About days7541

I am interested in.steam railroading, both domestically in the US,North America, South America and Europe. I am also interested in books about steam trains and railroading in the post WWI era through the end of steam travel in 1958. On this website,I hope to post book reviews, articles about model railroading shows, current railroading problems and events, and to advocate for rail safety worldwide.Soon, this website will be carrying links to railroad history URLs, magazines, used books, model railroad inventory for sale and to advocate for the growth of intercity rail service throughout the US. Yes, that also means support for light rail efforts and monorail efforts, as well as inter-urban expansion of present rail systems on existing rights of way. . If you are a student of railroading history, I plan to cover areas of the law and commerce, as well as regulations for railroad operations. Feel free to communicate your thoughts via e-mail to .

Update on the “Fire Up 611″ Campaign by VMT

The dream is coming true!

The Norfolk & Western Class J 611

Steam Passenger Locomotive Rolls  

to Restoration May 24  


Fundraising campaign halfway to goal of $5 million

Restoration must start now to participate in 2015
Norfolk Southern’s 21st Century Steam Excursion Program

Apr. 1, 2014 – ROANOKE, VIRGINIA – The Virginia Museum of Transportation today announced the Norfolk & Western Class J 611 Steam Passenger Locomotive-known affectionately as the Spirit of Roanoke-is ready to head to Spencer, N.C. for restoration. An “All Aboard” send-off party is scheduled for Saturday, May 24, from 10 am to 5 pm.   

After leaving the Virginia Museum of Transportation on May 24, the Class J 611 will arrive at the North Carolina Transportation Museum on or about May 29, 2014. She will be the guest of honor at the museum’s Streamliners event, to be held May 29 through June 1. Restoration work will begin shortly after the event.  

The restoration will be open to the public, but with limited viewing. Planned work includes a complete overhaul to meet current Federal Railroad Administration and strict safety guidelines.  

“We’re pleased to send the 611 on to our fellow train enthusiasts at the North Carolina Transportation Museum where this exciting restoration will get underway,” says Beverly T. Fitzpatrick, Jr., executive director of the Virginia Museum of Transportation. “We’re grateful for the tremendous amount of support that allows us to reach this step of the program.”  

The Fire UP 611 Committee of steam locomotive technology experts, business leaders and railroad consultants conducted a feasibility study in 2013. The study revealed that the Virginia Museum of Transportation would need $3.5 million to restore, operate and preserve the Class J 611. An additional $1.5 million will be raised as an endowment for the iconic locomotive.  

Although the original plan called for raising approximately $3.5 million prior to the start of restoration, the Fire Up 611! Committee and the Museum’s Board of Directors decided to move ahead with restoration now that $2.3 million has been raised. Fitzpatrick cites a tight timeline to participate in Norfolk Southern’s 21st Century Steam Program in 2015, Amtrak’s return to Roanoke, the momentum of the fundraising efforts and strong results as reasons in support of the decision.  

“The restoration will take approximately nine months and needs to begin this spring so we can participate in Norfolk Southern’s 21st Century Steam Program in 2015,” says Fitzpatrick.   “As she travels the Norfolk Southern rail system, our 611 will draw the attention and interest of new donors and fans of the Class J 611 from the region and beyond.”  

A picture of an old Norfolk & Western Lubritorium.
The Virginia Museum of Transportation will base the Preservation and Education Facility on this design.


Steam Forever: Protecting the investment of a one-of-a-kind American treasure

The Fire Up 611! Committee recommended that a preservation and education center be built at the Museum to keep the locomotive in top operating form. “The goal from the very beginning was not only to get her running, but to keep her running for generations to come,” said J. Preston Claytor, chairman of the Fire Up 611! Committee. “The facility secures the investments rail fans have made in the Class J 611.”  

Amtrak’s plans to extend passenger rail service into Roanoke will play a role in the location of the preservation and education center. “Amtrak may need land owned by Norfolk Southern and leased by the Museum at present,” he says. “We are looking at ideas for the preservation and education facility’s location in conjunction with Amtrak Service, the Class J 611’s restoration, and the overall planning of this facility.”  

In recent months, the Fire Up 611! Campaign saw major momentum, and the Museum is confident the remaining funds will be raised. “We’re going at full steam,” says Fitzpatrick. “Based on our success to date and projection for the campaign’s final stages, we decided we could send her to Spencer for restoration sooner rather than later.” In nine short months, donations to the campaign have been received from nearly 3,000 donors from every state and the District of Columbia in the United States and 18 foreign countries.  

Fans of the Class J 611 are invited to visit fireup611.org to learn more and to donate to the Fire Up 611 Capital Campaign. They can also visit the Fire Up 611 Facebook page, YouTube and Twitter feed (#fireup611).  

The Fire Up 611! Study

The Study determined that a minimum of $3.5 million is needed to return the locomotive to the rails. The costs include a complete mechanical restoration of the locomotive, a preservation and education facility and support to develop the excursion program.  

The Preservation and Education Facility will preserve and maintain the iconic steam passenger locomotive. Educational exhibits and viewing areas will also be included.  

The locomotive will be restored through a partnership with the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina. The 37-bay Bob Julian Roundhouse on the grounds of the Museum is one of the last remaining roundhouses in the United States that can handle a locomotive the size of the Class J 611.  

To be successful and remain on the rails, personnel and tools are necessary to complete the restoration and operate the excursions. Included in these costs are marketing, human resources and business operations.  

