From The Editor Sept 2015

By Tex Carter

UPDATE
The November trip is filled up. We will be sending out a form October 1 to confirm those attending. Others will be moved to a later date.

November Field Trip Date and Time Changes

Trips start at the visitor’s center in Rocky Mt.
Trips start at the visitor’s center in Rocky Mt.

The Field Trip originally set for Nov. 7 has been moved to Saturday, Nov. 14 and now starts at 9:00am

Another change will be the starting time. We have arranged to have the visitor’s center and the caboose both open at 9:00am. for our tour group to see before starting the field trip at 10:00am.

Both the caboose and Visitor’s Center are free as well as the field trip so come take advantage of this rare opportunity. This part of the trip is self-guided and you have one hour to tour the facility at your leisure.

Tex leading a tour back in 2013.
Tex leading a tour back in 2013.

We have been collecting names for possible attendees to our Nov. 14 trip for some time. Several weren’t sure about going that far in advance. About October 1 we will send out a notice to all on our list and ask that everyone confirm their attending.

Some of our people have suggested stopping for lunch in Pen Hook. As parking is limited past that point we have decided to split the tour into two groups in Pen Hook to make parking easier. Those not stopping to eat will continue on which will help on the narrow roads beyond Pen hook. This is optional but doing so will keep each group small.

August 2015 Events
August was a busy month for promoting the F&P. On August 4 a brief program was presented to the Altavista Rotary Club. Members were given a photographic tour of the F&P route from Rocky Mount to Gretna that included historical commentary.

The audience was invited to ask questions as we went through the photos of depots, flag stops, maps and other F&P related material. A robust discussion developed on a few issues that was followed up with e-mails and other source links.

The F&P Railroad table at Lynchburg Rail Day 2015.
The F&P Railroad table at Lynchburg Rail Day 2015.

The following Saturday, August 8, Lou Revelle and I were given the use of a table at the Lynchburg Rail Day 2015 event held for the 37th year by the Blue Ridge Chapter of the National Rail Historical Society.

It was held at the Boonsboro Ruritan Club and a total of about 500 people participated. The event featured model railroad layouts and other train related material.

Vendors on the floor at Lynchburg Rail Day.
Vendors on the floor at Lynchburg Rail Day.

Our table included a slide show using two computer monitors of F&P related pictures. Flyers telling a brief history of the line were given to everyone and we signed up people for future tours and notices about the F&P.

Many of the people in attendance had never heard of the F&P. The opportunity allowed us to reach a new audience for the “Old Fast & Perfect.”

Richmond’s Gain is Our Loss

Nathan relaxing after the F&P program in May 2015.
Nathan relaxing after the F&P program in May 2015.

We are sad to report our web master, Nathan White, has moved to Richmond. His job promotion resulted in a lot of driving to Richmond so the choice was no surprise.

Nathan was on one of our first F&P field trips and he contributed as much spare time to the F&P as his job and family would allow. Had it not been for him the website would likely still be a dream unfulfilled.

Nathan and Callum walk down Hogan’s Hill near Pittsville on a cold March day in 2015.
Nathan and his son, Callum, walk down Hogan’s Hill near Pittsville on a cold March day in 2015.

We will be staying in touch with Nathan and hope to again work with him in the future. He plans to continue to run the website from Richmond.

We wish him and his family the best of luck in their new location.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Events that occurred in September:

  • September 7, 1910: The Southern RR offers to give away its interest in the F&P RR.
  • September 14, 1921: Chapman Dudley is appointed receiver for the F&P RR.

From the Editor August 2015

2015 Field Trip

The March 2014 group at the visitor’s center.
The March 2014 group at the visitor’s center.

We are planning another field trip for Saturday, November 14 at 9:00am at the visitor center in Rocky Mount. Anyone interested please contact us now at tex@fandprailroad.org.

This is likely to be the only field trip this year so sign up soon. Some of you had expressed interest in months past but let us know if you still want to attend now that a date has been set.

The trip starts at 10:00 A.M. on Franklin St. in Rocky Mount. We meet at the visitor’s center, formerly the old train depot of the N&W.

 

New F&P Web Page
Our new web page is up and running again. It will take some time to put on the finishing touches so bear with us. It will still have the same basic information and new stories will be added in time.

We will still be sending out the “From the Editor” column each month with miscellaneous information about the F&P Railroad.

Documenting the Past

Preserving the history of the F&P has been the main goal of everyone in our group. An on-going effort is still being made to record everything related to the F&P RR. Most of our information has been made public or posted on the web page.

One thing that isn’t generally known to even those who follow our project is the attempt to record all known info about the depots and flag stops along the line.

Click to enlarge the drawing of the Sandy Level depot.
Click to enlarge the drawing of the Sandy Level depot.

We have taken measurements and made scale drawings of the four remaining depots and two remaining flag stops including a front, side and end view of each.

For those structures no longer remaining some basic size and construction material was found in the inventory taken in 1932 when the line closed. Photos still remain for even those torn down although details are few. The original Pittsville depot is the only one that eludes a photo or drawing. Some of it was used as the starting structure of the Hunt Store at Pittsville after the F&P closed. Some evidence of it was found incorporated into the store.

august-3
What remained of the depot at Pittsville in 2013.

