to the seventh floors. A later modification allowed for access between the 8th floor of both buildings. It was at that time that the offices of the Auditor which were composed of freight accounts, station accounts and passenger accounts and several other departments were relocated from Washington, D.C.

Article from Southern Railway Company’s newspaper of November, 1928 describing offices being relocated from Washington, D.C. Over the years more departments were relocated from other areas on the system to Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Craig Myers. 

Engineering offices prior to 1964 were located in Charlotte, NC, Knoxville, TN, and Cincinnati, OH. The locations housed Eastern Lines, Central Lines and Western Lines respectively. In 1964 Southern relocated the three field engineering offices to Atlanta.

During the period of Southern Railway Company’s existence, until the 1982 merger with the Norfolk and Western Railway, Washington, DC was the corporate headquarters for Southern. After the formation of Norfolk Southern, NS gradually closed Southern’s old headquarters building and began consolidating departments to Norfolk, Roanoke and Atlanta. Because of space limitations in Atlanta, NS built a new six story office building south of the 125 Building that was known as the 185 Building. The six floor building was finished in 1984 and was built adjacent to what was known by Southern employees as the Bayer Aspirin Building. This building was converted to offices as well and became known as the 175 Building. Both buildings were located on Spring Street south of the Peters Street viaduct.

Having started with Southern Railway in September, 1973 in Valdosta, GA and moving to Atlanta the following year, I have witnessed first hand many changes made to the interior of the buildings especially after the 1982 merger with the N&W and a few more after the acquisition of Conrail in 1999. In fact some departments had to be housed in space leased by NS in another part of downtown Atlanta.


View from the 6th Floor office where I worked looking west toward the Atlanta – Macon mainline of Southern and Central of Georgia. The old tower in the background was torn down in 2018. F. Douglas Bess, Jr. photo.

The outside appearance of the 99 and 125 buildings remained virtually unchanged with the exception of new windows installed on the west side of the buildings in the late 1970’s. However one noticeable change was the removal of the big Southern Railway neon signs. One was located on the roof of the north end of the 99 Building and the other on the roof of the south end of the 125 Building. The signs were lit at night until the 1972 energy crisis. From that time until its removal, they were never lit again.

July, 2005 marked another change for the building complex. That year Norfolk Southern vacated all offices from its Spring Street location and moved to an existing building at 1200 Peachtree Street, NE that once housed the offices of AT&T. The move left uncertainty in the community as to the fate of the 99 and 125 buildings for a number of years. The buildings were not listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the concern for a while was that they could be torn down to make way for development of the area known as the “Gulch”.

View of the west side of the 99 and 125 buildings looking east from the Nelson Street bridge. Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

However in 2017, a developer bought the entire building complex from Norfolk Southern for $25 million including the Nelson Street bridge which has been closed for many years. Plans for the 99 and 125 buildings call for six or seven retailers, about 50,000 square feet of offices and hundreds of new residences. No plans have yet been determined concerning the buildings at 175 and 185 Spring Street which is now Ted Tuner Drive. If the link is still available you can click on it and view the rest of the story concerning the buildings. https://atlanta.curbed.com/2018/8/27/17788102/northfolk-southern-building-downtown-cim-apartments-offices

For me, the 99 and 125 buildings hold many memories from the first day I arrived there for work in 1974 to the last day I retired in November, 2003. The one thing that was enjoyable along with the work was being able at times to see and hear trains going by the building each day. One could almost get the feel of how the railroad was doing based on the number of trains that passed by daily.






The End of Mail Service on the C&O

Postal clerks busy sorting mail on the go. The RPO car is on one of the C&O passenger trains that ran between Washington, DC and Cincinnati, OH. F. Douglas Bess, Jr. Collection

The Railway Post Office (RPO) was in existence for over 130 years. The RPO was an efficient way to move mail throughout the United States. Mail was sorted in route for destinations to insure timely delivery. The RPO car was off-limits to passengers, and postal clerks were armed with pistols. 

October 28, 1967, however, marked the end of through RPO mail service on Chesapeake and Ohio passenger trains between Washington, DC and Cincinnati, OH. Although some limited sorting of mail still existed, it was really the beginning of the Post Office Department’s move to handle mail on trucks and planes throughout the U.S.

The history of carrying mail on trains in the United States dates back to the early part of the 1830’s. Mail was carried only on a couple of railroads at that time, although it was carried in bags along with other baggage. On July 7, 1838 the US Congress officially designated all railroads as official postal routes.

