Abandoned Rails


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Fallen N&W Color Position Light Signals

- NS Winston-Salem District -

 

This 125-mile ex-Norfolk & Western (N&W) line extends south from Roanoke, Virginia to Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  What gives the line its nickname are the hundreds of curves, many in excess of 10-degrees, and plentiful grades.  The track elevation chart resembles a roller coaster with north and southbound ruling grades of 1.65% and 1.56% respectively.  All of these factors contribute to the line's nickname: The Punkin Vine.  Norfolk Southern also utilizes the stiff southbound grade on Starkey Hill to conduct adhesion testing of new and experimental locomotives. 

While the route is not truly abandoned as others featured in the section of the website, it has lost a major segment of infrastructure.  Until recently, the true gems of the Punkin Vine resided along the northernmost 60-miles of the line: N&W color position light (CPL) intermediate signals.  While CPL signals are still commonplace at many interlockings throughout former N&W territory, the intermediate signals have been gone for a decade or more on most lines. 

Due to the Pennsylvania Railroad's ownership stake in the N&W, the company began utilizing position light signals in the 1920's.  The first position light signals were installed on the Shenandoah Division between Hagerstown and Shenandoah in February 1924.  In December 1926 the remaining segment of the line to Roanoke was activated.  In the early 1960's the N&W removed the center light and changed the lights around the outer perimeter to color bulbs, hence the term color position light signal. 

Unfortunately the curtain fell on the Punkin Vine CPL signals in 2010 and they are now just a memory.  This page takes a look back at many of the signals which dictated train movement over this torturous route.

 

Appreciation is extended to the following individuals for their contributions: Joseph Norman, Kenneth Norman, Joe Shaw, Ron Davis, Bill Whitbeck, and BJ Preddy.  Thank you! 

 

If you have any material you'd like to contribute, please contact me at jl.hawkins@comcast.net.

The Punkin Vine in Print

The demise of the N&W signals along the Winston-Salem District was the subject of an article in the April 2010 issue of Railroads Illustrated.  You can contact the magazine to order a back copy by clicking here

 

 

South JK (R1.3)

 

We are just south of JK in this view looking north towards the diamond.  This interlocking was eliminated sometime between 1997 and 2002 in conjunction with the removal of the double track on the Winston-Salem District through Roanoke.  Today there is just a Safetrans pole signal at the diamond itself.   

 

In the background is N&W M2 Class No. 1118, a 4-8-0 built in 1911 by Norfolk & Western at their East End Shops in Roanoke.  This engine along with two sister locomotives were part of the "Lost Engines of Roanoke" that resided here from June 1950 until they were finally removed in August 2009. 

 

Photo by Bill Whitbeck (March 1986)

 

 

South Jefferson (R6.7)

 

Looking south from the Reserve Street grade crossing with S. Jefferson Street on the bridge above.  Roanoke Memorial Hospital is out of view to the left and directly ahead is the bridge over the Roanoke River.

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (November 13, 2009)

 

 

South Jefferson (R6.7)

 

The northbound signal at South Jefferson in 1991.  Note the additional aspect below the primary head.  This was back when the Winston-Salem District was still double-tracked across the diamond at JK.  Faintly visible in the distance is the South JK signal (as seen at the top of this page) designating the south end of double track, hence the additional aspect.  In the background is Roanoke City Mills which was demolished in 2009. 

 

Photo by Kenneth Norman (1991)

 

 

Broadway (R7.9)

 

This view is looking north adjacent to Western Virginia Community College.  The southbound signal was just out of view around the curve near the I-581 overpass.

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (November 14, 2009)

 

 

R9.0

 

Looking north from behind the Carmike 10 Cinemas at the Tanglewood Mall Shopping Center.

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (November 14, 2009)

 

 

R11.2

 

These were the second set of intermediate signals once located between Broadway and Starkey.  Today the Mennel Mill would dominate this scene and can be seen under construction in the left of this photo. 

 

Photo by Ron Davis (January 2007)

 

 

Starkey (R12.5)

 

Looking south along Merriman Road with the R12 milepost visible in the foreground.

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (November 12, 2009)

 

 

Starkey (R12.5)

 

This photo of the Starkey signals was captured shortly before midnight on a mild winter evening.  The red beams of light cut through the heavy mist which has settled in over the Roanoke Valley. 

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (December 26, 2008)

 

 

Starkey (R12.5)

 

Looking north from Annie Holland Drive. 

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (November 14, 2009)

 

 

Starkey (R12.5)

 

Another view of the Starkey CPL signals after dark.  

