Friday, March 10, 2017

Aubrey Wiley Railroad Relic Garden

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Aubrey Wiley's Railroad Relic Garden ... located in Lynchburg, Virginia, at the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This collection of over fifty items is situated in our shaded back yard, adjacent to 10 acres of mostly virgin woods. Railroads represented include: Baltimore & Ohio, Chesapeake & Ohio, New York Central, Norfolk & Western, Southern, Virginian and South River Lumber Company (a logging railroad). The purpose of this garden is to afford rail historians, model railroaders, and people who just like trains to have the opportunity to see, inspect and study relics of railroad history from the early 20th century through 1975 in a safe, relaxing and comfortable setting. With the Railroad Relic Garden and this blog, it is my mission to help pass along a lifetime of knowledge and experiences about railroad history, beyond the locomotives, stations, operating ratios and routes of trains. Each item has its own unique past and story. The stories of work experiences on railroads can come alive and understood by seeing first hand and studying the equipment used in railroading half a century ago or more. Additionally, this blog is my way to share factual material and my personal knowledge on the subjects now and after I croak.
                                            Aubrey Wiley, March 2017

The garden display was started in March 2007 and as of March 2017, over 28,000 people have visited the previous web blog and over 2,500 visitors have seen the collection in person. 

To plan a visit, contact us at


For reference to the railroad books authored by Aubrey Wiley, use this link:

Items found in this collection include:

~  Signals  ~

o      B&O, C  P L, GRS signal, 1930, Parkersburg, WV
  •   o     C&O, C L, US&S three light dwarf signal, circa 1955,West Alpine, Va.

o       C&O,  C L, US&S signal, circa 1945, Gobbler’s Knob, James River 

o       N&W Shop Made C  L  Signal  copy, US&S PL-2, Eastbound running
                        mainline,  16th St., Roanoke, Va. circa 1950.

o       N&W P L signal, US&S model PL-1, 1925, Ito (Lynchburg), Va

o       N&W C P L, US&S model PL-4 dwarf signal, 1940, Bluefield, Va

o    Southern Railway First Generation Safetran signal. 

o        Virginian C L, GRS dwarf signal,1948, west end Maben.WV passing track, 

o       Virginian C L, GRS signal 1948, Wriston, WV

o    Virginian GRS type S-2 train order semaphore, Salem, Va

~  Signal Related - Motor Car  ~

o   Virginian Railway signal maintainer's motor car, Sheffield model 41, 1921.

o   Virginian Railway maintainer's tool house.

o   Collection of signal maintainer's tools and spare parts.

~  Lineside Telephones ~

o   C&O Strongburg - Carlson, lineside phone, circa 1955, Gladstone, Va.

o    N&W lineside phone box, circa 1952, Scioto, Ohio Division.

o    Virginian call box, circa 1935, Pineville, WV, Guyandot Branch

~  Mileposts, Whistle Posts, etc ~

o   C&O Whistle post, Anjean, WV, nee NF&G.

o   N&W Whistle post, Durham Branch

o   Virginian Whistle post, for eastbound trains, Danieltown, Va.

o   Virginian Milepost, 141, east of Abilene, Va.

o   Virginian 100 car post, Norfolk Division

o   C&O Property Boundary post, Lexington, Va. branch

o   N&W Switching marker post made of old rail, Island Yard, Lynchburg, Va.

o   Railroad communication pole with insulators for electricity, telegraph, phone

~  Structures ~

o   C&O "Watchbox" with vintage furnishings,  1942, Abert, Va.

o   N&W Coal shed circa 1895, original Lynchbirg Belt Line, Alleghany St.,                          Lynchburg, Va

o   Virginian replica, 2/3 scale motor car shed/tool house with vintage equipment

~  Signs ~

o    N&W  Do Not Trespass on Bridge sign, cast iron, Potts Valley Branch, VA.

o    N&W  Danger High Voltage sign, Veesee, Va (Amherst County) old mainline

o    N&W  Close Clearance, N&W Freight House, Concord, Va.

o    N&W Yard Limit sign, 1944 company standard

o    C&O ND Cabin sign, circa 1928, Lynchburg, Va.

o    C&O Wood station sign from Pearch, Va., James River Subdivision

o    Virginian Speed Limit Sign, Norfolk Division

~  Lights ~ 

o    Virginian Engine Marker Light from class MC 468.

o    New York Central, Pump House exterior light, Meadow Bridge, WV

o    C&O Caboose Marker Lights (pair)

~  Assorted ~ 

o    C&O Station Scales from Mt. Hope, WV.

o    Southern Railway steam engine bell, 0-8-0 switcher #1894, Monroe, Yard, Va.

o    Locomotive number plate 535, unknown railroad cast iron 

o    Virginian Electric Sub Station valve box cover, Pembroke, Va., mp 303.4

o    C&O AAR 1937 standard freight car couple knuckle, Reusens, Va. (C&O)

o    South River Lumber Co. log car brake wheel, circa 1920, SW side of Tar Jacket Ridge, Va.

o    Southern Ry. finial, Union Station, Lynchburg, Va

o    Walking path made of assorted tie plates from; A&D, C&O, N&W, Southern,   Tidewater                    and Virginian railroads.

o    Virginian Pull-off Pole for messenger wires to signal, GRS finial, Altavista,Va

o    Virginian GRS electrical switch junction box, Carolina Tower, Norfolk, Va

o    Railroad Grade Crossing Guard: Crossbuck-Virginian, Lights-N&W, Bell-N&W, Glass                         bead 2 track sign-Southern.

o    C&O electrical junction box, west end Alleghany Tunnel, WV

o    Atlantic & Danville, tall switch stand, Lawrenceville, with broom for snow                                              removal
0     Railroad Signal Pole ladder "art", Ladders from Southern, C&O, N&W,                                                 VGN signals

o    C&O Eddy Short Valve Fire Hydrant from Gladstone, Va. roundhouse.

o    VGN, Lima Locomotive Works steam engine flue liner bricks for BA and AG                                          engines, Victoria, Va.

o    N&W stacked insulators from overhead electric catenary,  pre 1950,                                                          Bluefield, Va 

o    Virginian Caboose Stove from class C-1 wood caboose, circa 1912, Victoria

~ Signals ~

B & O Signal

A B&O CPL signal is pictured with a passenger train passing at the Magnolia Cutoff, Md. in 1947.