Left Photo: Postal Clerk placing mail in pigeon holes. Right Photo: Mail being bagged up. The hook in the background was for grabbing mail set out at intermediate stations and depots where trains did not stop. The bags were collected on the fly.  F. Douglas Bess, Jr. Collection.

The first mail sorted on a train while in route occurred on August 28, 1864, between Chicago and Clinton, IA. Mail was sorted to, and received from each post office along the route, as well as major post offices beyond the route’s end-points. The expansion of mail service came with the signing of the Pacific Railroad Act on July 1, 1862, which the government funded to help build the transcontinental railroad. Other railroads were later built in the west which greatly expanded mail service by rail.

Some time after WW II, people began abandoning travel by passenger trains and opted instead to use car or airlines. Improved roads and air service made travel by these modes more attractive, convenient and faster. Passenger trains were removed gradually over the years for lack of ridership. However, a number of trains continued because the revenue for hauling mail offset losses by decreased ridership.  With reduced routes and the increasing cost of moving mail by rail, the Post Office Department came to the decision instead to use trucks and planes to move the mail. 


Letter to Huntington Publishing Company (HUPCO) librarian from the Post Office Dept returning photos that they had requested for their “Postal Life” issue. Apparently by this time the Post Office Department had made the decision to cancel mail contracts with the railroads.  F. Douglas Bess, Jr. Collection.

As contracts were cancelled, railroads began applying to the Interstate Commerce Commission (predecessor to today’s Surface Transportation Board)  to discontinue most remaining passenger trains. A case in point was the removal of C&O’s trains #3, the Fast Flying Virginian (FFV) and #4, The Sportsman on May 12, 1968. The eastbound and westbound George Washington, trains #1 and 2, were the only passenger trains left on the C&O after that date and they lasted until the formation of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.


Both photos at Ashland, KY station: The station was located in the heart of town where the passenger main ran between the east end and west end of Ashland. It was here where passengers could connect with trains to Louisville, KY and Detroit, MI. The passenger main was removed years later. Now, passengers at Ashland board the Amtrak Cardinal at the site of the old C&O Freight Station next to the Ohio River.  F. Douglas Bess Jr. Photos.

I was fortunate, along with several other members of the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, to have ridden on and photographed the last run of RPO mail service on the C&O. The black and white photos (above) of the interior of the C&O RPO car were taken by a staff photographer of the local Huntington newspaper. These photos were passed down to me by my grandfather Bill Bess, who worked for the newspaper for over 40 years.

Both photos at the Newport, KY depot: Mail and baggage being unloaded. Newport was located directly across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati. Often times people heading to destinations in the downtown Cincinnati area would get off the train here instead of Cincinnati Union Terminal and take a taxi, as it saved time. The truck being loaded with baggage was a sign of things to come for mail service. F. Douglas Bess, Jr. Photos.

Both photos at Cincinnati Union Terminal: The photo at left shows Train #3 arriving at CUT on October 28, 1967. The elevated concourse was removed in 1974. However, the remainder of the terminal was saved and is now a museum of science and history. The photo at right shows employees at CUT loading storage mail (not requiring sorting or delivery en route) on baggage car #301. This car will be on Train #2 that will leave CUT that evening.  F. Douglas Bess, Jr. photos.

After arriving in Huntington from Cincinnati on Train #2 on the evening of October 28, CPH members (left to right) John Killoran, Wayne Hamrick, your author, and Bob Withers gathered around C&O RPO #111 to bid it farewell on its final trip to Washington.  Larry K. Fellure Photo, Bob Withers Collection.

As a side note, the Railway Mail Service (RMS) within the Post Office Department (POD) existed between 1864 and September 30, 1948. The RMS was renamed the Postal Transportation Service, and existed until 1960. The change in name came about by the increased use of the Highway Post Office (HPO). Similar to the RPO, the HPO, came into existence in 1942 to supplement RPO service. As more passenger trains were discontinued, more mail was being handled over the highways by the HPOs. After that, the management of the mail came under the Bureau of Transportation, which was still under control of the POD. By 1971, the POD was no longer a cabinet position. With an act of Congress, it became a governmental agency, and was renamed the United States Postal Service.