Click here for a list of the Fire Up 611! Committee Members.

North Carolina Transportation Museum (NCTM) To Rebuild J 611 For VMT

The iconic steam passenger locomotive will be restored at the Bob Julian Roundhouse
at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina.

After the restoration, the Class J 611 will return to its home at the
Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia.

The Bob Julian Roundhouse is one of the few facilities equipped to house a steam
locomotive the size of the Class J 611.
March 24, 2014 — ROANOKE, VA — The Virginia Museum of Transportation’s Board of Directors and the Fire Up 611! Committee announce an agreement with the North Carolina Transportation Museum & Foundation (NCTMF) in Spencer, North Carolina, to house the iconic Norfolk & Western Class J 611 Steam Passenger Locomotive during her restoration. After the restoration is complete, the Class J 611 will steam back to its home at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia.

No date has been set for the Class J 611 to move to the North Carolina Transportation Museum (NCTM). Before the Class J 611 can move, the Virginia Museum of Transportation (VMT) must raise adequate funding to restore the locomotive and ultimately build a preservation and education facility to house her. To date, the VMT has raised almost $2.3 million. Donations have poured in from every state, the District of Columbia and 18 countries.

“Like us, the North Carolina Transportation Museum strives to preserve and showcase our rail heritage,” said Beverly T. Fitzpatrick, Jr., executive director of the Virginia Museum of Transportation. “We can’t think of a better venue to host the Class J 611 during her much anticipated restoration.”

One of the largest buildings on the North Carolina Transportation Museum campus is the 37-stall Bob Julian Roundhouse. The Roundhouse was built in 1924 and is one of the biggest surviving steam era roundhouses left in North America. Its 100-foot turntable and restoration shop are capable of handling a locomotive the size of Class J 611. The museum, located on 57 acres, encompasses 13 historic shop buildings that were part of Southern Railway’s largest steam locomotive shop, which dates to 1896.

“The North Carolina Transportation Museum is honored at the opportunity to partner with the Virginia Museum of Transportation and the Fire Up 611 Committee to provide a location for the restoration of this iconic locomotive,” said Steve Mersch, NCTMF president. “Speaking on behalf of the museum and foundation employees, volunteers and the local community we are all very excited that once again Historic Spencer Shops will house the repair of a mainline steam locomotive just as it did in decades past.”

Once the funds are raised, the Class J 611 – a 4-8-4 locomotive – will be moved dead-in-tow to the North Carolina Transportation Museum. The locomotive will then undergo its 1,472-day inspection and receive repairs. The process is expected to take six to nine months. After repairs are made, the Class J 611 will steam back to her home at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke.

About the Class J 611 Steam Passenger Locomotive

The Norfolk & Western Class J Locomotives were a marriage of beauty and power. Designed, constructed and maintained in Roanoke, Virginia, the Class Js were known for their bullet nose, modern lines, graceful curves and baritone whistle. Her exquisite design combined with unbridled power to make the engine the iconic symbol of modern steam locomotives. Number 611, the last remaining engine of her kind, is known as the Spirit of Roanoke .

The Class J 611 Steam Locomotive was built in 1950 and pulled the Powhatan Arrow, the famed passenger train, from Norfolk to Cincinnati. The Class J 611 retired from passenger rail service in 1959. In 1962, she was moved to the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia. In 1981, Norfolk Southern pulled her out of retirement and restored her to her original glory.

She was retired from excursions in 1994 and moved back into the Virginia Museum of Transportation, where she sits today, greeting tens of thousands of her fans who visit from across the globe every year. Since her retirement, rail fans have clamored, hoped and dreamed that she return to the rails, to blow her whistle and steam over the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains once again.

About the Virginia Museum of Transportation, Inc.

Home to two of the most powerful steam locomotives in existence today—the N&W Class A 1218 and the N&W Class J 611—the Virginia Museum of Transportation is celebrating 50 years of the road, rail and air. The Museum regularly attracts visitors of all ages from across the U.S. and around the world. Through exhibits, artifacts, and an outstanding collection of rail equipment, cars, trucks, airplanes, and more, the Museum tells the story of Virginia’s rich transportation history.

The Virginia Museum of Transportation, Inc. is the Official Transportation Museum of the Commonwealth of Virginia, but receives no state funding. The Museum is located in the historic Norfolk & Western Freight Station at 303 Norfolk Avenue SW, Roanoke, VA 24016. Open MondaySaturday 10-5 and Sunday 1-5. 540/342.5670. www.vmt.org.

About the North Carolina Transportation Museum:

The North Carolina Transportation Museum, located in historic Spencer Shops, the former Southern Railway repair facility is located just five minutes off I-85 at Exit 79 in Spencer, N.C., and about an hour from Charlotte, Greensboro or Winston-Salem. The museum is part of the Division of Historic Sites and the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

Last Train from Cleveland: Update #3 – The Book Launch

Grandparents and Grand Children tour the museum and see the sights.

After critical delays in the literary Round House (as well as the CreateSpace Printers), Last Train From Cleveland, a story of a journey by a railyard engineer, roared into Roanoke (via Roanoke’s Woodrum Field and UPS air) just in time for the official book launch at the Virginia Museum of Transportation.  With heightened expectations and after a night of resignation to no books, they did arrive at the VMT. What a surprise.

