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October 1993


The Jackson Shrine Along the RF&P

Lieutenant-General Thomas Jonathan Jackson, CSA, was about as brilliant a military leader as they come. He was trained at West Point, was a hero in the Mexican War, and served as an instructor at the Virginia Military Institute. His nickname of "Stonewall" was coined early in the conflict by General Barnard Bee, who said: "There is Jackson standing like a stone wall."

Nowhere does the saying "war is hell" have more meaning than when one gets shot by one of his own men. That is what happened, by accident, to Stonewall at the Battle of Chancellorsville, and the wounded general was brought to a plantation at Guinea Station, Virginia, next to the RF&P. This was done in the hope that the general could recover sufficient to travel by rail to a hospital in Richmond. But he did not recover, and he died at the plantation on May 10, 1863.

The small building where the general died remained standing after the war, and in 1909 it was purchased by RF&P president William White for the purpose of preserving it in memory of General Jackson.

Mr. White revered the general, having been a student of his many years earlier at VMI, and it was Mr. White who first declared the property a "shrine."

The deed was transferred in 1911 to the railroad, which restored the building and maintained the grounds until the late 1930s when it was donated to the National Park Service.

Further restoration took place in the early 1960s, and the Jackson Shrine still stands within sight of the RF&P, seen daily by Amtrak passengers as they pass through Guinea Station (now called "Guinea") a few miles south of Fredericksburg.

It is maintained by the park service as part of the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, and is open to the public most days.

The building where General Jackson died had been an office at the plantation. The main plantation house was to the left; it later burned, and brick from it was used by the RF&P beneath the stone ballast of the railroad.


20th Anniversary of Chessie Safety Cabooses

The Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society celebrated the 20th anniversary of the introduction of the safety caboose on Chessie System at the group's annual national conference at Columbus, Ohio, July 22-25.

Chessie System first introduced the safety caboose concept in mid-1973, when B&O caboose C3025 was released to service wearing special red paint and the safety slogan YOUR FAMILY NEEDS YOU, STAY SAFE FOR THEM.

By the end of 1976, a total of 23 safety cabooses were in service on B&O, C&O, and WM.

In an idea conceived by C&OHS historian Dwight Jones, a C&O wide-vision cupola caboose was repainted to be reminiscent of the original safety caboose schemes. Participating in the repainting were members Ron Weaver, Mike Meister, Ted Wetterstroem, Luther George, and Dwight Jones.

Photos: C&O caboose 903180 is shown on display at Columbus on July 23, 1993. One side (above) was painted Safety Green, and the other side (below) was painted Light Purple. (Photos by Dwight Jones)

Following the conference, the group removed the Chessie lettering and replaced it with CSX, and the C&OHS Conference slogan was replaced with a safety slogan.

The caboose will continue its work as an assigned yard caboose at Columbus, where it is used by yard crews on short transfer runs.

Over 150 members attended the conference.


Bill Blair Retires

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

William Benjamin Blair, Jr., veteran B&O operator and train dispatcher, retired on September 13, after a career that began over 42 years ago. His retirement coincided with the closing of the Baltimore Terminal Train Dispatchers' Office at Halethorpe, the functions of which were transferred the same day to CSXT's dispatching center in Jacksonville, Florida, with Bill opting to accept a separation. At the time of the closing, Bill was working second-shift.

He began his railroad career in August of 1951 working the extra list as a leverman at Carroll and Lee Street towers in Baltimore.

His first job as an operator, while still on the extra list, was at BX Tower near Curtis Bay yard. At the time, BX was situated at Hanover Street, where the railroad crossed the street at grade, and one of the operator's duties was to lower the gates as trains approached. Long, slow-moving trains often kept traffic backed up for lengthy periods, and sometimes trains would stall making the situation even worse. Bill would take the bus to work, but he purposely used a stop two blocks more distant from the tower in order to obscure his role as the towerman and avoid heated confrontations with crossing-delay frustrated citizens of the area.

He went on to work at other towers in the Baltimore area, including Penn Mary Junction, Bay View, Waverly, North Avenue, Mount Royal, Halethorpe, Westport and Carroll, and Fort Meade Junction near Jessup.

Bill recalls an incident while a student at Carroll when an approaching westbounder was reported with a dragging brake rigging. The incumbent on-duty operator told Bill to stop the train. Bill dropped the signal in the face of the train, not the preferred method, and the incumbent scolded Bill that he should have merely "flagged" the train instead, and instructed him to walk the distance of the interlocking to tell the engineer that it was all Bill's fault.