This Baltimore & Ohio color position light signal built by General Railway Supply Company in 1930. 

January 2009

May 2010

July 2011

This Baltimore & Ohio Railroad signal had seen use on the Parkersburg line in West Virginia before being retired and discarded in 1985. Its stood for scores of years on the old Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (now CSX) at milepost 377, about seven miles east of Parkersburg, WV at Kanawha Station.  CSX severed the line between Grafton and Parkersburg, WV in 1985. It had been the railroad's mainline to St. Louis. 

We are grateful to Bob Stockner, Rick Rader, Larry Evans and Eddie Monneyham for making this acquisition possible.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

                                         C & O Signal                                                 

Pictured above is the two light C&O signal for westbound trains at Iron Gate, Va., still in use in 2012

Chesapeake & Ohio color light signal made by Union Switch & Signal Company and put in service in  1945. 

Pictured in July 2008, good friend Charlie Long and I used a power auger to drill a 12" hole for the signal pole and concrete. The pole was buried 30' deep.

With the signal light being already rewired, we used a block and tackle to raise it and we attached it just as it was when on the railroad. In this picture, I am placing the correct US&S finial to the top of the pole.


I strive to make all of the fine details correct and the upper light case is secured with a brass C&O Signal Lock, correct for what was in use in the mid 1950's.

With the correct milepost number plate affixed, it was finally finished and put in operation on August 7, 2009. Gobbler's Knob is at milepost 172.5 on the James River Subdivision of C&O. This signal governed westbound trains. The corresponding eastbound signal's number ended with an even number. 

For this signal, we are appreciative for the assistance of Matt Crouch, Scott Greathouse, Charlie Long and Rick Johnson, Jr.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

C & O Dwarf Signal

Governing eastbound trains, this US&S dwarf stood at Iron Gate, Va. until 2010.

Our Chesapeake & Ohio color light dwarf signal was made by Union Switch & Signal Company and put in service circa 1950.  It came from the west end of the siding at Alpine, Va. on the James River Subdivision 

Garland Harper Picture

On May 3, 2010 CSX workers literally yanked the the SafeTran dwarf signal model CLS 10D from the earth at the west end of  the Alpine passing track. It governed westbound trains leaving the siding. 

On May 15, 2010 it was purchased from CSX for scrap value, $10.00. The indication shown is for "Slow Approach," be prepared to stop at next signal.

On May 22, 2010, its rebuild was complete and it was mounted on its new concrete pad in our Railroad Relic Garden. This indication is "Approach Medium", approach next signal at medium speed.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

N & W Signal

 N&W's eastbound passenger train, "The Pocahontas", train number 4, was running ten minutes late as it passed the signals about a mile east of Ito in Lynchburg, Va. The date was January 2, 1962. The signal it passed became my inspiration as well as motivation for obtaining and restoring an N&W PL-1 signal.  On the right, Aubrey is atop a PL-1 near Ferrum College in March 1962.

My Norfolk & Western Union Switch & Signal Company  model PL-1 position light signal was put in service circa 1925.

On January 28, 2008, the coldest day of the year friends Ken Miler, Richard Shell and Brian Trent help pick out the spider frame for my signal from a junk pile. Welder friend Jack Hammack is pictured as he repairs broken parts of the  ladder.


One of the seven light boxes is shown with its innards removed before sand blasting. The right picture shows some of the light boxes after being blasted , primed,  painted and attached to the spider frame.

On March 10th, we had the cleaned spider frame raised up the pole by using a come-along. On the 12th, Charlotte tightens the "golden bolt," the final bolt, as she assembled the ladder and platform.


By early fall, 2008, we had it completed and working again. My N&W lineside phone is on the right.


I chose to restore my  PL-1 signal to its appearance during the time of steam locomotives and into early diesel years, which was mid to late 1950's. All lights were amber.  Although signals with colored lenses (red, amber and green) were approved and in use on some parts of N&W in 1960, I didn't see any here until some time after the merger with the Wabash and Nickle Plate railroads in 1964. The circuit board pictured on the right is one of the electronic timers I use in all of my signals.  They are made by "Lights2Go."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

N & W  US&S Dwarf  Signal

N&W passenger train number 7 sits at Lynchburg's Union Station in 1953.  The train  ran to Durham, NC. Notice the two dwarf signals between the tracks.


At Lovit Ave. Yard, Norfolk, an N&W dwarf signal governs trains approaching  on the left track. 

The Norfolk & Western Union Switch & Signal Company  model PL-4 position light dwarf signal was used  at Graham, Va., near Bluefield, Va. for eastbound trains on the Clinch Valley Branch as they approached the mainline. The signal's location is marked with a green arrow.

The PL-4 N&W dwarf is mounted beside the N&W Whistle Post from the Durham Branch, an iron locomotive number plate that is also our house number and a Marker Light from Virginian Ry. 2-8-2 type steam engine number 468.

Have you ever wondered what was inside a signal case?  Just like the full size US&S signals N&W had, the dwarfs had all amber lenses at first and about 1958, the change started to use red, amber and green lenses. They were placed so that the colors confirmed the various aspects (indications) that were given by the arrangement of the lights. Vertical was clear, angle was some form of restricted and horizontal meant stop.  I am grateful to Rick Rader and Louis Newton for assistance with this signal.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

N & W  Shop Made Dwarf  Signal

In N&W's Shaffers Crossing Yard in Roanoke, two through, mainline tracks ran along the north side of the yard, an eastbound and a westbound track.  Running through the middle of the yard were two Running Tracks. 