As many grandparents, parents and excited children waited nervously outside the VMT at 10:00 last Saturday morning, there was an air of expectation about the treasures they would see inside. Was the desire to actually ride a train?  Or was it the chance to see up close all things railroad?  Maybe it was the many exhibits about transportation in the Old Dominion that would hold their attention.

One young man summed it up beautifully; “I’m here to see Six E-Le-ah-v-n”,  which roughly translates from Southwest Virginia speak to merely “6-11”, the classic stream-lined 4-8-4 steam engine that hauled passengers on the famed Powhatan Arrow or the Pocahontas for many years of steam passenger service.

With our book launch tables and displays set up just under the signs and information about 611, everyone headed to see “611” on display, passing our table on their way. It was also the “path” to ride one of the classic N&W Heritage diesels running on Saturday and Sunday for short trips up the siding toward the 5th Street Bridge.

Chip Deyerle at the VMT for Book Launch of Last Train From Cleveland.

Of particular interest was the location of the book talks!  Ideally, it was a rail coach, formerly used by the N&W for teaching safety courses to the distant reaches of N&W personnel. In this coach were quarters for the “instructor” whose duties included instructing courses and showing training films. The Safety Car was actually a converted “Club” car, but now seats 48 people in tiered theater-style seats. The sixteen millimeter projector booth now holds a single small DVD player!

Inside the Rail Safety Car Theater is a 70″LEDScreen, State of the Art, and comfortable as well.

With visitors mostly from the Roanoke, Virginia area, there were at least other visitors from places as far away as Birmingham, England and points east.

A very comfortable setting for watching safety films, and for presenting book talk.

The big draw to the Safety Car was support for the railroad’s Operation Lifesaver Program which features messages for children and adults about walking around, near, or across railroad tracks and paying attention to moving trains. Drivers and teens are so occupied with texting and cell phones; they seldom see the approach of a train until it’s too late.

The Safety car also featured a film about the restoration efforts of the old N&W “611” which is a dynamic and amazing story in and of itself.


After two days at the VMT, I have a greater appreciation for rail fans, their families and their children.  We look forward to a return visit during Rail Fan Days set for a weekend in early May, 2014. I also appreciate the efforts of the VMT to preserve the history of transportation in our fair State.

VMT has also decided to carry Last Train From Cleveland in its online catalogue at www.shop.vmt.org and on its book shelf.

I am indebted to the staff at the VMT for the gracious support and assistance this past week weekend. It is one of the best groups of volunteers I’ve ever had the occasion to work with. It was suggested that the VMT  consider hosting a “Railroad Writers Workshop” in their unique and interesting facilities.


Last Train From Cleveland: The Story of a Railyard Engineer” (2nd Edition) will be available on Amazon.com on September 16, 2013. It is also available from the www.shop.vmt.org.

Last Train From Cleveland: The Story of Railyard Engineer: Progress Report #2

By Chip Deyerle, Days of Steam Books


Literary Roundhouse Report #2

Maintenance Report: Following reports of defective track and square ball bearings, LTFC is roundhouse rack and the Master Mechanic has the dictionary out to confirm correct parts usage and some steam phraseology.

Meanwhile a message was received from a reader that  Time Table Number 25  dated June 28, 1925, identified Train #3 as the best route to Cincinnati as there was no direct passenger service to Columbus, Ohio, via Portsmouth, Ohio. N&W passenger trains did run to Cincinnati for many years, and regularly. However, the dual N&W tracks did run passenger service at some point to Columbus Union station, but after 1925.

Replacement parts and revised text has been applied in several places to improve the ride, as well as the read. This should alleviate the bumps and jolts encountered during the train’s journey.

AT this point, LTFC is expected at the Virginia Museum of Transportation on time for Grand Parents Day , September 7-8, 2013 for the official book launch.  Readers of this website are invited to attend what will be a grand event.

New, revised copies of Last Train From Cleveland: the Story of a Railyard Engineer, will be available on or about Sept 5 2013..  The current version carried by Amazon.com will not be available after 8/29/2013.



Virginia, Amtrak and NS agree to extend passenger-rail service to Roanoke

 Provided this news bulletin.


Virginia, Amtrak, Norfolk Southern Railway and city of Roanoke, Va., officials have agreed to return passenger-rail service to Roanoke for the first time in 34 years, Gov. Bob McDonnell announced on Friday.

The new service between Lynchburg and Roanoke is the result of Virginia’s passage of its first new major transportation funding plan in three decades, railroad and Virginia officials said in a press release.

The McDonnell administration had “placed a high priority on extending Amtrak Virginia to Roanoke as a viable transportation option for travel to cities along the Northeast Corridor,” said Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton.

Conceptual design work and a rail capacity analysis is under way. NS, Amtrak and the city of Roanoke will perform the necessary work to restart the passenger-rail service.

NS supports the department’s efforts to return service to Roanoke, said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Wick Moorman.

“While freight is at the core of Norfolk Southern’s business, we understand the importance of passenger service to the Roanoke Valley,” he said.

Last week, Virginia and Amtrak announced the successful negotiation of a new intercity passenger-rail service. The Roanoke extension is the latest step in providing additional intercity passenger rail service to major rail corridors, Amtrak officials said.


Days of Steam Launches First Book -Last Train From Cleveland: The story of a Railyard Engineer

By Chip Deyerle, Author and Publisher

The train has left the station  in Roanoke and traveling to the famed City of Cleveland. Days of Steam Books is proud to announce its first major publication.