ABOVE: Please note the mailbox at the left side of the photo taken in July, 1968 at Southern Pacific’s Richmond, CA station. Before RPO service was discontinued, a person could drop a letter in the box knowing that it would be picked up by the next scheduled passenger train to stop there. F. Douglas Bess, Jr. photo. 

BELOW: Railway Mail Service postal cancellation shown for C&O’s Train #2, The George Washington. I believe a kindhearted RPO clerk stamped the back of the envelope knowing it was the last day for sorted mail.

The First New River Excursion May 15, 1966

C&O E-8A 4021 Hawks Nest, WV May 66 aChesapeake and Ohio E8 #4021 with sister unit backing across the bridge over the New River at Hawks Nest, WV as some passengers have stepped off the train for a scheduled photo runby.

On Sunday May 15, 1966, the Collis P. Huntington Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (CPH) in conjunction with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway operated the very first New River Excursion from Huntington to Hinton, WV., a tradition that has to this day been a popular event every fall. The excursions have drawn many not only from the tri-state area of West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, but those from other states and countries. The fall excursions in 2016 will mark the 50th anniversary and special items will be on sale to mark the event.

The first excursion in May was so popular that a fall trip was added the same year. The trains now run in the Fall on the third and fourth weekends in October, and they are packed full all four days. Your author was fortunate to have been a member of CPH when the first trip was run. Chapter and charter member John P. Killoran was the trip chairman who worked with the C&O to provide locomotives and passenger cars and other details related to running the excursion. I remember the many meetings we had as John discussed these details with the membership.


Station stop at the Charleston Depot to load passengers. The two open cars were converted gondolas borrowed from the Norfolk and Western Railway. As the train got closer to the New River Gorge, the cars were jam packed with people taking in the scenery. 

One event of the early New River excursions was a photo runby at Hawks Nest. The runby was an opportunity for passengers interested in photographing the train and took place on the way to Hinton. After crossing the bridge over the New River, the train would come to a stop at which time passengers were allowed to get off the train. The entire train would then back across the bridge and pull forward across the bridge again and run past those passengers on the ground. It then backed up to board them for the remainder of the trip to Hinton. Photo runbys are not done any longer but they were very popular in the early years of the New River Excursions.

img060img059    Excursion passing by Handley, WV. This was a crew change point for freight trains running between Hinton and Russell, Ky. Handley had a control tower, round house and yard and a coal loading tower that one time was used for steam engines. All of the buildings and the yard are gone.








C&O Train, #3 the Fast Flying Virginian traveling westbound past the excursion. At that time it was the only daytime passenger train through New River Gorge. In two more years however this train would be history and for many years to come there would be no more daytime passenger trains through the gorge.

img075Crossing the New River. It was at this point at Hawks Nest that the two track C&O mainline split with a track on each side of New River for about 15 miles upriver to a point called Sewell where they rejoined. The mains were split so that they could serve coal mines that were located on either side of the gorge. The mines are no longer operated.

img076Rounding the curve on the open air gondolas. The curve is very sharp and has a 10 MPH restriction. This view allowed a person to see the entire train. That is why it was a popular place for a photo runby.

img079Gondolas full of people enjoying the scenery. Other people are waiting on the ground while the train backs up so they can board the train as it heads to Hinton.

img080Your author on the right side of the photo standing behind the conductor and the gentleman in the blue shirt, sport coat and hat. I was 18 years old then so if you do the math you know how old I am today.

I hope you enjoyed this post. For more information about the New River Excursion Trains please visit the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society website at http://www.newrivertrain.com.

Point Pleasant, WV

img162 WatermarkedB&O’s depot at Pt. Pleasant in summer of 1967. The Pt. Pleasant District switcher is tucked away after finishing its work for the day. Up the bank to the left is New York Central’s Kanawha Secondary line which runs the length of the Kanawha River. Notice the train order signal is green which indicates through trains do not need to stop for orders.

Point Pleasant is located approximately 55 miles downstream from Charleston where the Kanawha River empties into the Ohio River. Also it is approximately 40 miles up the Ohio from Huntington. Railroads that served Pt. Pleasant were the Baltimore & Ohio and the New York Central. Across the Ohio in neighboring Kanauga, Ohio was a branch of the Chesapeake & Ohio that ran from Columbus to Gallipolis. Traffic on these lines was minimal since they were branches but if you were fortunate you could catch a train. which I did one day in the summer of 1967.