The Running Tracks  were used under the direction of the Switch Tenders stationed at Park St, the Shaffers Crossing Hump, 30th Street, and the Radford Division Pull In.The Running Tracks were mainly used by light engines moving between the Round House and one end of the yard of another,  whether for inbound or outbound trains.  In addition, any train arriving off the Norfolk Division to the East,  the Shenandoah Valley line from the North or the Pumpkin Vine from the South, destined to the Receiving Yard west of the vehicle tunnels at Shaffers Crossing, used the Westbound Running Track between Park St and Shaaffers Crossing.

At 16th Street, the railroad had a unique signal on the eastbound track, a Color Light signal. First noticed by the author about 1955 because of it not being a Position Light signal, which was the standard at the time for N&W. Shaffers Crossing Shop  forces fabricated the signal using two U S & S PL boxes with amber and red lenses. In the aerial picture above, the Running Tracks are circled and the "S" is the approximate location of the eastbound Running Track dwarf.  The two mainline tracks were close to Shenandoah Avenue. 

Thanks to Abram Burnett for  the explanation of this complex subject. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Southern Railway SafeTran Signal

This  first generation Southern Railway SafeTran Color Light Signal was in the crosshairs of well armed vandals as evidenced by the numerous bullet holes.  Historical data for this type and brand of signal is not available but it is believed to have been first used  in the late 1970's. Pictured below is a Southern Railway RACO Color Light Signal on Southern's (nee Virginia Midland Railway) old mainline in Lynchburg, Va. near Elm Street crossing.  We are grateful to Ken Towler and Matthew Arnold for their assistance with this display.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Virginian GRS Signal

The Virginian Railway had  fewer than a hundred signals on the entire 660 miles of trackage. The largest section with Central Traffic Control was in the New River Division for 58 miles between Mullens and Deepwater. General Railway Supply searchlight signals were the standard and this section received Centralized Traffic Control and GRS signals in 1941. 

The Virginian signal in this collection was the first Virginian signal to be restored in a private collection and the only completely accurate signal. When used by the Virginian it was installed at Wriston, milepost 421.1, fourteen miles from the west end of the railroad. In the early 1960's, after the merger with N&W in 1959, N&W was running longer trains than Virginian had operated so some signals were removed. The Wriston signal was moved to Plunkett on the Guyandot River line. It was removed  from Plunkett around 2000, deemed surplus and discarded. 

The GRS searchlight signal design featured a moving part. Inside the glass case above, there was a relay which controlled a slide that held small lenses of three colors, red, amber and yellow (see picture below). Changing the polarity for the relay would result in the slide moving off center, one way of the other.The lens in the middle was the red, default indication. Green was on one side and amber was on the other. A benefit of this relay system was a far less complex wiring system.

After the pole was set in concrete, the next step was using a come-along to raise the light to the top of the pole.

This picture shows how the back of the target and the light box were painted bright silver. This two light signal was in West Virginia.


The milepost number plate is affixed and the former Wriston signal, born in 1941, is complete and functioning again.  The green arrow points to its location west of Oak Hill Jct and visible from route 61.

I am grateful to Ben Blevins and George Lewis for assistance with this signal.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Virginian GRS Dwarf Signal

Looking west at Maben, we see the west end of the passing siding and the GRS dwarf signal governing the exit from the passing siding  as well as the mainline signal on the right.  These two pictures (one immediately below also) were taken in 2008 and five years later the dwarf was removed by NS and after five years of storage, it was disposed of.

At Itmann on the Guyandot River Branch, there was a plethora of dwarf signals in the fall of 2015, (Above and Below) both single and double lights!

This Virginian dwarf signal was in service on the railroad in 2008 at Maben.

       After being disassembled, cleaned and rewiring, the former Maben dwarf is in operation at Aubrey's Railroad Relic Garden.

While dissembling the light box, a large amount of dried mud was found in the case. A high water mark is shown across the top part of the interior lens. On Sunday, July 8, 2001 an intense storm brought over 8 inches of rain to the Mullens, WV area in a little over an hour. One of the streams that flooded and its waters reached far beyond its banks to the Virginian railroad (NS) was Slab Fork at Maben. A short distance down stream is Mullens where newspaper accounts describe 12 feet of water in downtown!

The three aspects that could be displayed by this signal were: Proceed, Stop, Restricted.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Virginian GRS Type 2 A Train Order Semaphore

With the headlight for westbound merchandise train number 60 looming in the distance, Virginian station agent-operator attached his train orders for the train. The blades for his train order semaphores are already displaying "pick up orders" for trains approaching from both directions. The date was May 30, 1959 and the station agent/operator was Bill Euchler


This GRS Type 2A train order spectral  was saved from the Salem, Va. station when the building was demolished. The back of the wood board was painted black. The Virginian purchased it in the late 1910's and it was used as an upper quadrant instrument, meaning it was in a straight up position when giving a clear, no orders indication. In 1938, the railroad switched to lower quadrant semaphores, meaning the blade was pointing down when clear. Company records reveal that the ever frugal Virginian did not purchase new spectrals, but reversed the mount instead 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Virginian Fairbanks Morse Sheffield Motor Cars

A Virginian Section Gang waits for the train ahead to move so the men can reach their tool house at Herndon and end their work day.

This Fairmont motor car was issued to George Lewis, a Virginian signal maintainer, who started work right after World War II. When passenger train service was discontinued on July 11, 1955 west of the Virginia-West Virginia state line, the station at Matoaka, WV became his motor car shed //tool house.

Virginian Sheffield Motor Car Type 41

Few Virginian motor cars are known to exist into the 21st century. The author knows of only a few found in Virginia and West Virginia. The author owns a circa 1921 Sheffield Model 41 that was among those originally purchased for the “electrification” project which was completed in 1925 and then it was transferred to the railroad. It has the half-front that was added to some model 41’s in 1953 and it is stored in a 2/3 scale, one car shed painted in the paint scheme of gray with  brown trim, adopted in October 1945. A set-off track is in front. Clearly, no more than two men could have ridden on this car.

