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Adventures on the Durham Line

[The following is the first of a four part series about one person’s recollections of happenings along the Durham Line of the Norfolk & Western Railroad, which ran from Lynchburg, VA to Durham, NC. It is taken from an article by the same name by Fred Reburn, a brakeman and conductor for the N&W from 1949 to 1979, as told to Rob Minton. The entire article was printed in the July/August 2002 edition (Vol. 18, No. 4) of The Arrow, the official magazine of the Norfolk & Western Historical Society. Sections of the original article are being re-printed by permission of the publisher.]

…I worked out of Island Yard, Lynchburg, VA , a 56-acre island in the middle of the James River. This was formerly the west end of the South Side Railroad where it connected with the Virginia-Tennessee Railroad (later to become the Atlantic, Mississippi & Ohio and then Norfolk & Western). After two qualifying trips, I was marked up on the extra list as a brakeman. My first call to report to work was January 19, 1948. The second trick yardmaster showed me what track the Durham line train was on and told me to go to the end of the cars, find the red cab[oose], get a good bunk, and sleep, as this was a deadhead move. At 6:30 a.m., I woke up in Durham, North Carolina.At 6:45 a.m. I reported to the northbound conductor and worked back to Lynchburg. The deadhead move and work paid a grand total of $33.04.

Being the new guy also made you a target for jokes and pranks. Riding along in the local cab one day, I asked the question “Why are there large barrels on all the bridges?” A brakeman got me when he said, “Fred, they used to pull these trains with mules and horses, and that is where they stopped to water them.”

When we were called for a trip we made sure that we had plenty of food for meals, as well as blankets, sheets, and pillows for sleeping in the cab. In later years, the N&W built a bunkhouse at Duke Yard in Durham, so we didn’t have to sleep in the cab. We continued to to cook in them, however, and our usual breakfast consisted of a dozen eggs, a twelve-inch wide by two-inch deep frying pan full of railroad hash, a big loaf of bread, and a gallon of coffee made the old fashioned way: boil water, put in grounds, stir, and then add just a little cold water, which caused the grounds to settle. On the Durham Line, we normally ate during the 25-mile ride to Helena, NC.



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  4080k v. 1 Feb 24, 2014, 7:00 PM John Mininger