B&O’s line through Pt. Pleasant started out as the Ohio River Railroad around 1882 running from Wheeling to Huntington and on to Kenova with a connection to the Norfolk & Western Railway. The B&O acquired the line around 1912. In 1963 the C&O took control of the B&O. Shortly after, the C&O consolidated operations with the B&O in the Huntington area which led to removal of most of B&O’s track through the city and on to Kenova. If interested you can read the book Trackside Around West Virginia 1963-1968 by Bob Withers of this and additional pictures of around Point Pleasant.

img151 Watermarked

Having crossed the bridge over the Kanawha River, the Point Pleasant District Switcher is heading a short distance north toward the depot.

img152 WatermarkedAfter stopping at the depot, switcher is ready to shove cars to the NYC interchange track.

img150 WatermarkedWith caboose still attached, switcher is shoving on the NYC interchange. While many interchanges have been removed over the years this one still exists today.



My Favorite Locations Along The Former Virginian Railway

Former Virginian Railway bridge over the New River and the N&W mainline at Glen Lyn, VA just across the West Virginia border in April 1968Spectacular crossing of the New River and N&W mainline at Glen Lyn, VA just across the West Virginia border. This photo was taken in 1968 approximately four years before this section of the former Virginian was retired due to the widening of US 460 to four lanes. 

The purpose of this post is to look in at a few locations that were my favorite places to visit along the former Virginian Railway a few years following its absorption into the Norfolk and Western Railway on December 1, 1959. So much has been written about the history of the VGN that I will not go into details here. There are some fine resources that are available that are mentioned in my piece about Page, WV.

The VGN was in existence for a short 50 years. The many impressive bridges and tunnels (mostly in West Virginia) enabled the VGN to provide a superior gradient for hauling coal especially over that of N&W’s parallel route between Kelleysville, WV (east of Bluefield,WV) to Roanoke, VA and on to Norfolk.

When I first started taking pictures, the VGN had been gone for about seven years. The right-of-way still had the look of the VGN with its searchlight signals and communication lines, but all of the former VGN diesel locomotives had been repainted to N&W colors. Also the electrified portion of the railroad between Mullens and Roanoke was dismantled in the last half of 1962.

I hope you will enjoy the photos.

Ex VGN Power Plant Narrows, VA OCT 1969Former VGN coal fired power plant located at Narrows, VA, about seven miles east of Glen Lyn. The plant supplied electricity for the entire electrified territory. It was shut down on June 30, 1962 at the end of electrification. The structure was dismantled in the early 1970’s for the US 460 widening project.

N&W Glen Lyn, VA Train (Time Frt) on Christiansburg Dist Apr 1968

N&W Glen Lyn, VA Train (Pass) on Christiansburg Dist Apr 1968






Left Photo: Westbound N&W time freight heading to Bluefield. Right Photo: N&W passenger train the Powhatan Arrow also heading westbound under the New River bridge.

N&W 1116 C626 Hales Gap, WV Apr 1968

N&W 1116 C626 Glen Lyn, VA Apr 1968






Left photo: Coal train just east of Kelleysville, WV about to head into Hales Gap tunnel  on the former VGN. Eastbound coal  trains from Bluefield on the N&W would utilize the connection at Kelleysville. From this point all coal from Bluefield, as well as Mullens on the VGN, travelled to Roanoke over the VGN which made it virtually a one way railroad. Empties headed back to Mullens over the N&W to Kelleysville. This location is now filled over including the tunnel by the US 460 widening project.
Right Photo: Same train passing over the New River bridge. The US 460 widening project utilized the VGN right-of-way either side of this bridge and the nearby bridge over the East River at the VA-WV state line. Because these bridges were left as “islands” they were dismantled. Only the massive concrete piers in the New River remain today.

N&W ex VGN New River Bridge Glen Lyn, VA  Apr 1968 (1)

View of bridge looking east. Beyond the end of this bridge, the eastbound lanes of US 460 uses the former VGN mainline to Narrows. Driving along you could almost get a feel of what it was like to be on a train riding along the New River.

N&W Princeton, WV Depot - APR 1968N&W Princeton, WV Shops Apr 68






Princeton became an important point on the Virginian. Coal hoppers were constructed and maintained at the massive shop complex. It is hard to believe that all of the buildings in the left photo have been torn down. There was an effort to save the buildings but it unfortunately failed. The photo on the right is the depot at Princeton. The steel post with the hanging insulator remained there as a tribute to the electrified part of the VGN. The depot was torn down in 1979 about 10 years after this photo was made. Some years later a new building which is a replica of the old depot was constructed and now serves as a museum dedicated to the history of the VGN.