VGN motor car number 109, nee 905, was restored by the author between August 20, 2009 and July 4, 2011. In addition to wearing four different numbers, it was also painted different colors. When it was born at the Sheffield plant in Michigan in 1921 it was painted dark green. At some early date, it was painted by Virginian shop forces at Princeton, WV in a rich, medium orange.  In 1953, the car, which had been open, received a roof and half front. The color remained orange and it was numbered 109. In 1964 while owned by N&W, it was painted yellow and in following years, assigned numbers N 109, 853 and finally 1033. It lived into Norfolk Southern years, being on a 1986 equipment list.

Friends Rick Rader and Garland Harper helped with this project.


The 109 required several days of blasting, using a variety of media.

In June 2014 as part of the N&W Historical Society convention in Roanoke, I got to ride in my motor car. It was borderline terrifying!  As members toured Virginia Museum of Transportation, I portrayed a Virginian signal maintainer as a "living history" activity.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Virginian Motor Car Shed - Tool House Replica

Virginian two bay Motor Car Shed

Two tool houses face the mainline at Mullens, WV

The 2/3 scale, replica motor car shed in the Railroad Relic Garden

My wife Charlotte and I built the replica, 2/3 scale Virginian motor car shed.

The tar paper roof did not hold up. After having to replace it 3 times in six years, I opted for a vintage metal roof. My son, Jim Wiley and I did it.

Along the east wall are some hand tools, spare motor car batteries, a battery charger, a glass enclosed relay box for a signal that is wired for a demonstration on how it works and some tool boxes.

Along the north wall (back wall) are shovels, safety flags, a switch heater, and in top left corner there is a drinking water cooler. The rectangular water cooler is for hand washing and below its spigot is a pail to catch wash water. 

Along the west wall are a variety of hammers, a metal case for flares, fusees and torpedoes, small pails for large nuts and bolts, a tool belt, metal shoe clamp spikes for climbing wood poles and a roll of tar paper. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tools and Equipment of a Virginian Signal Maintainer

I was fortunate to know George Lewis, a kind man who hired on the Virginian after World War II in Norfolk as a signal maintainer's helper. Mr. Lewis was a tremendous friend and always was eager to talk about the Virginian and his job. 

                    ~  Lineside Telephones ~


This wooden C&O phone box was in service until about 1985 at the west end of Gladstone Va. Yard. the phone inside is a Stromberg - Carlson hand crank phone from circa 1955. 


Norfolk & Western started using this steel cube shaped phone box about 1945. This particular one was used in the Scioto Division in Ohio along the Portsmouth to Columbus line.


Virginian's phone boxes were called "Call Boxes" by railroaders as well as nearby citizens. Interesting features included the ever present graffiti inside. The doors were unlocked but secured by a stick or a bolt and it had 2 by 4 legs in the front. The hand crank phone was reliable and beside or beneath it was a wooden plug box with three jack holes. By placing the jack in the correct hole, the called could communicate with the power director if in electrified territory, the division dispatcher or "line" which made it possible to speak with individual stations by means of a ring call code. Virginian began installing the call boxes around 1920. The call box in the Relic Garden collection came from Pinnacle Creek Jct., milepost 13 on the Guyandot Branch. It was on a pole near a motor car shed. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tools and Equipment of a Virginian Signal Maintainer

Typically, a Virginian signal maintainer in the 1950's carried a wide range of tools on his motor car, everything he could possibly use. According to Mr. Lewis, some men used wire milk bottle racks, home made wood tool boxes and off the shelf metal tool boxes. A metal lunch pale or bucket was also carried.  

Tucked away out of sight at his tool house, a maintainer kept a supply of parts he might need for a job. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

  Mileposts, Whistle Posts, etc  

Aubrey Wiley and Greg Elam stand beside Virginian's 125 milepost  at Nutbush, Va. This section of the railroad's grade was abandoned in the 1980's and the area is now a Pine forest.

Whistle Posts

Railroads placed whistle post displaying the letter W in advance of road or street crossing to alert approaching engineers of a public crossing ahead. The engineer was to start blowing his engine whistle at that point to warn motorists of his train approaching. The code blown was two long blasts of the whistle, followed by a short blast and finally ending with another long blast. The distance between the whistle post location and the actual crossing varied because of the expected train speeds. For example, in areas where the speed limit was 40 m.p.h, the whistle post might be a half mile in advance. When the speed limit was slower, 25 m.p.h. for example, the distance might be a quarter of a mile. 


C&O had a branch that went north of the Kanawha River from Meadow Creek to the Greenbrier Coal Fields. Pictured above, a C&O 2-6-6-2 mallet locomotive is pushing empty coal hoppers at Anjean on the former NF&G. The white post to the right of the locomotive is the whistle post in the Relic Garden collection.   Below is a map showing the branchline leaving the C&O mainline in the lower left. The green arrow marks Anjean.

Pictured are a Virginian whistle post on the left and the C&O Anjean whistle post on the right.



The cast iron N&W Whistle Post came from the railroad's Durham line in Lynchburg, where Fairview Avenue crossed the railroad. This style of Whistle Sign was adopted by N&W in 1948. This particular sign was knocked down in a minor derailment in 1964 and given to me afterward. It is pictured in our yard, depicting the Wiley monogram with a Virginian Railway steam locomotive marker light above it. The whistle post pictured beside the tracks stood along N&W's Radford Division.



In the picture above, the Virginian concrete whistle post beside a track was in Roanoke, Va.  On the right is a view where my Virginian whistle post came from, Danieltown, Va., seen thirty years after being abandoned by N&W.


Now the Danieltown whistle post is in our relic garden. It was saved from destruction when the rails were pulled out by Greg Elam who gave it to me. Like other concrete railroad posts, this one is heavy, about 700 pounds.  I have a 2 ton engine hoist.

Virginian Milepost 141, east of Abilene, Va.

