|Train in the Bluefield WV Yard|
|Minnie Belle Stevenson Bowling|
I attended a few "broken wheel" funerals. Some of the railroad workers who left way before their time, and it was always a wake up call to how dangerous the occupation could be. The "Broken Wheel" came from where the union would always buy a flower arrangement in the shape of a broken train wheel for the funeral of a fallen fellow railroad worker.
I have many a railroad tale and the railroad affected our family deeply. All our Appalachian family members worked for Norfolk and Western Railway, mostly out of Bluefield, WV.
|Charles W. Bowling second from right|
My Uncle Howard Davis was an engineer first with the Virginian Railroad and then with Norfolk and Western, when they merged. A kind man that also lived to retire that I just loved to hear him tell tales about the railroad. One of the best tales I remember him telling was on his self. Sometimes railroad crews would sit in a siding waiting for hours for a special train to pass or other reasons.
|Uncle Howard Davis|
My son's father, grandfather and 2 great grandfathers all worked for Norfolk and Western. Beginning with John Imhoff who was born in Gretna, VA outside of Lynchburg. His birth certificate is written in French which is an odd story. He began working on the railroad in 1905 and retired as an engineer off the old steam trains in the 1950s.
His regular run by the time he retired was on the steam train the Powhatan Arrow which ran from Norfolk, Virginia to Portsmouth, Ohio. His part of that run was between Bluefield and Williamson WV. A tall man whose ears were scalded and scarred by cinders and the steam from the old steam trains. We had his jacket that his wife Maggie had starched so much it stood up by itself 30 years after he died. The starch prevented the cinders from burning through the material too quickly. We still have his tin coffee pot that would hang next to the tank and cook on the train engine.
Then Carl J. Smith. He was born in Williamson, WV and was the son of Samuel J. Smith (who also worked for the railroad and lost his leg in a railroad accident) and Lula Belle Gibson Smith. Carl married John and Maggie Stinson Imhoff's daughter, Margaret. In World War II he served in the Marines in the Pacific. He began as a brakeman with Norfolk and Western after WWII and was promoted to an engineer. Yet he did not retire. 43 years ago this year Carl J. Smith actually lost his life on the railroad.
|Carl J. Smith|
|What was left of the locomotive Carl was on.|
I never met the man that would have been a father-in-law and my son never met his grandfather. The tradition today has been broken for this family to be working on the railroad. My son, whose father was injured and disabled on the railroad, his grandfather who was killed, his great grandfather who lost his leg on the railroad....my son decided this family, especially with the Smith name, has not much luck working for the railroad and he wasn't pushing his. I certainly don't blame him. But I still love trains!
Life is Like A Mountain Railway one of my favorites.
Copyright 2007-2016 Denise A. Smith