Spring colors frame some of the garden relics

Spring colors frame some of the garden relics

Thursday, June 24, 2010


All large railroads had lineside phone boxes for train crews to use to communicate with their dispatcher under certain conditions. Research indicates that Virginian probably had lineside phones as early as 1909!

On the Virginian Railway, they were called "Call Boxes" and they served additional purposes. For example, Delbert Whitlow of Kellysville, WV, located just west of the Virginia state line, tells that in his childhood, the Virginian call boxes were always left unlocked! Having no other link to the world, the call boxes were made available for the local residents to use in case of emergencies. Residents could call the railroad dispatcher who in turn would summon the needed emergency agency, be it police, fire or rescue.

A Virginian freight conductor who worked out of Mullens, West Virginia wrote a poem inside many of the call boxes he used. Ever the railroad's president saw them and once the two men met in a Mullens drug store. "Hello Shakespeare," the president said as a greeting to the man. The creative writing went as follows: "Old John Morgan, Conductor of his train. His head in the call box and his ass out in the rain."

Victoria, Virginia resident Harry McLaughlin was a Virginian passenger and freight conductor. He remembers these call boxes being at many places along the line; at each end of a passing siding and at stations. Often the operator at most stations did not work at night so a call box was the only way for a conductor to communicate with the dispatcher. Harry also tells that it was large so that a conductor could have working space to copy train orders. The phone was mounted on the left wall and had only two lines, one to the dispatcher and another to nearby stations in the division. Call Boxes on the mainline between Roanoke and Mullens had a third line, to the power director.

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