His first regular position was at Singerly, in Cecil County, Maryland, but he gave the job up after only a month due to the distance, and he went back on the extra list.

He took time out in 1952 to serve in the Marines, and he returned to the railroad in 1955 at the end of his enlistment.

Then, in 1966, he left the railroad altogether to accept a position with Westinghouse, and later with the American Smelting Company.

In May of 1971 he returned to the railroad, and he took a regular position as relief operator at old RV Tower at Riverside. The tower closed shortly thereafter, and he then took a sidewire job at Camden Station, and later went to third-shift at HX Tower in Halethorpe. He was promoted to train dispatcher in July of 1974.

When most of the Baltimore Division dispatching functions were transferred to Jacksonville in 1989, Bill was put on a waiting list to be called to Jacksonville when an opening developed. In the meantime, he took a clerk's position in Baltimore, and he also substituted as a Baltimore Terminal dispatcher when needed. But just several days before he got the call to go to Jacksonville, Bill got a regular position with the Baltimore Terminal, and he chose to stay.

Looking back on his career, Bill says he would do it all over again, but that he might have stayed with the railroad in 1966 because it cost him a great deal of seniority when he left.

Bill's father, the late William Blair, Sr., was an operator on the C&O, and later on the B&O, retiring as a dispatcher in 1966.

Bill's son, William Blair, III, is a Baltimore Division locomotive engineer.

In his retirement, Bill intends to spend more time with his church, where he is a Methodist lay speaker, and he wants to work more in his wood shop, and to practice playing the piano.


The Wreck of the Sunset Limited

It was by far Amtrak's worst accident. In terms of fatalities, it was also the worst accident to occur on CSXT since its inception.

It happened September 22, at or about 2:49 AM (CDT), on the Mobile Division, M&M Subdivision (ex-L&N), milepost 656.7, on bridge 196 crossing Bayou Canot.

The train had left Mobile, Alabama, about 15 minutes earlier. By then, it was running 33 minutes late.

CSXT sent accident experts led by chief operating officer Jerry Davis to the scene. "Our overriding concern is for the victims," said he. "Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives in this terrible tragedy."

The accident scene was very remote. A rescue train using Amtrak equipment was dispatched from Mobile - terminus of the Gulf Breeze - to assist in transporting survivors back to a rescue station.

An early account on CNN, several hours after the accident, when there were still a number of people unaccounted for, quoted a sheriff's department report that 50 people were confirmed dead. This implied that the count could go much higher, but the sheriff's report was wrong. The final death toll was 47.

There were a number of reports of heroism among those aboard the train. The death toll would have been a lot higher had it not been for the courage of so many who instinctively went to the aid of others in this vital time of need.

By evening it had become apparent that the accident was caused by a barge that had come loose in the fog, striking the bridge.

The locomotives involved in the accident were reported as 819, 262 and 312. There were eight cars: a baggage car (1139), four coaches (39908, 34083, 34040 & 34068), a lounge car, dining car and sleeper.

Detours were arranged with Norfolk Southern east of Mobile for trains affected, and a number of CSX freights were assigned temporary schedules and adjusted blocking pending reopening of the route.


Baltimore Terminal Dispatchers' Office Closes

The Baltimore Terminal Dispatchers' office closed September 13.


CSXT Adds Three New Divisions

CSXT has added three new divisions: the Cumberland Division, the Louisville Division, and the Jacksonville Division. The Cumberland Division is effective October 1, and the Louisville and Jacksonville divisions became effective in September. The Cumberland Division includes western territory of the Baltimore Division from the west end of Brunswick yard, along with some territory of the Detroit Division between New Castle and Willard. Branch lines which radiate from this main line segment also come under the Cumberland Division. The revised Baltimore Division territory now runs from Philadelphia to the north side of Richmond, and the Metropolitan, Old Main Line, Hanover and Shenandoah subdivisions. The Louisville Division includes the Louisville and Cincinnati terminals, the Indianapolis Subdivision, the former Monon lines, and the lines from Cincinnati to Nashville, Louisville to Henderson, and Cincinnati to Washington (Indiana). The Jacksonville Division includes the Jacksonville, Waycross and Savannah terminals, and the lines from Jacksonville to Auburndale, Jacksonville to Savannah, Jacksonville to Waycross, Callahan to Lakeland, Waycross to Jesup, Waycross to Brunswick (Georgia), and Starke to Red Level Tower.