This is the story about the life of a Railyard Engineer who worked for the Norfolk & Western Railway in the early 1920’s. Working for the railroad was a challenge for men and women as the nation’s railroads went through a tumultuous period of labor unrest following World War One. But it was also a time when railroad families began to see slight improvements in healthcare and pension benefits through organizations like the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers with special life insurance programs. While this was an important aspect of railroad life due to safety hazards that imperiled the lives of workers, it was part of the sense of belonging to a “social” organization, rather than a ‘Union”. Based on letters from the past, follow the story of the life experiences of a railyard engineer and the trials he faced with strong family support during that period. His journey starts in the Roanoke, Virginia, N&W west rail yards and takes the reader on a journey through the rail yards  by steam engine to Cleveland as he and his wife seek urgent “state of the art” medical care in the famed Cleveland Clinic.

Last Train From Cleveland: The Story of a Railyard Engineer is available from Amazon.com.

Whistle Stop – In The News

Reproduced from the  newsletter published by the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum, Knoxville, TN.

611 TO STEAM AGAIN? By now everyone should be aware that there is a study

underway to determine the feasibility of returning N&W 611 to excursion service. In

case you missed the story, go to http://www.fireup611.org/main/index.php. A sweet 5-

minute video has been produced and is available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDKru1iE80s.

[WARNING: If you’re not into Rock & Roll you might not care for the background music featuring Bon Jovi, but that’s why your device has a mute option.]



NORFOLK SOUTHERN announced on February 25th that it will cease regional railcar classification operations at its Roanoke Terminal Hump Yard. This will mean the elimination of about 140 positions. The Terminal will continue to provide service to local customers, and to be a hub for through train operations.

The Roanoke Hump operation has seen steady decline in the volume of general merchandise cars handled by about 30 percent since 2006. At the same time, system-wide improvements in the railroad’s operations have freed up network capacity such that classifications operations now performed at Roanoke are no longer necessary. “The employees who work at Roanoke are dedicated and efficient,” said Terry Evans, Vice President, Transportation. “But the geographical location and layout of the hump yard make it not only expensive but redundant within our network.

Most of the affected positions are Carmen, who inspect and repair railcars, and train crews, who conduct switching operations in the yard. Some track maintenance positions are affected. System wide, NORFOLK SOUTHERN anticipates hiring between 850 and 1,150 employees in 2013 to keep up with attrition. These positions will first be offered to employees affected by the Roanoke change and employees furloughed at other locations. 


[Original source: trains.com] GULF & OHIO RAILWAYS has successfully acquired and

moved STONE MOUNTAIN SCENIC RAILROAD 4-4-0 No. 60 from Stone Mountain, GA to Knoxville. The railroad will evaluate the locomotive for possible restoration and operation on the railroad’s “Three Rivers Rambler” tourist train, which operates out of Knoxville. The railroad had previously restored ex-SOUTHERN RAILWAY 2-8-0 No. 154, built in 1890, for passenger service.

Baldwin built No. 60 in 1922 for Texas’ SAN ANTONIO & ARANSAS PASS RAILWAY. In the 1930s, it became TEXAS & NEW ORLEANS RAILROAD No. 220, and was renumbered 260 in Baldwin built No. 60 in 1922 for Texas’ SAN ANTONIO & ARANSAS PASS RAILWAY. In the 1930s, it became TEXAS & NEW ORLEANS RAILROAD No. 220, and was renumbered 260 in 1950. In 1954 Paulsen Spence acquired it for his LOUISIANA EASTERN RAILROAD, which was to be powered by steam locomotives he had collected over the years. Upon his death most of his collection was scrapped, but No. 60 escaped. It was purchased in 1962 by the STONE MOUNTAIN SCENIC RAILROAD, which named it Texas II for tourist service at Georgia’s Stone Mountain State Park. The engine last operated in 1983, although it continued to occasionally “pull” Trains, while pushed by a diesel, until 2002.

G&O acquired the engine from STONE MOUNTAIN SCENIC, which still operates using a pair of ex-SOUTHERN RAILWAY FP7s and an ex-CHESAPEAKE & OHIO GP7.

Greensboro/High Point passenger rail on upswing

Edited by Chip Deyerle for Days of Steam from an Amtrack posting.

Ridership on Amtrak trains through Greensboro and High Point grew steadily in the past 15 years, in keeping with a nationwide trend favoring shorter routes that link major metropolitan areas.

A recent study by the Brookings Institution found that regional Amtrak routes covering less than 400 miles account for most of the rail network’s 58 percent gain in passengers since 1997.

Not surprisingly, the report pinpointed such densely populated regions as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles as the greatest sources for growth in passenger numbers that rose to more than 31 million last year.

But the researchers also singled out North Carolina for steadily increasing ridership and for providing more financial and administrative support to its regional routes than many states. North Carolina’s homegrown rail service includes the Piedmont and Carolinian routes with a total of six stops daily at each of the Guilford County terminals.“In North Carolina, you do have a long-standing commitment to passenger rail and that’s important,” said Robert Puente’s, the author of the study and a senior fellow in Brookings’ metropolitan policy project.