N&W Mullens, WV Motor Barn Apr 1968 2

N&W Mullens, WV Motor Barn Apr 1968 1






Mullens, WV was the western end of the Virginian electrified route. It was also the location of Elmore Yard where short coal trains were gathered for the run up to the hill to Clarks Gap to be assembled in longer trains for the run eastbound to Norfolk. The photo on the right shows the building referred as the Mullens Motor Barn where electrics were serviced and later diesels after electrification ended. 

N&W Mullens, WV Motor Barn and Town APR 1968

 Another view of the motor barn. The bridge in the background is the VGN mainline. The line on the other side of the Guyandotte River is a connection track from the mainline to the Winding Gulf Branch. The Winding Gulf Branch begins at the east end of Elmore Yard and runs past the motor barn next to the hillside as can be seen in the previous two photos. The connection track has since been removed.

N&W 168 & 174 ex VGN 68 & 74 H24-66 Mullens, WV Aug 1972

A pair of former Virginian locomotives at Elmore Yard. When ordered by the VGN from Fairbanks-Morse in the early 1950’s, they were the most powerful single unit locomotives constructed at that time. The units in the photo above were classified as H24-66 and were known as Trainmasters. The VGN ordered 25 units numbered 50 to 74. After the merger, the N&W added a “1” in front of the number which made them #168 and #174 respectively.

N&W 167 ex VGN 67 H24-66 Page, WV Apr 1968 (1)

View of another former VGN Trainmaster at Page, WV. Much has been written in my previous post on Page so I won’t go into details here. The locomotive is sitting in the area where a new coal loadout was constructed in the early 2000’s. 

N&W ex VGN RofW Looking WB Apr 1967 Page, WV

N&W ex VGN RofW Looking WB May 2013 Page, WV






N&W ex VGN RofW Looking EB Apr 1967 Page, WV

N&W ex VGN RofW Looking EB May 2013 Page, WV






The top and bottom left photos were in my post on Page but on a visit to the area in May, 2013 I remembered this time to take photos at nearly the same location I did back in 1967. It was interesting to see the change over that period of time. The top two photos are looking westbound (geographically north) and the bottom two eastbound (geographically south). See how many changes you can find.

Joe Jett and Doug Bess (2)

James Kincaid, John Frazier, and Doug Bess






One reason for making the trip to Page this year was to install the last VGN Heritage Trail marker. This project was begun by a man named Aubrey Wiley out of Lynchburg, VA. He has written a number of books on the VGN. Aubrey has placed markers at various locations along the route of the former VGN from Deepwater to Norfolk. He gave me the privilege of installing the last marker for the Page-Kincaid area. Left photo: My cousin Joe Jett is pouring cement into the hole while I am making sure the post is vertical. The VGN mainline is in the background. Right photo from left to right: James Kincaid, trustee of Kincaid United Methodist Church, who agreed to host the marker; John Frazier, a native and local historian of the area and also a childhood friend of my mother who was a tremendous help in finding a location for the marker; and the author wearing a VGN tee shirt.

Virginian Railway Heritage Trail Sign (2)

Closeup of the VGN Heritage Trail marker for the Page and Kincaid area along St Route 61. For more information on this project please visit the website as shown on the sign. The Virginian Railway has been gone since December 1, 1959, but memories of the VGN still run strong I’m sure for those who had family members employed by or those who simply admired the history and operation of the VGN. These markers will keep the memories and history of the Virginian Railway alive for years to come.

Kenova, WV – A Hot Spot For Train Watching

Kenova001 Aug 1966 Reduced Watermarked

Eastbound N&W passenger train The Powhatan Arrow arriving at the elevated station in Kenova in August, 1966 having crossed the main truss spans over Ohio River and coming to a stop on the approach spans. The existing structure was completed in 1913 having replaced the single track structure built in the early 1890s. 

In my November 5, 2010 post I mentioned that Kenova was a great location to photograph trains on two major railroads at that time and at one place and those were the Chesapeake & Ohio and the Norfolk & Western railways. I won’t take time to repeat what was said in my first post but I have included two photos of the C&O as promised. I hope you enjoy this photo essay.