In 1916, America's fascination with wild west shows was on the decline. Newspaper stories from that year describe a new fascination, aerial  bi plane shows. Buffalo Bills show continued on after the train wreck described below but for less than a year. Cody left the show and traveled to visit his sister in Wyoming where he died. 

In 1916, the wild west circus train of Buffalo Bill Cody suffered a horrific derailment on the Virginian Railway at Shorter's Spur near Abilene, Va. Many animals were killed. The last milepost the train passed was milepost 141.  This part of the old Virginian was abandoned by N&W about 1988, after the merger of the two railroads in 1959. The milepost was excavated in 2007 and after three weeks of restoration, including concrete repair in places, it was erected in our Relic Garden. It is 8 feet long and weighs about 600 pounds.

Virginian 100 car Post, Norfolk Division


Pictured above left is a 100 car post at milepost 8.0, west of the railroad's Southern Branch Yard. Virginian placed these concrete posts 100 car lengths away from siding switches so that the engineer could better judge when his last car was clear of the last switch and he could assume running speed. In the Norfolk Division, the posts were 100 car lengths away while in the New River Division, they were 80 car lengths away. The post on the right is in our Relic Garden.

C&O Property Boundary Marker

Not all railroads went to the expense to make concrete property boundary posts but C&O did. This marker was found in a field along C&O's branch from Balcony Falls, Va (Glasgow, Va) to Lexington, Va in the fall of 1972. There area had seen two horrific floods in the previous three years, Camille in 1969 and Agnes in 1972. The concrete post was likely washed away from the right of way and settled in the place I found it. I asked a C&O employee about it and was told to keep it. 

N&W Switching Point Point Island Yard


On N&W's Island Yard in the James River, Lynchburg, Va., to assist yard engineers to know  when they were a certain distance from a mainline switch, a used rail section was planted upright. This piece of rail had its web removed on one end the the two remaining parts, were bent together, forming a point. Then the 6 foot long section of 70 pound rail was pounded into the earth. 

Railroad Communication Line Pole

Wanting a suitable and realistic way to present a variety of glass railroad insulators, erecting a utility pole seemed like a good solution. The wire arrangement is typical of what was found on the Virginian Railway's poles. Assistance came from a former Virginian station agent/operator, Landon Gregory.

The cross arms are from decades of field trips, as are the insulators. Ben Blevins (N&W), Landon Gregory (VGN) and Bud Huff (C&O) gave me suggestions for the placement of the different colored insulators. On the lower arm, left end are metal letters, "440 volts."  The brown insulators above indicate 440 volts of electricity on railroad company lines. It was stepped down to usable 110 volts at remote stations and shanties not served by a public utility. The center green insulators are for the railroad's message lines between stations while on the right end, the clear insulators carried wires for the dispatchers' lines. On the middle row, the two white insulators on the right are for telegraph communication. One was for Western Union and the other was for company telegraph use, train orders from dispatcher mainly. For the ground of telegraph use, good ole Mother Earth was used.  The two green insulators on the middle row, left end and top row insulators are "not in use" as was the practice among railroad linemen.  This pole does have a useful  function for us:  It is our clothesline!

 ~  Structures ~

                          C&O "Watchbox" from Abert, Va.

The World War II watchman's shanty from Abert on the James River is painted in the C&O official structure paint scheme of that time, three shades of green. Inside it is furnished as it would have been during its lifetime in the 1950's.

In 1942, the United States FBI learned of a Nazi plan to sabotage strategic railroad targets in the United States.  Two teams of highly trained saboteurs had been landed by German submarines along the northeast coast.  Fortunately, they were captured before they could fulfill their objectives, but nonetheless, terror was struck in the hearts of Americans and American businessmen as they realized how vulnerable America was.

 Interrogation revealed that their targets included locations on the Pennsylvania, New York, New Haven and Hartford, New York Central, Great Northern, and Chesapeake & Ohio railroads.  For the targeted railroad serving Lynchburg, the Chesapeake & Ohio, one of the results of planning-by-preventing was to construct, locate and man small structures, manned by watchmen around the clock, at railway tunnels, trestles and bridges.  Many were in use by the end of 1942.

 One of these structures survives. The Abert “watch box” was such a structure, and when built, it was located on C&O’s vital artery for coal and other export shipments, the James River Sub-division of the Clifton Forge district. Abert was at milepost 154.7, nine miles west of the C&O’s Lynchburg yard. The exact purpose of the structure for homeland security being built at Abert is unclear. Officials of the railroad gave their blessing and in the summer of 1977, it was trucked to our home. In Abert, there are two windows, at opposite ends of the long dimension, and a door with a window.  In the blank back wall is carved, probably with a pocket knife, a small hole about four inches long by an inch high, for gazing toward the river, I expect.  The windows slide open to the top, are self-storing and have a heavy wire grate cover over each window.These railroad watchmen who worked twelve-hour shifts, seven days a week. During their shifts, they would patrol in each direction, meeting their counterparts from other watch boxes.  A lineside telephone was nearby and it was their link with the outside world, via the railroad dispatcher. Abert’s old railroad telephone box is also nearby. The shanty’s company furnishings were spartan; a chair, table and stove.       

Abert is pictured beside the mainline of C&O, about 5 miles west of Lynchburg, Va.

After World War II, Abert and her sisters found a second life, again as shelter for employees.  The “track walkers,” or “bluff watchers” patrolled a section of track using a velocipede, but this time they were watching for rockslides or other natural dangers. In the mid 1970's, C&O officials were planned the demolition of all these shanties to lessen the amount of taxes paid.  Being at the right place at the right time meant my obtaining permission from railroad  to obtain Abert. In the fall of 1977 it was trucked away and moved to the author’s home.  Abert was tenderly placed in the  back yard, at the edge of the woods, and arranged as it would have been when it was  in service.  It has been cleaned and minor repairs have been made.  The interior of Abert is furnished as it could have been during its latter years of service to the C&O; the correct Burnside number 5 stove, a coal scuttle with tender box, a well worn, wood chair, an old caboose desk sitting on a small table, vintage company posters on the walls, company employee timetables, note paper with a C&O company pencil nearby, red and clear kerosene lanterns to used on track patrols, paperback western novels, a sardine tin, tobacco tin, soda bottles, tins of Prince Albert tobacco, soiled work gloves, a railroad cap and coat, and sheets of galvanized metal to cover the windows in case of an air raid. 

