A flood in Williamson, WV

As told by L.W. Buckland, Jr.

In April 1977, Buddy was working on a train that had laid over in Williamson, West Virginia. There was a flood in the coal fields which trapped the train and its crew for four days, from Sunday night until Wednesday morning. The crew was stranded on the 3rd floor of the 10-story Mountaineer Hotel. Flood waters were 20 feet deep in the street and on 2nd Avenue the water was up to the 2nd story of the hotel. Beside the hotel was the Chamber of Commerce where there is/was a coal carved statue of an Indian. All of that was under water.

Buddy and some of his crew found mesh wire from an antenna on the roof and got 2×4’s to make fishing nets. They caught items floating in front of the hotel. In fact, they fished out food in cans and plastic, enough to feed 90 people during the stay. Crew members fished out beer, whiskey and cigarettes. Carlton Whitley, brakeman on the job, even fished out a tire that fit his truck. (Dad fished out some metal lawn chairs that Mom still uses on her front porch.)

When the water subsided, the men waded out with garbage bags on their legs and made it to the Salvation Army, setup in the school.

Microwave (?) phone systems had just gone into effect. Buddy heard Supt. Stephens on the phone and spoke with him – resulting in Robert Buckland coming to Williamson to pick up the crew.

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8 thoughts on “A flood in Williamson, WV

  1. I was the Operator in “BF” that night and was on the teletype and phone with Greg Hatfield, operator at “WY”, until he had to evacuate the second floor office in a rowboat! We kept sending crews on work trains into the flood area and they would disappear. Finally, we sent a train with specific instructions to return to Iaeger with any news or information. It’s difficult to imagine now, but with no sat com, cell phones, or internet, when the phone lines were down, there was no was to communicate.

    • I was the operator in Williamson the night of the flood. I may have releived Greg Hatfield, not sure. I was on vacation and Mr. Snavely called and asked if I could work because most ot the people in the area were flooded and could not get to work. I lived in East Williamson, a mile or so from the yard office, came to work and worked until we had to walk up the steps to the second floor, to stay dry as the flood waters were almost to the second floor This was in the early am hours. I had radio conversation with a crew, Engineer Ralph Bailey and Cond. Ralph “bruggy” Adkins and they tied down loads of coal and stone on the Matewan and Pond Creek bridges, so as to keep them under load and stable. As there were no signals and very little communication, this crew saved the railroad a lot on money by most probably, saving the bridges. Mr. Adkins’s home was flooded during this time period. I gave the crew permission to pass all signals, according to the rules, to complete this job. They made several trips into the yard and back out to do what was necessary. I believe this is the crew that was sent from Bluefield to Williamson. I had some phone contact with Supt. Mikovch’s office that night. I really don’t remember who as it has been a long time ago, but they were made aware of the situation. We, there were several people that were stranded, got out of the yard office the next morning We walked across the “swinging bridge” and were picked up by a boat. A lot of things happened that night and in the folowing months. I was witness to it all.

  2. I remember this an was working on a new Applachian power building on top of a mountain before entering Williamson after the water went down magic mart contacted me to look at damages to there store which was almost completely under the flood level surely a mess .And of course Williamson it self. also Grundy Va, got flooded as well down in town really destroyed a lot I was there too a few a days after for phone co. magic mart an a few other places .

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