Memories: Casto writes book about C&O's old days

By Bob Withers
The Herald-Dispatch
October 16, 2006

HUNTINGTON -- It is August 1956, the twilight of steam operations on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, as a mine run crewman prepares to pick up orders "on the fly" and deliver yet more empties to a coal mine somewhere in southern West Virginia.

Gene Huddleston photo/C&O Historical Society, Jame

A mine run leaves Peach Creek yard to deliver empties up some hollow south of Logan, W.Va., in August 1956.

The operator at FD Cabin, sandwiched between the busy Peach Creek yard and the passenger station in Logan, is preparing to "hand up" the orders, tied in a bundle and anchored temporarily in a Y-shaped wooden hoop.

TThe fireman -- or maybe he's the brakeman -- has his arm extended so it can pass through the top of the Y as the train passes. The anchors will give up the twine and and bundle of orders will be caught in the crook of the crewman's elbow until he can retrieve them, read them and pass them over to the engineer.

Why is the locomotive backing? We're told that many of the mine runs ended at a loadout at the head of some hollow, where there was no room to install a turntable or wye track upon which to turn the locomotives. So they ran up the hollows backward as they tugged the empties, and headed back to civilization properly pointed, pulling the loads.

O.B. Evans of Huntington, who hired out with the C&O in time to fire some of those sooty old steam engines, said many a man got a stiff neck from running engines so far in reverse.

The photo is one of more than 200 vintage black-and-white photographs featured in a new book by James E. Casto, senior public information specialist for the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing and retired associate editor of The Herald-Dispatch.

The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway: Images of Rail is essentially a picture book that shows much about the way it used to be on the railroad, garnished with Casto's well-written captions.

The 128-page paperback -- which has been published by Arcadia Publishing of Mount Pleasant, S.C., retails for $19.99 -- soon will be available at Border's Books Music Movies & Cafe and Empire Books & News. Casto will do a signing at Border's on Saturday, Oct. 21, starting at 2 p.m. How long he stays depends on how long you come.

Click here for more details on about the C&O book.

Copyright © 2006 The Herald-Dispatch

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