In addition, the report highlighted the rail stations in Greensboro and High Point among 20 metros nationwide that at least doubled their passenger numbers since 1997, a benchmark year when Amtrak’s operating framework underwent major reforms. Puentes and his fellow researchers found that Amtrak service in the two cities grew by 152 percent in the 15-year window,

from 68,600 riders to 173,246 last year. The report looked at Greensboro and High Point as a single unit because it focused on metropolitan areas”, he said.

The report complimented North Carolina for providing a total $4.7 million yearly to support passenger rail, particularly the Piedmont route using state-owned engines and cars. The Piedmont runs only intrastate from Charlotte to Raleigh, while the twice-daily Carolinian keeps going to New York. It’s unclear whether the state’s current level of support will continue under the new administration of Gov. Pat McCrory. During his previous tenure as Charlotte mayor, McCrory championed that city’s light rail system, but state government faces steep budget challenges that could make passenger trains a target.

McCrory’s press secretary, Crystal Feldman, said residents will have to wait to learn whether any rail service is on the chopping block. “The governor will not release any details of his proposed budget until he presents it to the General Assembly later this month,” Feldman said in an email last week.

The state already has 30 railroad improvement projects in the works, many linked to the Southeast High Speed Rail corridor aimed at boosting travel speeds between Washington and Charlotte, said Nicole Meister of the N.C. Department of Transportation. “That’s going to help both freight and passenger travel,” Meister said of the track and crossing improvements between Charlotte and Raleigh.

The Brookings report found that ridership on Amtrak routes longer than 400 miles gained only slightly in recent years, accounting for just 17 percent of overall Amtrak fares last year.

The study pointed out that although the Carolinian stops in six other states and the District of Columbia, North Carolina is the only one contributing to its operation, a total of $2 million per year. The train makes 12 stops in the state, more than twice as many as any of the others.


Edited By Chip Deyerle

November 6, 1920.

On October 20, 1920, there was a head-end collision between two passenger trains on the Radford Division of the Norfolk & Western Railway near Rural Retreat, Va., which resulted in the death of 3 employees and injury to 11 passengers, 3 employees, 2 mail clerks, 1 conductor and 1 porter of the Pullman Co., and 1 express messenger. After investigation the Chief of the Bureau of Safety reports as follows:

The Radford Division, on which this accident occurred, extends from Roanoke, Va., to Bristol, Tenn., a distance of 150 miles. From Roanoke to Radford, 44 miles, the line is double track, from Radford to Bristol, 106 miles, it is single track. The movement of trains is controlled by time-table, train orders, and automatic block-signals, eastbound trains being superior by direction.

In the vicinity of the accident the line extends east and west. Beginning at a point about 4500 feet west from the point of the collision, and proceeding eastward, the line is tangent for 3200 feet at which point is located the west switch of the passing siding at Rural Retreat, which is on the south side of the main track. Beginning at this point there is a curve to the right of 3 degrees and 30 minutes, 540 feet in length, followed by a tangent 300 feet in length, which is followed in turn by a 2 degree curve to the left, 900 feet in length. The track is then tangent for about 2000 feet to the station. It was on the letter curve about 550 feet form its west and that the accident occurred. At this point and for about 3,000 feet west thereof, there is a grade of 1.2 per cent descending eastward. The view of approaching trains from the west is slightly obscured by a line of telegraph poles on the south side of the track, while on the north side owing to the curve there is practically no vision. The weather rest the time of the accident was clear.

Westbound local passenger train No. 37, enroute from Roanoke, Va. to Bristol, Tenn., in charge of Conductor Charlton and Engineman Linkous, was drawn by engine 558 and consisted of Penna, baggage 5525, N&W baggage 425, 439 and 449, all of wooden construction except 439 which had steel reinforced side and center sills, coaches 1208, 1640 and 1612 of all steel construction and baggage car 254, of wooden construction. It left East Radford, its initial station for the dispatching district on which the accident occurred, at 6.44 a.m. At Max Meadows, 28 miles west it received 19 train order No. 56 reading:

“No. 14, engine 102, meet No. 37, engine 358 at Rural Retreat and No. 41, engine 107 at Crockett. No. 14 take siding at Crockett.”

The train departed from Max Meadows at 8.02 a.m. and arrived at Rural Retreat, where it stopped at 8.40 a.m. The east switch of the passing siding having been opened, the train pulled in, stopping before the entire train was clear to unload passengers and express. After completing its work the train departed and had proceeded a distance of about 2,000 feet when, while running at a speed estimated to have been from 10 to 12 miles per hour, it collide with train No. 14, also on the passing siding.

Eastbound train No. 14, enroute from Bristol, Tenn., to Roanoke, Va., in charge of Conductor Newman and Engineman Pyeritz, was drawn by engine 102 and consisted of mail car 1210, baggage car 1321, coaches 1639, 1613, 1614 and Pullman car Flamingo, all of all-steel construction. It left Bristol, its initial station, at 6.30 a.m., arrived at Atkins, 50 miles east, at 8.22 a.m., where it received a copy of 19 order 56 and departed at 8.24 a.m. The train arrived at Grose close, the last reporting station, 4 miles east of Atkins, at 8.34 a.m. departed at 8.35.

Approaching the west switch of the passing siding at Rural Retreat, automatic signal B-3502, located about 50 feet west of the west switch, was found in the stops position. This indicated that the main track was occupied between that point and the station. The train was brought to a stop and then proceeded, stopping again just clear of the switch. The switch was opened and the train took the siding. It had proceeded about 1600 feet and, while running at a speed estimated to have been between 18 and 20 miles per hour, it collided with train No. 37 at about 8.43 a.m.