                                 N&W Coal Shed circa 1892

In 1890, Norfolk & Western Railroad, having purchased the necessary property, began grading a new railroad line to connect the mainline with the Lynchburg & Durham Railroad's 12th Street Station. Also about this time, N&W took over the L&D by lease and later direct ownership. The new line left the N&W just west of Halsey, which in the 21st century is near the intersection of Old Forest Road and Halsey Street. It ran to the south east to a tunnel which is under the eastern end of the Plaza Shopping Center. The tunnel exited at Euclid Avenue and continued east, coming to Campbell Avenue and the L&D.  However many claims were made against the railroad for damages during the construction and after two years, the work was halted and abandoned in 1894. Instead N&W built a collecting track from the mainline about a half mile west of the tunnel under Hollins Mill Road. It much shorter, there was no opposition from neighboring property owners but was was built on a steep grade. In the 21st century, this former railroad line is part of the James River Heritage Trail, a paved trail for bicycling and walking.

In my childhood, my grandfather, Ocie C. Wiley, told me the history of the wood coal shed he had at the family home place on Oakley Avenue.  This area was fairly rural when he was a young man with a family and knowing of this old shed nearby that was not being claimed by anyone, he brought it home to use as a coal shed.  Another story from my childhood was my father describing how he and his brother played in an old railroad tunnel that was near their Oakley Avenue home. He said a stream was running though it. 

In 1965, my father gave me the shed for my home.  The 7'6" by 4' shed became my tool shed. About 2015, I decided to examine the shed closely for signs of original paint. The building is still very solid and the wood members are not what is considered standard today, such as corner posts of 2-1/4" by 3-3/4". In 2016, my son Jim and I replaced the roof with a metal roof and thus, four generations have have a hand of this treasure.  

A picture is below showing detail of the device to secure the door and it shows original paint. N&W's standard color for structures then was a cream color with medium brown trim and the cream is what I found on the door lock catch. Unfortunately, because shade was on it when I took the picture, the cream color appears blueish.

                   Repilca Virginian Railway Motor Car Shed 
                                  for a single car, 2/3 scale

A cluster of Virginian equipment is shown.  From left: Virginian Pull Off Pole with GRS finial from Altavista, Va., milepost 199.0; Virginian GRS signal from Wriston, WV milepost 421; the replica motor car shed/tool house; Virginian "call box" from near Pineville, WV, milepost L387.  This picture was made before the set off rails and ballast had been installed. Below, the company Safety First sign has been attached to the door.

For more pictures of the Motor Car Shed, see the entry above for the Sheffield Motor Car.

~  Signs ~


The N&W  through truss bridge over the James River at the east end of Island Yard is shown circa 1937 to the right of the track are a concrete bridge number post and a cast iron No Trespassing sign.

N&W's Pocahontas, Va. spur is the location of this 2012 picture by Jeff Hawkins. Again, we see a No Trespassing sign and a bridge number sign at the end of a bridge.

Our example of the standard N&W no trespassing sign had been used on N&W's Potts Valley  Branch. The branch crossed the New River and Virginian Railway mainline at Norcross and meandered along first near Stony Creek and later Potts Creek for approximately 40 miles, ending 3 miles beyond  Paint Bank, Va. Constructed in early twentieth century, originally the line was built to bring out lumber from the valleys. Iron ore was discovered in the upper north end of Potts Valley and for a while it provided substantial revenue for the railroad. The mines were pit mines, not shaft mines. But the boom years ended in the early 1930s and the line was abandoned back to only about six miles long, serving two limestone quarries plants. An N&W Employee Timetable from 1930 reveals  passenger service was offered then. A mixed train ran a round trip every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, lasting 2-1/4 hours going north and 2-1/2 hours returning south.  Our sign was found under a railroad bridge over Stony Creek near a limestone plant at Kimballton, Va. We appreciate Chip Oaks and Jim Blackstock for helping with this project. 

                                                              Jeff Hawkins Picture

This concrete N&W bridge number post above was on N&W's Bluestone Branch at Matoaka, WV. It identified the bridge located over Widemouth Creek and  it inspired me to create my own replica. The replica stands beside our driveway entrance and bears our house number, 535. On the back is the number of the sign in Matoaka which was my inspiration, 2309. Thanks to Jon Charles for his help.


Close Clearance

Concord, Virginia still is a small, agricultural community but today there aren't any farm products shipped by railroad. There aren't a station or a freight station either, which is where this sign was attached at one time. When a train crew was switching and positioning  freight cars at the freight station, if there wasn't enough space  for a man hanging on the side of a freight car to safely clear the building, this sign was posted.


This time worn sign was found on a downed N&W company pole about milepost 199, east of Lynchburg, abandoned decades ago. Its warning is for the railroad electricity power of 440 volts on the pole. See the Railroad Pole article above.

Yard Limit

All railroads had boundaries for yard crews switching cars in the yards. On the N&W, these boundaries were distinguished by cast iron, orange and black "Yard Limit" signs.  For example, in Lynchburg, Va., N&W had two yards, each on a separate mainline. One was on the "Old Mainline" while the other was on the "Mainline."  The track connecting the two yards was about 4 miles long and was within the Lynchburg Yard Limits. Generally, over the road train crews were not allowed to switch within a yard and yard crews were not allowed to be on the mainlines.   We  are grateful to Rick Rader for his assistance with this dispaly.

