Spring colors frame some of the garden relics

Spring colors frame some of the garden relics

Thursday, June 24, 2010

VIRGINIAN RAILWAY Sheffield Motor Car circa 1921

The Fairbanks Morse-Sheffield Model 41 motor car was received by the Virginian for road use in 1926 at a cost of $265.00! It was built in 1921 and used in the "Electrification Project." Having an 8.5 horsepower two cylinder engine which could run on either a mixture of oil and kerosene or oil and gasoline, this model was produced by Fairbanks Morse/Sheffield from 1919 to 1936. Originally, it was open top but according to AFE records, in 1953 the railroad had the unique half front cabs installed. Virginian signalman George Lewis started on the Virginian after World War II as a signal installer and maintainer. He worked installing the railroad's signals on the Norfolk Division and in 1953 was transferred to the New River Division. He recalls that the maintainer at Matoaka, West Virginia (milepost 356.2) has this model motor car. Mr. Lewis had this type of motor car for a brief time and remembers well its unique method of starting, direct drive; push the car to start and jump on board quickly! When the two cylinder, direct drive engine was running, the car moved! Once he stopped at a call box to talk to the dispatcher. He thought he had turned it off but as he was talking, he heard it sputter away! He said he was much younger then and he "hot footed it" down the track and finally caught it after a two mile chase! He was scared to think what could have happened if he had not caught it!

After completing the trade with friend Rick Rader to obtain this motor car, the front was sanded slightly and the original VGN marking showed through. It was VGN motor car number 109. After the VGN/N&W merger on December 1, 1959, it became N&W N109, then N&W 1033 and finally NW 1031. Rick states that it was still on the NW equipment roster in 1984! After being sold as surplus by the railroad, it was owned by a collector in Ohio who housed it indoors for over twenty years. Then Rick obtained it and now it is ours. We plan to restore it to operation and enjoy riding it. According to Rick, who has owned several motor cars, there are only five more Sheffield 41's in existence. He has one of them and says the 109 is in the best original, unrestored condition of them all. We will restore its Virginian lettering. A field phone manufactured by General Railway Supply and used by VGN signalmen and linemen is shown on the VGN 109 motor car. Clips were used to tap onto a communications line and the battery powered handset could be used to communicate with a dispatcher.

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