The impact forced both engines together, demolishing the pilots and the smoke boxes. The left cylinder on each engine was broken off. The tank of engine 558 was up against the boiler head with the west end of Pennsylvania express car 5525 through the tank; this car was demolished. Baggage car 423 was crushed at its west end. The tank of engine 102 was also up against the boiler head and the east end of mail-baggage car 1220 mashed in about four feet. None of the equipment was derailed. The body of Engineman Pyeritz was found caught between the tender and the cab on the fireman’s side. Both engineman and the fireman of train No. 37 were killed.

Train Dispatcher Kerr stated that train order No. 56 was issued on account of trains No. 14, 37 and 41 all being late; it is customary on single track to give all passenger trains, train orders fixing the meeting points the each other regardless of whether they are on time or late. He also stated that at the meeting point between train No. 14 and train No. 41 that train No. 14 was invariably required to take the siding. It is the practice in automatic block signal territory to use the “19” form of train order for a meeting order.

Conductor Charlton of train No. 37 stated that he received order No. 56 at Max Meadows and that he understood that his train was to take the siding at Rural Retreat for No. 14. He estimated the speed of his train to have been 8 or 10 miles per hour at the time of the accident. He thinks that there was an application of the brakes just before the crash occurred. He also stated that it is his understanding of Rule 90-C that engineman and conductors must register personally with each other at meeting points.

Section Foreman Keyes stated that on the morning of the accident he was working with his section gang at the west end of the passing siding at Rural Retreat, putting in a set of switch timbers; train No. 14 stopped west of the signal at the west end of the passing siding; the engineer made a signal with his hand but he paid no attention to it. The train then started, stopping but again about 20 feet from the west switch. The engineman shouted “Change the switch over so I can get on the siding.” He, Keyes, than handed his switch key to one of his men, Huston, and told him to go and open the switch for No. 14. After the train was clear Huston closed the switch. His vision was obstructed by the curve so that he could not see No. 37 standing at the station. As the train was pulling in the siding the engineman sounded two blasts of he whistle to indicate to the trainmen that the switch was being cared for. In his opinion No. 14 was moving about 8 miles an hour when the rear car passed him; he thinks the engineman used steam until the train got started and then shut off. He also stated that in several instances he has allowed his men to handle switches upon the express request of engineman or trainmen. On the morning in question he did not have occasion to open or use the switch prior to the arrival of train No. 14.

Section Laborer Huston stated that as train No. 14 approached, the engineman beckoned with him hand for one of the section gang to open the switch; after train stopped at the switch, the engineman shouted for someone to throw the switch to the side track; Section Foreman Keyes then handed him the key and the unlocked the switch and opened it. As the engine passed him the engineman was locking out of the window and asked him if there was a train on the siding, to which he replied “No.” After the train was clear he closed the switch and returned to his work. As the train passed, he saw Conductor Newman Looking out from the side of the train on about the second coach.

Conductor Newman of train No. 14 stated that he received order No. 56 at Atkins, requiring No. 14 to meet No. 37 at Rural Retreat and to meet No. 41 at Crockett, No. 14 to take the siding at Crockett; when the engineman sounded the meet signal for Rural Retreat, Brakeman Martin answered him with the train signal; the train stopped just west of the signal at the west end of the passing siding and stood there about 1/2 minute before starting. After the train started he looked out on the right had side and saw the automatic signal in the stop position; he went back into the coach and when the train passed over the switch he realized that it was taking the siding. He looked out on the right side and went over to the left side and looked out again and made the remark to Brakeman Martin “I wonder what he is going into the siding for.” He saw the sectionmen on the track near the switch and shouted to them asking then why they put No. 14 on the siding but they apparently did not hear him; he though the sectionmen were running the train through the siding on account of a broken switch or defective track. He then went back on the right side to see if he could see the flagman or any one who had opened the switch, not seeing anyone he went inside the coach which was the first coach on the train, and pulled the air signal; at that time the train was just clear of the main track. The speed of the train did not appear to slacken. He then started to go to the front end of the car and on his way pulled the conductor’s emergency valve just as the collision occurred. He does not recall ever having had to him the siding for No. 37 while running train No. 14 but invariably takes the siding when meeting No. 41.

Trainman Martin of train No. 14 stated that when train order No. 56 was received at Atkins the conductor showed him his copy; the meaning of the order was perfectly plain to him; approaching Rural Retreat the engineman sounded the whistle to indicate a meeting point which he answered with the train signal; just before the train reached the passing siding at Rural Retreat it came to a stop. He saw that the automatic signal was in the stop position and figured that No. 37 was at the station. When train No. 14 started and was about half way in the siding he first realized that it was taking the siding. At the time it occurred to him that the sectionmen were putting the train in on the siding for some reason. He started to open the door of the vestibule and as he did so heard one blast of the air whistle signal followed by a second blast just as he was opening the trap. At that time the was riding on the front platform of the second coach while Conductor Newman was in the first coach. He was just starting down the steps when the collision occurred. He did not feel any application of the brakes prior to the collision. He estimated the speed of his train to have been from 10 to 12 miles per hour. He further stated that he did not know that the train was in on the siding until about 1/2 minute before the collision came. He estimated that not more than two or three seconds elapsed between the last blast of the air whistle signal and the time the collision occurred. He does not recall Conductor Newman making the query “Why is he going in here?”

