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Railroad Payday, the Call Office and Train Order Hoops

I’m one of those people who just can’t throw away anything with a family memory attached, and we have a garage and attic full of junk to prove it. If you’d ask my husband (CSX Engineer), he’d confirm the fact that the old primitive items, handed down or salvaged by me, are my most prized possessions.

The wooden lock box below is one such treasure. At a point in time before direct deposit, people who worked received real paper checks on “payday“. And if you were like most of us who grew up in the mountains of Virginia & West Virginia, your family lived from payday to payday. The Norfolk & Western Railroad paid-off on the 1st and 15th of each month.

The “call office” on the northside of Bluefield was where the crews were called to work, reported for work and signed off when they finished work. Inside the dusty old homemade box are slots or shelves which held the coveted paychecks in alphabetical order. Notice the letters scratched inside. The crew clerks held the checks under lock and key as the employees stopped in, a crew at a time, to pick up their checks. The railroad has been our bread & butter my whole life – even before me – and for our children too.

The box itself is probably worthless, but it meant enough to my dad that when it was replaced with a more modern system, he came home with the box and stashed it in the basement.

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Dad was known for bringing home the strangest items from the railroad, usually something that would otherwise be thrown away. The iron finial below is one such piece that he had lying around the backyard for years. So heavy that I can hardly move it, I somehow managed to get it in my van and bring it back to Florida and place it among the flowers.  As a railroader’s daughter, and as a railroad clerk operator myself, I’m familiar with many of these antiquities once used on the railroad. This particular piece is the top of a semaphore board or signal board. define 2013-07-19 19.51.15

Train Order Operators would leverage the signal board (below left) from inside the depot to signal the crew. The image (below right) is a V-shaped Train Order hoop.

I actually own such a V-hoop and still have a yellow tissue copy of the first train order that I ever wrote. I have personally set the signal, written the train orders issued by dispatcher and handed up the train orders to crews as their train flew past me. I have stood apprehensively along side the mainline and held the hoop high and still.  As the engines roared by the train order office, a crew member reached his arm out the window and through the hoop. The simple design allowed the twine loop holding the orders to easily slip away from the hoop.

Ditto for the cab crew.

Train Order

Old time railroading is fascinating. If you like it, please follow the blog and my Facebook page.

See more about Train Orders here

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Train orders were of two types: “31’s,” which had to be signed for by a member of the train crew, and “19’s,” which did not. The former were employed when the dispatcher needed to know that the affected train actually had the order, while the latter were used when he did not.

Train-order forms themselves came in pads printed on a thin onion skin paper, or “flimsy,” which enabled crews to read them over the light of a firebox or against a kerosene lantern.source

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Relatives For Sale!

It is obvious to you by now that I love old things – ancestors, personal items, hand-me-downs and things that just look used or vintage. And with this in mind, you’ll understand that I sometimes get caught up in the moment and make peculiar purchases that are otherwise unexplainable. Such is the case with the relatives below. These are not my relatives mind you – but they are someone relatives. I’ve adopted them, loved them and now I’m putting them up for sale at the French Country Flea Market held at Sweet South Cottage and Farms on October 19, 2013. My hope is that someone else will adopt these less-than-lovelies and give them a good home – at least for awhile – like I did.

The glint in the eye of the gentleman in the old time photograph caught my attention one day while browsing an antique shop. Some would say, it called my name, but really – I just thought he was adorable and I felt sorry that his family didn’t know where he was. I’d be heart broken to have missed this framed photograph if he had really been my relative. Why people dispose of these precious images is beyond me.

Any takers out there for the gentleman in the wide-brimmed hat?

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How about the stern-faced lady in the oil painting below? Could she have been a school teacher or preacher’s wife? Maybe not – with that plunging neckline….. and she looks like she could have been a woman of means. It is oil after all.  She has a look that would probably scare a child, but I called her Grace and imagined that she was likely very nice in spite of her unhappy, down-turned expression.

Could Aunt Grace go home with you? Would you love her?

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The glamour girl in the pretty frame was purchased because of the frame. I have a picture of my mother-in-law back in the early 40’s and thought it would be perfect. Unfortunately, the picture was too small for the frame and I never got around to resizing the picture. Surely, there will be taker at the flea market that will find this a “must-have” and go home with a wonderful vintage piece in excellent condition.