C&O ND Cabin "Call Sign"

In 1926, C&O completed this two story cabin which controlled traffic for C&O and N&W trains at a diamond crossing along the James River in Lynchburg, Va. C&O called their towers, "cabins." C&O called the cabin, "ND," which was its telegraph call code. As we look at the picture, Union Station was to the left and N&W's Island Yard was to the right. It is pictured, long out of service.

There were four of these signs on ND, two on each front corner.

C&O Station Sign for Pearch, Virginia

On the James River Subdivision, Pearch was at milepost 159, thirteen miles west of Lynchburg. Pearch was tucked back in a small notch of the steep hillside on the south bank of the James River and handled a good amount of agricultural products, fruit and vegetables. The date the station was closed is not known but when it was removed, one of the station's two signs was placed on an 8 by 8 wood post, as was typical practice.  The sign measures 46" by 12." In true form for railroad standards, the length of the sign was determined by the length of the word.

Virginian Speed Limit Sign

The ever frugal Virginian Railway wasted very little. The company made signs, such as this speed limit sign, from sheet steel of old freight cars that were scrapped. It measures 20" across and was found along an abandoned section of the Norfolk Division. The reverse side was left unrestored.

~  Lights ~ 

Virginian Steam Engine Classification Light

All railroads had colored lights on the upper front corners of locomotives. Radios were very rarely in use on trains so other means of communicating were used. For example if an employee saw a train approaching at night, the color displayed by the classification lights (sometimes called marker lights) would help him know which train it was.  Above, Virginian class MC 2-8-2 type, number 468, is shown after it has  cut ff from its train of loaded coal hoppers as the train arrives at Elmore Yard, Mullens, WV.  The 468 was the last surviving engine of its type and was sitting at Princeton WV shops when I saw it in late 1959.  There was only one man working on the Saturday while I was there. I was a reasonably tall, thin kid and that man told me that the engine was going to a junkyard soon and I could have anything off it I wanted. I had no tools but a pocket knife. I lifted one of the marker lights from its bracket and cut the wire with my knife. The engine was built in 1912. The Virginian owned it for 47 years. As I write this in 2017, I have owned it longer than the railroad!  58 years! The two markers are indicated by the green arrows. Now this antique serves as our yard light.

New York Central Railroad Pump House Light

In 2007, the old pump house, used by New York Central Railroad to draw water from the nearby Kanawha Rifer at Gauley Bridge, WV, was being torn down by Conrail. This unusual door light was salvaged and is pictured outside our Wiley Country Store - Walnut Level Texaco Gas Station, which is adjacent to the relic garden.

                                 C&O Switchstand Lights  

Railroads had lights and colored targets on switch throws so that an approaching train crews could know in advance how the switch was aligned.  In this picture made in Russell Yard, Kentucky, a switchstand light is in the left foreground while another another is just left of center.


As a switch was thrown from one track to the otehr, a rod supporting these lights would rotate a quarter turn. The light with red and green lights on  the left was located on a switch that was on the mainline. The yellow and green light was used on another track other than the mainline, such as a spur or a yard track. 

~  Assorted ~ 

Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Station Scales

This Fairbanks Morse Company Depot Scales was a gift from a friend in West Virginia. Having a capacity of 1,000 pounds, the scales were last used at Mt. Hope, WV on C&O's Loop Creek Branch which extended twelve miles south from the mainline at Thurmond on the New River. Originally the line was operated as the Kanawha, Glen Jean & Eastern Railroad but by the late 1902's it was jointly owned by C&O and Virginian railroads. However each had trackage rights over the other's part.  Below is the KGJ&E station, later run by C&O.

One rail historian wrote, "Any station that handled express would need one of these scales as billing depended on weight and dimensions. I am sure that the possibility of weighing LCL (Less than Carload Lots) and passenger baggage, trunks and etc. would factor in.  C&O had a repair and calibration shop in Huntington that would handle these system wide and scales would rotate from place to place as they were out shopped."  The deck measures 17-1/2" by 26-1/2" and the balancing tower is 45" tall. 


Stenciled on the scales is an inspection date of "3 - 1948" which was conducted by a C&O inspector  The 1948 Official Guide for Passenger Trains shows that C&O passenger train service was still available for Mt. Hope in 1948. It lists passenger train number 136 leaving Thurmond on the C&O mainline at 3:10 pm, making the twelve mile journey up the mountains to Mt. Hope, arriving at 4:05 pm. The return train, number 137, left Mt. Hope at 4:20 pm, reaching Thurmond at 5:03 pm. The Virginian Railway had freight service and some passenger service on some of the same line, but no passenger service to Mt. Hope. The closest point for taking a Virginian passenger train was Oak Hill, WV.  In the top picture, the scales is pictured with my 1925 vintage American Pulley Company hand truck, "Daisy" model. On the builder's plate it shows that it has a rated capacity of 280 pounds.

We are grateful to the following for making acquisition this happen; Jim Wiley and C&O historians Tom Clay, Matt Crouch and Scott Greathouse.

The C&O scales are located in our Wiley country Store and Texaco which is adjacent to the railroad relic garden. 

Southern Ry. Bell


In 1953, Southern Railway was among the earliest American railroads to total dieselize its locomotive fleet. This brass bell came from the Monroe, Va. yard engine, number 1894. It is pictured in the Monroe yard as the joint Southern-N&W passenger train, "The Tennessean" passes,  southbound.

Locomotive front number plate

The identity of this railroad locomotive front number plate is unknown, but it serves very well as our house number plate.

Coupler Knuckle

Found at the bottom of the steep road out of Reusens, Va (Lynchburg area), this coupler knuckle was discarded in the brush about 100 feet from the railroad. It weighs about 80-100 pounds and it is my guess that a resident in Reusens had left it there years ago and it was put there on purpose. When it snowed, the extra weight in the trunk of a car would help getting up that hill. It was too far form the railroad to have fallen from a train.   It matches the AAR standard for a 1934 issue.