Kenova002 Aug 1966 Reduced Watermarked

Kenova003 Aug 1966 Reduced Watermarked






On the left: Close up of N&W GP9 #519. These units were steam generator equipped and also had dual control stands so that the units would not have to be turned and the engineer could always be on the right side to see the signals. Photo on the right shows connections between the units so they can be operated by only one engineer. The N&W was one of the few major railroads to use “geeps” to pull main line passenger trains.

Kenova009 Dome Car 1612 Sep 1967

The Arrow sported a dome car as a result of the lease of the Wabash RR by the N&W in 1964. In the same year the N&W acquired the Nickel Plate Road and the Pittsburgh & West Virginia Ry by lease that expanded the N&W almost four fold. The N&W did not have domes until the Wabash acquisition. 

Kenova004 Sep 1967 Watermarked

Westbound coal drag approaching the Kenova bridge being pulled by GP9 #713 and sister units. It was hard to capture the force being exerted by theses locomotives pulling the loads up grade to the bridge.

Kenova007 GP9 869 Sep 1967

N&W GP9s #869 and 717 switching a string of hoppers around Kenova Yard. The track the train is on used to be the mainline to Williamson, WV. In 1933 a section between Wayne and Lenore was abandoned in favor of a better alignment along the Big Sandy and Tug Fork rivers. It is at this spot where the new alignment on the right ties into the original N&W main. The old main line out of Kenova then became the Wayne Branch. It still carries the mainline mile posting that originates from Norfolk, VA

Kenova006 Sep 1967 WB Arrow Watermarked (1)

Westbound Powhatan Arrow with dome car arriving at the Kenova Depot in September, 1967. This view shows the expanse of the elevated platform. It’s almost as if you were at ground level.  N&W’s color position signal is in the background. Just to the right in the distance is KX Tower. The tan building across the tracks which a lady passenger is walking toward, houses the elevator for moving baggage from the ground floor. Note the line of baggage carts. Next to that is the station. 

Kenova, WV Feb 1968 WB Powhatan Arrow Watermarked

The westbound Arrow is approaching Kenova on a cold snowy day in February, 1968. The signal on the left is for eastbound C&O trains. If I remember correctly, the signal was attached to the walkway but when it was removed the signal was relocated to a ground mast.

At one time the Kenova station served three railroads. Besides the N&W and C&O, the Baltimore & Ohio had passenger service from Wheeling, WV to Kenova on their Ohio River Branch. Some time in the 1950’s, C&O and B&O passenger trains stopped serving Kenova. In B&O’s case, passenger trains were discontinued. By 1965, 11.6 miles of the Ohio River Branch from Huntington to Kenova was removed as a result of the C&O acquiring control of the B&O in 1963.

Kenova005 Sep 1967 Watermarked

Eastbound empty coal train headed back to the coal fields being pulled by GP9 #845 followed by Alco RS11 #377 and another GP9. The main truss spans over the Ohio River are in the background. This is one of my favorite shots.

Kenova008 Sep 1967 Caboose 518318 Watermarked

Conductor of the same train as above giving the photographer a wave as he passes by. I really miss not seeing cabooses bringing up the rear of today’s freight trains.

N&W Caboose 518410 Watermarked

A work extra has just left Kenova Yard heading to do work probably somewhere in Ohio perhaps at South Point or Ironton. 


Kenova017 Sep 1967 C&O 6249 Reduced Watermarked

The C&O also did its share for making Kenova a Hot Spot for train watching which it still is today.  GP9 #6249 is puling an eastbound manifest freight along with four sister units. It is about to go under the N&W bridge. The signal bridge in the background marks the end of the C&O three track main line that began in Huntington. (See Huntington, WV Part III). From there two tracks cross the Big Sandy River into Catlettsburg, KY. The track on the far right is N&W’s line to the coal unloading facilities along the Ohio River. Train movements from Kenova Yard had to cross the C&O mains at grade through a series of crossovers approximately a mile east of here.  


Kenova018 C&O Manifest Sep 1967 Reduced Watermarked

Another eastbound C&O manifest pulled by GP9 #5975 about to pass under the N&W bridge. The Kenova Depot is just to the right out of the picture. In the distance you can see the telltales suspended over the tracks. They served as a warning to men riding on the tops of cars of an impending low clearance. They became obsolete when the railroads banned train crews from the top of box cars.

Kenova011 GP9 Mar 1968 Reduced Watermarked

The Ohio side of N&W’s bridge over the Ohio River afforded a closer view of the massive truss spans plus made another interesting spot to photograph trains. Here two GP units are leading a loaded coal train westbound toward Portsmouth, OH.