I have loads of images of my family and ancestors and enjoy looking at them and sharing them. Each time I make a new connection and find another picture of a long lost relative, I am thrilled. So check these out and if you find a family resemblance let me know.

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Visit SWEET SOUTH COTTAGE AND FARMS on Facebook and the website. Tell Lisa that The Railroader’s Daughter sent you. And FRENCH COUNTY FLEA MARKET on Facebook and the website.

SAVE THE DATE – October 19, 2013

A Railroad Bell

(my) Family gatherings are always sweet, but at a recent 4th of July cookout, we had an especially goflagod time. Sister and brother-in-law served up the traditional burgers, sausages, potato salad and my most favorite, a Virginia-style grilled hot dog with lots of yellow mustard, chopped onions and hot chili! Yum – Happy Birthday America!

The setting for the holiday spread and after-dinner game of corn-hole was absolutely picturesque – a lawn to be proud of indeed! It is obvious that the hosts give above average attention to their lush backyard with its deep, thick green grass- edged to perfection! There are also colorful flower beds fully mulched, an herb garden for the consummate cook and cozy vignette seating which work in harmony to create a venue worthy of a magazine feature.

However, there is one treasured, hand-me-down object that is the centerpiece of the lovely garden. And of course, it most definitely appeals to The Railroader’s Daughter.  It is a steam locomotive bell!

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Carried south, all the way from Mundy town in southwest Virginia, the bell offers more than a rich sound, it is full of history. Placed near the farm house of one of our favorite aunts & uncles, the No. 2 bell was made by C.S. Bell Company, Hillsboro, Ohio, and was once used on a railroad steam engine! I’m not sure where they got hold of the bell, but our beloved Aunt Russ and Uncle Preacher used it on the farm for a dinner bell. They referred to it as the “railroad bell” and originally it traveled many miles above the boiler of a steam locomotive through the Appalachian Mountains we call home.

Note the marking across the cast iron bell yoke. 2013-07-04 11.33.05(right)

According to steamlocomotive.com Bells were standard equipment on steam locomotives in North America from around 1840 onward.  Their purpose was to make noise, alerting people and animals of an oncoming train.  Steam locomotive bells were usually made of cast bronze or brass.  They were typically between 11 and 17 inches in diameter (measured at the widest part).  They could weigh hundreds of pounds.  When a steam locomotive was scrapped, the locomotive bell was often one of the few items saved from the torch.

The bell assembly included several parts:

  • The Bell: The bell itself is one solid piece.
  • The Cradle: The cradle is the framework portion that attaches to the locomotive.
  • The Yoke: The yoke holds the bell and allows it to swing in the cradle.
  • The Clapper: The clapper is the metal piece hanging inside the bell.  When the bell swings the clapper hits the bell causing it to ring.
  • The Pull-Arm: The pull-arm is attached to the yoke.  A rope is attached to the pull-arm so that the engineer or fireman can cause the bell to swing.

On early locomotives and others that did not have clearance issues, bells were mounted on top of the boiler.  On larger locomotives where height clearances became an issue, bells were mounted on the front of the smokebox.  There were also cases where steam locomotive bells were mounted in odd places like under the smokebox or under the running board….

MUNDY Preacher Mace Russell

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I did find evidence that the beloved gardeners had just finished their green thumb magic just moments before the guests arrived. The rake and rustic bench look like the perfect respite after a long day of keeping the garden.

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Thank you so much for your warm hospitality. It’s always a pleasure to visit and enjoy family – the “other” railroader’s daughter~

Diggin’ up sum roots

Obsession may be the key word since I have returned from my mountain roots adventure in August. It seems that I am so busy recording data that I uncovered, that I have forgotten my blog. Here is a tidbit that might put a smile on your face. The above picture of my grandparents with their first six children is one of my favs. Click on the picture to enlarge it. Notice the hair bows, the skinny ties, the shoes, AND THE TEDDY BEAR! Wow!

Asa Davis worked with the N&W railroad about 48 years and began in Russell County in 1905. While Altha was pregnant with JoElla, he was promoted to section foreman in Tazewell County. Asa loaded his family belongings into a boxcar for the move. Can you imagine?
When the couple went to house keeping Asa’s Uncle Henry gave them a primitive pie safe made of poplar and joined with wrought nails. I suppose that treasure was moved from Cleveland to Tazewell via RR because Grandma Davis gave that to me before she died. I still have it and hope that one of my girls will someday take a likin’ to it.