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (December 26, 2008)

 

R17.4

 

Looking north at the northbound "Wright" signal.  This view was captured from underneath the US 220 overpass a few miles north of Boones Mill.  The tall code line poles lead me to believe that there was once a grade crossing here. 

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (December 27, 2008)

 

 

R18.7

 

This block signal was easily visible from US 220 which is just out of view to the right down the hill.  The photo is looking south from Fisher Lane.

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (November 14, 2009)

 

 

R19.0

 

Looking north from VA 624.  This signal was also easy to spot from US 220 which is out of view to the left of the rock formation. 

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (November 13, 2009)

 

 

Boones Mill (R21.0)

 

These signals were located just south of town near the intersection of Boones Mill Road and Terrace Road.  

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (November 14, 2009)

 

 

R22.3

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (December 26, 2008)

 

 

R22.8

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (November 14, 2009)

 

 

R24.1

 

Southbound distant signal to Wirtz.

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (November 14, 2009)

 

 

Wirtz (R25.5)

 

North end of 8,800' siding.  In the foreground is the Rainbow Road grade crossing. 

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (December 26, 2008)

 

 

Blaine (R27.2)

 

South end of 8,800' siding.  Looking north from Bonbrook Mill Road.

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (December 26, 2008)

 

 

Blaine (R27.2)

 

South end of 8,800' siding.  The Bonbrook Mill Road grade crossing is in between the signals at Blaine and can be seen in the distance. 

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (December 26, 2008)

 

 

R34.5

 

As viewed looking south from 6 Mile Post Road south of Rocky Mount.

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (December 26, 2008)

 

 

R37.3

 

This signal was located just south of the Old Forge Road underpass. 

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (November 14, 2009)

 

 

R38.0

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (December 26, 2008)

 

 

Ferrum (R41.9)

 

These signals were positioned just south of the Fieldcrest Road grade crossing in "downtown" Ferrum.  Timberline Road is visible to the right.  This was the crest of a 1.62% northbound grade.

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (December 26, 2008)

 

 

R45.3

 

Photo by Joseph Norman (January 2, 2008)

 

 

R46.8

 

The R46.7/8 intermediate signals were located between Ferrum and Henry adjacent to Prillaman Switch Road which paralleled the tracks through this spot. 

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (December 26, 2008)

 

 

Henry (R48.2)

 

The view looking south from Henry Road with the distinctive N&W code line poles lining the right of way.

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (December 26, 2008)

 

 

R49.2

 

Just south of Henry were these intermediate signals.  This was a great photo location with Henry Road and Henry Fork Road offering easy access to either side of the signals.  

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (November 14, 2009)

 

 

R50.9

 

Southbound distant signal to Philpott. 

 

Photo by Joseph Norman (January 2, 2008)

 

 

Philpott (R53.0)

 

North end of a 9,209' siding.  This photo was taken from Philpott Drive and is looking south towards Bassett. 

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (December 26, 2008)

 

 

Jondee (R54.7)

 

Looking south at Jondee, the south end of a 9,209' siding.

 

Photo by Joseph Norman (March 24, 2007)

 

 

Jondee (R54.7)

 

Looking north at Jondee, the south end of a 9,209' siding.

 

Photo by Joseph Norman (March 24, 2007)

 

 

R56.9

 

This signal was located in the Town of Bassett just south of the former N&W passenger station. 

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (December 26, 2008)

 

 

R57.0

 

This was the northbound distant signal to Jondee also located in Bassett.

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (December 26, 2008)

 

 

Firestone (R59.4)

 

A few miles north of Martinsville were the "Firestone" signals.  They were located just south of where Edgewood Drive paralleled the mainline near Stanleytown. 

 

Photo by Jeff Hawkins (December 26, 2008)

 

 

Nylon (R64.8)

 

Looking north from the Nylon home signals that were located several miles south of Martinsville.

 

Photo by Joseph Norman (December 25, 2007)

 

 

Pine Hall (R103.6)

 

The Pine Hall (NC) signals were located just south of town.  In this 2007 photo we are looking south in between the two Brickyard Road grade crossings. 

 

Photo by Joe Shaw (2007)

 

 

Daisy (R120.2)

 

The Daisy home signals were located just south of the autoramp at Walkertown. 

 

Photo by BJ Preddy (December 15, 2007)

 

 

R121.7

 

This intermediate was located between Walkertown and North Winston.  This signal was eliminated altogether when Safetrans were installed on this portion of the line as a result of lengthening the blocks.

 

Photo by BJ Preddy (December 15, 2007)

 

 

 

Copyright 2002- | Jeff Hawkins

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