Logging Brake Wheel

South River Lumber Company was the longest lumber railroad in Virginia when it ceased operations in 1938. Its 57 miles of track reached into three counties in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia; Amherst, Nelson and Rockbridge.  The track was 42", which was not a common gage,  and it operated with five two truck Climax type steam locomotives. Almost all of the line is now part of the George Washington National Forest and it is as beautiful as can be found in eastern U.S. Since 1960, I have studied, hiked, camped, back packed and explored the old remaining grades. On private property many years ago, I found this bent brake wheel from a skeleton log car. The picture at the top shows an actual log loading operation near the juncture of the three counties it served. 

Finial from Southern Railway color light signal

Lynchburg's Union Station served four transportation companies at one time in the early 20th century. They were; C&O Railway, N&W Railway, Southern Railway and Lynchburg Traction & Light Company, a street car company. In later years, only the railroads called here and one by one, they left as well. 

In this morning picture looking east from Williams Viaduct, the N&W passenger train, the Powhatan Arrow, is about to leave. On the right is a Southern yard engine with a cut of freight cars waiting to cross the N&W after the passenger train leaves.  The signal in front of the Southern engine governs Southern trains approaching the crossing. The cast iron finial is the finial from that Southern signal and now is in our relic garden  . It measures 28' tall by 8" in diameter. 

Trail made of Tie Plates

A walking path it the relic garden is made of assorted tie plates from; A&D, C&O, N&W, Southern,  Tidewater and Virginian railroads.

Pull Off Pole for Virginian GRS signal


Wires for the railroad phones and signals did not go directly to them. They were brought to a "Pull Off" pole and then to the signal or phone box. It one pictured on left was at the Virginian Scale House at west end of Roanoke Yard. The one in our relic was discarded by the railroad at Altavista and recovered by the station agent who passed it on to me.

Virginian GRS Electric Junction Box

The right picture shows the GRS Junction Box behind a GRS dwarf signal at the west end of Maben, WV in 2008. The left picture shows a GRS Junction Box beside the VGN signal in the relic garden. It was taken out at Carolina Tower, Norfolk some years ago by NS.  A signal's junction box is a detail not often noticed.

Railroad Grade Crossing Alarm


A typical railroad grade crossing alarm is pictured on the left while on the right is the cobbled together one in our relic garden.  The glass beaded crossbuck is Virginian from near Suffolk; flashing lights are N&W from near Buena Vista; the bell was used on the N&W's Radford Division and the glass beaded two track sign is from the Southern, near Charlottesville. 

C&O US&S Electrical Junction Box

This M.I. Company junction box was nearly completely hidden in leaves and dirt at the western end of C&O railroad's Alleghany Tunnel. Its pattent date is from the late 1800's.  

Tall Atlantic & Danville Switchstand

The Atlantic & Danville Railroad was incorporated in 1882 to reach for 203 miles along the Virginia-North Carolina border between Danville, Va on the west and Portsmouth, Va on the east.  Starting in 1889, Southern Railway leased the railroad but gave it up in 1949 at which time it began independent operation. This lasted until 1960 when the line went bankrupt.  In 1962, N&W bought it and formed the Norfolk Franklin & Danville Railroad to operate it. After several decades, parts of the railroad were abandoned until 2005 when Lawrenceville  was as far west as it reached.  About a mile west of the NF&D's western end of track, this tall switchstand was left on nearby private property. 

Signal Ladder Art

Over the years, several short pieces of signal ladders have accumulated at our home, left over pieces from many signal projects.  Then in 2016, I had an epiphany and  released the artist half of myself to create this arrangement of the scraps. The ladder parts are from these railroads: ACL, C&O, N&W, Southern and Virginian.       

C&O Eddy Short Barrel Fire Hydrant

The C&O Roundhouse at Gladstone were not always so small, but by 1975, this is all that remained. The turntable had been taken out decades earlier.

Behind the roundhouse was this small fire hydrant, Made by Eddy Valve Company. It was their "short valve model."  

Virginian Lima Locomotive Works steam engine Boiler Liner Bricks

When N&W tore down the  Virginian roundhouse at Victoria, Va. about 1975, many of the workers who had been there in the glory years of the Virginian Railway couldn't accept the N&W's philosophy of trash and burn to such a great extent. One man (probably more) took some of the things home with him, maybe to have around and give him comfort.  In this case it was stacks of never used steam engine boiler arch firebricks.  After he passed away, his son, who was also a railroad, kept things too. Finally in 2007, he gave me a few of thees keepsakes of better times, some of the firebricks. Molded into the back is the following; "American Arch Co., Security." They were intended to be replacements for the classes BA and AG Lima Locomotive Works engines. To me, sitting upright in our fern garden, they look like grave markers, fittingly so.

N&W Electric Stacked High Tension Line Insulators

Few railroad historians know that N&W had a section of its mainline electrified.  It was first installed in 1913 and by 1923, it covered 52 miles between Bluefield, WV and Iaeger, WV. It was taken out of service in November 1950.

While watching trains pass the junction of the former N&W mainline with the Clinch Valley Branch in November 2015, I noticed a stack of insulators in the weeds. They had been part of the high tension electric line from the overhead electric centenary! The location was Bluefield, Va. 

Virginian Caboose Stove

Virginian's class C-1 wood cabooses, like the one above,  were built between 1909 and 1924. Some years ago, I met a lady who owned one, number unknown, and she offered the stove to me for my Railroad Relic Garden. At the time, the stove had been laying out in an unused field for decades.  It being made of heavy cast iron, it was none the worse for the exposure. During winters now, it is covered. When assembled, it weighs a good 300 pounds! 

It now serves its original purpose again, cooking food, but not as often. We enjoy cooking on our back yard fire pit and the stove has been used for cooking chili and keeping other foods warm.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Thank you for your time and interest. Your reaction and comments are appreciated. 

To comment or plan a visit, contact us at

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Our Railroad Relic Garden is protected by Blue Ridge Security.

Be sure to visit the blog for the replica country store. 

For reference to the railroad books authored by Aubrey Wiley, use this link:

Happy Trails !