Operator Reardon, on duty at Atkins, stated that he received order No. 56 for train No. 14, delivering a copy to fireman as the engine passed him and a copy to the conductor as he want by. About this time he was relieved from duty and boarder train No. 14 intending to take it to his home at Rural Retreat. He noticed that the train stopped at the west end of the passing siding at Rural Retreat but did not notice that it was taking the siding. Shortly after the train started Conductor Newman came in the car and made the statement “Why in the world is he going in here?” He did not know that Conductor Newman pulled the air whistle signal and has no knowledge of his opening the emergency valve.

Fireman Walton of train No. 14 stated that when he received order No. 56 at Atkins he handed it to Engineman Pyeritz. As the engineman did not hand it back to him to read he asked him what the orders were to which Pyeritz replied that No. 14 would meet No. 37 at Rural Retreat and No. 41 at Crockett and No. 14 would take the siding for 41. Upon arriving at west end of the passing siding at Rural Retreat the train stopped on account of the signal being in the stop position. While the train was standing there he heard the engineman talking to someone on the ground on the right side of the engine but he did not know who he was talking to or what was said. The train started and shortly afterwards he realized that they were pulling in on the siding. He looked out and saw the rear car passing over he switch. He then turned to the engineman to ask him why they were taking the siding there but before he could do so the engineman told him to look back and see if the flagman had gotten off. He looked back and not seeing anyone turned to tell the engineman, when he saw an engine looming up ahead of him on what he thought was the side track. He took a second look and saw that a collision was imminent and jumped from the window just as it occurred; the last time he saw Engineman Pyeritz he was sitting on his seat on the right side of the engine. He further stated that if the air whistle was sounded he did not hear it.

Trainmaster Walker stated that he interpreted Rule 90-A to mean that may train using a siding which may be used by trains in either direction, must run at such a rate of speed that it can stop within a half train length. It is his opinion that rule 90-C requires conductors and engineman to register with each other personally at meeting points.

Road Foreman of Engines Clendenon stated that he thinks it is permissible under rule 90-C for the fireman to do the registering for the engineman in cases where it is not practicable for the engineman to leave his post. He does not recall having had brought to his attention a single instance in which the engineman at meeting points have not registered personally with each other. From the appearance of the wreckage after the accident he believes the speed of train 37 to have been 10 or 15 miles an hour and of train No. 14, 18 to 20 miles per hour.

This accident was caused by train No. 14 taking the siding at Rural Retreat to meet No. 37 when by rule it should have held the main track. For this, Engineman Pyeritz is responsible.

Under the circumstances it is impossible to account for the action of Engineman Pyeritz in taking the siding. The evidence shows that it has long been the practice to require No. 14 to take the siding when meeting No. 41. It is believed that Engineman Pyeritz was laboring under the impression that he was to meet No. 41 at Rural Retreat and as was customary, took the siding for that purpose.

Conductor Newman and Brakeman Martin also share in the responsibility for this accident in that they did not stop the train immediately when they discovered that the train had improperly taken the siding. Conductor Newman knew that the train was taking the siding when he passed over the switch yet he did not use the emergency valve until the train had proceeded 1500 feet and just as the collision occurred. His statement that he signaled the engineman to stop by means of the communicating signal is substantiated only by Brakeman Martin and even in this there is conflict in their statements. On the other hand Fireman Waldon or Operator Reardon did not hear the signal. His statement as to the opening of the conductor’s emergency valve is also without corroberation. Diligent inquiry made among the employees who afterward handled the equipment of No. 14 at the scene of the accident failed to disclose any one who had seen the emergency valve open.

It appears that Trainman Martin did not take the trouble to ascertain the cause of the stop west of the west switch and according to his statement did not known that the train was on the siding until about half a minute before the crash occurred and even then took no action toward stopping the train. Had he been alert and alive to his responsibilities he would have noticed that the train was on the siding as soon as it passed the switch and should have taken steps to stop the train and ascertain the cause.

Rule 90-A of the Operating Department is in part as follows:

“On a siding to be used by train of both directions, trains must run expecting to meet opposing trains.”

Notwithstanding the erroneous impression held by Engineman Pyeritz, had this rule been observed this accident would probably have been prevented.

The position in which Engineman Pyeritz’s body was found indicates that before the collision occurred he had crossed over to the fireman’s side of the engine for some purpose. Whether it was to exchange numbers with the opposing train or to escape from the collision cannot be determined.

Rule 90-C provides:

“At meeting or passing points made by train order, conductors and engineers of respective trains will register with each other; at meeting points made by rule, conductors and engineers of passenger trains will register with each other, and conductors and engineers of freight and work trains will register with each other.”

A strict interpretation of this rule requires that engineman register with each other personally and it seems generally to be so understood and observed. Although not specifically required by rule, it seems to have become the general practice whenever necessary, for the engineman to leave his post, while the engine is in motion and cross to the fireman’s side in order to register with the opposing train. This is a dangerous practice and steps should be taken to correct it at once. Another method of registering should be substituted for the one provided for in rule 90-C or else the rule should specifically require that the engine must be stopped when a compliance with the rule would require the engineman to leave his post.

All of the employees involved in this accident are men of long experience and have good records.

At the time of the accident the engine crew of No. 14 had been on duty 2 hours 43 minutes with 19 hours 40 minutes off duty prior to going on duty. The train crew had been on duty 9 hours 48 minutes in the aggregate in the previous 24 hours.

