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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

     2013-07-04 11.14.12      2013-07-04 11.13.52      2013-07-04 11.16.07

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~

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What is this blog about?

It’s a reasonable question to ask, “Who is The Railroader’s Daughter and WHAT is this blog about? If you’re following this blog, you may wonder why you started following it.

Perhaps, your interest lies in railroads or the old bustling towns of Bluefield, WV and Bluefield, VA, built around the rise of the railroad industry.

On the other hand, you may be my family and you’ve been supportive of my efforts to uncover mounds of genealogy relating to our mountain roots in Russell, Tazewell and Mercer Counties and our relatives who fought to protect their families from the Indians and who were instrumental in establishing county governments and founding towns.

You may be an antique enthusiastic who shares my love of old things, primitive utilitarian items that tell a story of the pioneer ancestors who blazed the trails down through the Shenandoah Valley and into Southwest Virginia.

You may be totally unrelated to any of the above and just like the vintage junk that I drag home and transform into something fun or functional. Whatever the case…..

what is

Evolving over a period of years, The Railroader’s Daughter is an attempt to bring together all the things I’ve learned and loved. You’ll find an array of information, images, family history and surnames as they connect to my roots. There is a page of vintage finds for sale. I also showcase a collection of hand-me-down personal family items that reveal a glimpse into a child growing up in the mountains of southwest Virginia –  a lifestyle I now treasure.

Both of my grandfathers and several great uncles, my father and three of his brothers, one of my brothers and many of our cousins, my husband and I have all worked for the railroad. There have been good times, bad times – stories of coal mines and accidents, floods and survivals, living on the rails and beautifying the railway. It’s a strange way of life to many modern families, but a wonderfully exciting life for those who have experienced the romance of a dining car breakfast with fine linens, a childhood dream of a trip in the Norfolk & Western observation car or the stories of ancestors who moved all their worldly possessions in a boxcar. It’s a plethora of adventure.

I am The Railroader’s Daughter!  I am old enough to have learned a few things and to realize that those who came before me knew a little somethin’ about life. They had it harder than I have it. I appreciate my parents because they cared enough to teach me respect for my elders and how to say, yes ma’am, no sir and thank you. Although I moved away from the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia when I was only 21,  I well up with pride when I brag about East River Mountain and Ward’s Cove and my roots in Appalachia.

Thanks for visiting, and I hope you’ll come back soon.