  Kenova014 Mar 1968 Watermarked

The west bound Arrow crossing the five truss spans over the Ohio in March 1968. The bridge is approximately 80 ft above normal pool. It has survived floods of the Ohio River over the years including the flood of 1937 which has been designated as the worst flood of recorded history. The small structure in the foreground is the old US 52 underpass at North Kenova, OH

Kenova010 Mar 1968

Kenova013 Caboose 518135 Mar 1968 Watermarked






Eastbound empty hopper train headed by Alco C626 #1139 and EMD GP18 #906. There is no highway bridge over the Ohio River at Kenova. The closest bridge is at 17th St W in Huntington about 5 miles upriver. The next closest is about 7 miles downriver at Ashland, KY.

Kenova, WV Feb 1968 KX Tower copy
Kenova016 Jun 1972 KX Tower Reduced Watermarked






Two views of KX Tower. On the left the tower was still in operation in February, 1968.  On the right in June 1972 you can see evidence that the tower is no longer in operation. Train order signals and the platforms for the engineer and conductor to pick up train orders on the fly have been removed. KX Tower at one time controlled the mainline from Prichard, WV to Ironton, OH a distance of about 25 miles.

Kenova, WV Feb 1968 KX Operator


Tower operator, Harold Neal of Portsmouth, OH, standing on the platform at Kenova Tower where train orders are placed to be picked up by train crews passing by. I remember how he befriended me and allowed me to see what an operator does during his shift.

Harold was quite busy at times. He received train orders from the division dispatcher over company phone then typed up the orders and placed them out for the trains. Also he remotely controlled switches and signals from a control panel inside the tower. The need for train orders diminished over the years as the railroads adopted two way radio communications. Towers were gradually closed as railroads switched to controlling trains from a central location mostly at division headquarters.  

I hope you have enjoyed this look at Kenova.

Huntington, WV Part III

img128 croppedSD18 #1802 and sister unit pulling Westbound coal drag on #2 main track just beyond the west end of Huntington Yard at 2nd St West. It was from this point that three mains ran to Kenova a distance of approximately 7.5 miles. HO Cabin is in the background to left of the train. 

For this post I thought I would make it picture album of various photos of the C&O around the Huntington area. I hope you enjoy it.


GP7 #5704 switching South Yard near 16th Street (now Hal Greer Blvd) in March, 1970. This unit was originally ordered by the Pere Marquette in 1947 but was delivered to the C&O as result of the merger with the PM in the same year. This unit is now in operation on the Lebanon, Mason and Monroe RR in excursion service as #55. For more history on this locomotive you can visit their site at lebanonrr.com/history.html.



GP7 #5795 with caboose 90267 at 16th Street Yard. The paint scheme on this unit is similar to that used on #5704 when it was delivered. Note the lamps for the switch stands. They light up at night so that crews could tell which way the switches were lined.


GP7 #5715 at 16th Street Yard in the Futura paint scheme.

img127 Cleaned Up

Eastbound freight headed by SD units passing by the outdoor museum operated by the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society at 14th Street West at the end of Memorial Park.

C&O E-8A 4026 Huntington, WV Mar 68

On the left, E8 #4026 in its original tri-color paint scheme at the Huntington Diesel Shop. On the right is freshly painted #4005 in the simplified C&O paint scheme. 

C&O E-8A 4014 Huntington, WV Mar 68 Simple Side View

C&O E-8A 4014 Huntington, WV Mar 68 Simple

Left: E8 #4014 in the simplified big C&O scheme. Right: Front view of #4014. At the left side of the photo is DK Cabin.

C&O E-8A 4014 Huntington, WV Aug 66 Mr. H.F. Bogenschutz

Picture of engineer for Train #3 Mr. H. F. Bogenschutz standing beside E8 #4014 on an August day in 1966. Bogey, as he was known by fellow trainmen, befriended me during the years he ran trains #3 and #4 between Cincinnati and Huntington. On days I went to see #3 I would always try to be there on the days he worked. Mr. Bogenschutz always invited me into the cab. I will never forget his kindness.  

Huntington, WV Feb 1968 (2)

On a cold snowy February 1968, Train #3 has clear signal to depart Huntington westbound. This view is from the engineer’s side. The snow makes the tracks stand out.