The engine crew of No. 37 had been on duty 5 hours 38 minutes and the train crew 5 hours 8 minutes both having previously been off duty more than 13 hours.


Keeping Railway Mail History Alive – 100th Anniversary

(This article appeared in The Winchester Star, by Val Van Meter on Jan. 14th, 2013 reminding us of the 100th Anniversary ofthe opening of the Boyce Railway Station. If you have never been there it should definitely be an item on your list of places to visit. This year you will have several opportunities, Photos by Jeff Taylor)

BOYCE — When it was built in 1913, the Boyce railroad station was “like putting Dulles Airport in your backyard. It was your gateway to the world,” said the building’s current owner, Frank Scheer of Alexandria.The station, no longer in use, marks its 100th anniversary this year. Though Norfolk-Southern trains pass regularly through the town, population 589, none of them stops these days. Thestation closed in 1959. But the station still has a purpose: It’s home to the Railway Mail Service Library, a repository for the history and artifacts of the era when trains delivered mail as well as freight and passengers to stops along their routes.Scheer bought the station in 2003, although the land it sits on still belongs to the railroad.

A purchasing and supply management specialist for the U.S. Postal Service, Scheer has dedicated years to collecting the history of how trains assisted the mail service. And what better place for a museum dedicated to the days when mail was moved and sorted on the train than a train station?

“It ties in very well,” he said. Mail used to arrive at the station, Scheer said, and mail clerks worked about train cars, sorting and directing the flow of communication. When the Boyce station was desegregated by the railroad in 1955, the larger of its two waiting rooms was rented to the U.S. Post Office Department. Boyce residents were served there until a new post office was built in 1984. The current Boyce station is only three years younger than the town it served. Boyce grew up along the intersection of the Berry’s Ferry Turnpike and the Shenandoah Valley Railroad, which had a station there in the 1880s.

The Norfolk & Western Railway bought out Shenandoah Valley in 1890 and began a series of improvements in the early 1900s, construct a new railroad passenger station in 1912, but the young town of Boyce wasn’t satisfied with the modest wooden building the N&W planned. P.H.Mayo persuaded the N&W to put up a “first class” station, Scheer said. he building had masonry construction with a stucco finish, electric lighting, central heating and inside rest rooms, in addition to 14-foot ceilings and clerestory windows for better air circulation in the summer.

Local residents Hattie Gilpin and R. Powell Page joined Mayo in putting up an additional $17,500, to make $25,000 available to build the station. A Richmond resident, Mayo was a large landowner east of Boyce. He and his brother owned the American Tobacco brand and manufactured cigarettes in the state capital. Moneyed landowners were willing to spend money on amenities they were going to use, Scheer said — they could get on the train in Boyce at midnight, go to sleep and wake up in New York.

In addition to the many cars full of freight that came into and left Boyce, Scheer said there were special express cars used for taking Clarke County’s expensive horses to races and shows on the East Coast. At least one home in Boyce arrived in pieces at the station and was moved west on Main Street to be erected on a south side lot. Brick for some of the larger homes also came to Boyce by rail, Scheer said.

The station offered other services as well. “There was Railway Express — the equivalent of UPS today — so you could pick up packages at the station,” Scheer said. Telegram also could be sent from the station via Western Union. In honor of the founder of Morse code, Samuel Morse,an open house will be held at the station on April 27th, with an Internet interface set up so that

the old telegraph equipment can be used again to send messages. “We’re going to show people how to do telegraphy and have a cookout,” Scheer said. The event is free and open to the public.

In October, Scheer will hold a celebration to mark the building’s 100th anniversary. He’s still working out the details. “If I look this good when I’m 100 years old, I’ll feel pretty good,”

Scheer said of the station, which was built by John P. Pettyjohn & Company. Where Scheer lives in Alexandria, he said he can feel the vibration of a train for blocks around. Inside the Boyce station, even with trains passing right outside the walls, “you can sit in here and there’s almost no vibration,” he said.

Though it needs some cosmetic fixes, the core of the building is “built like a rock,” he said. “The railroad typically over-engineered anyway.”

Since the station closed on Jan. 1, 1959, it has been a storage place, a charity operation, a restaurant and a woodworking shop, but its floor plan remains basically unchanged.

Scheer has collected original N&W furniture to replicate the station master’s office at Boyce. The N&W had its own carpentry shop in Roanoke, he said, and made and marked all the furniture used in its stations “so people wouldn’t steal it.”

He also has acquired a photograph of Station Master Sylvester M. Lane sitting in his office at the station in 1934. Lane was one of four agents assigned to the station during its 45 years in operation. Morton J. Dunlap and T.M. Sheetz preceded Lane and L.C. Murray followed him. Scheer said Dunlap was also a member of the Boyce Town Council.

Scheer hasn’t been able to find the exact date when the Boyce station opened. “Maybe, someday, we’ll be able to figure that out,” he said.

Construction started in the spring of 1913, so by October of that year, he said it should have been substantially completed. “If anyone has more information, I’d love to know,” Scheer said. To contact Scheer, email him at fscheer@railwaymailservicelibrary.org

Or call 540-837-9046.

— Contact Val Van Meter at


Photos are by Jeff Taylor of The Winchester Star.

The station – home to the Railway Mail Service Library – will

celebrate its 100th anniversary later this year.