That depot was mentioned in some memories by the Rev. Hunt, son and grandson of the family that built and ran the store after the F&P closed. We were fortunate to take many photographs and measurements before it was torn down.

The left side of the Hunt store was once the F&P depot. The store was torn down in 2013.

The floor plan of the depot at Sandy Level.

Anyone wanting to access these photos and drawings can contact us. At some point our extensive file of photos will be made available to the public.

Events in August
august-1August 12, 1922: The court approved the sale of the F&P to Nat Angle for $12,000.

August 25, 1888: The F&P and Pittsville branch were both up-graded to Standard gauge. The process was said to have been done in one day.

The motor car at Sandy Level.
The motor car at Sandy Level.

August 29, 1922: Newspaper notice that Nat Angle had purchased the F&P plus a new steam engine and an Edwards Motor Car.

From the Editor May 2015

F & P Program

Don’t forget Nathan White is giving a lecture on the F&P Railroad at the Rocky Mount Public Library May 12 at 6:30 P.M. Nathan has found a lot of new sources of stories and newspaper articles about the F&P Railroad.

The library is at 355 Franklin St. in downtown Rocky Mount. For more information call 540-483-3098 ext.0 or look them up on facebook at this link.

The last few weeks have been busy ones for collecting new information and memorabilia of the F&P RR. Some spectacular places have been discovered between Redwood and Glade Hill where the tracks ran. The location of where a 147 foot long trestle once stood was found crossing a deep ravine at the 7.2 mile post as measured from the old F&P depot in downtown Rocky Mount.

Most of the Right-of-Way (ROW) in Franklin Co. has now been documented. Every effort is being made to record the route of the old “Fast & Perfect” but some areas don’t hold any clues of the former track location.

This metal brace was found at the site of the bridge in the Glade Hill area.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

On Saturday, March 28, we held the field trip to walk the old ROW of the mine branch in the Pittsville area. About 15 people braved the cold wind that morning to walk down Hogan’s Hill and up the spur that had gone to the mine at New Town. Everyone came back with coal or clinkers that had come from the engine’s fire box when it was cleaned out.

Some of the tour group on the mine branch March 28.

We started the trip with a brief history of Pittsville, the Virginia Midland Railroad and how the narrow gauge spur to the mines came to be built. Lou Revelle brought two six foot sections of old rail recently recovered from the Angle Siding area on the Franklin/Pittsylvania county line. He also brought some of the old, short spikes used originally by the F&P and several large pieces of coal from the Rocky Mount ROW. Trains leaving Rocky Mount had just been filled with coal and tended to lose more during the first part of their run.

These large pieces of coal fell off before leaving Rocky Mount.

Our field trip received a nice write up in the local Gretna Junction newspaper in the April 15 edition.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Events that Occured in the month of May

May 1, 1880: The Virginia Midland RR lease of the F&P begins.

May 18, 1932: The committee representing W.I. Shoemaker ask a judge to appoint receivers for the F&P RR.
May 23, 1878: The election for Franklin Co. citizens to approve the F&P bonds was held.

May 25-28, 1878: The commission met to approve the vote on the F&P bonds.

May 26, 1932: The final inventory of the F&P was delivered to the receivers of the F&P RR.

From the Editor: April 2015

By Tex Carter

We are working with the library in Rocky Mount to present another program on the F&P Railroad. The date has tentatively been set for Tuesday, May 12th, at 6:30 P.M. There will be more definite information next month. There will also be e-mail notification or you can call the library for updated details.

Nathan...
Nathan standing in a cut above Potter Creek.

The program will be presented by Nathan White. Nathan set up and runs the F&P web page. He went on one of our first field trips after moving to Gretna. Since that trip he has become a student of the F&P and has helped collect information about the railroad.

We are continuing to make progress locating the Right of Way (ROW) used by the F&P and recording it both photographically and digitally. People have continued to point out local places it ran.

In Rocky Mount Steve King has shown us much of its route through town. A lot of the old track bed there is being destroyed by construction in the town’s industrial and residential area. When finished the ROW will be on the “Maps” tab for future reference.

This cut just off State St. in Rocky Mount shows the encroachment from housing on the old cut where the F&P operated.
This cut just off State St. in Rocky Mount shows the encroachment from housing on the old cut where the F&P operated.
Though just a few yards off Rt. 40 this deep cut where the F&P ran lies hidden near Lloyd Hodge’s garage.
Though just a few yards off Rt. 40 this deep cut where the F&P ran lies hidden near Lloyd Hodge’s garage.

We were very fortunate recently on a field trip to an area where the F&P ran to find two remaining pieces of rail that were located at Angle Siding on the Franklin and Pittsylvania county line. Both were buried under a mound of dirt that took a lot of hand digging as the area is hard to access with machinery. One piece was 26 feet long and the other 21 feet in length.

The outer surface was rusted but not in overly bad condition considering it had been buried almost two feet under the pile of dirt for likely most of the 83 years since the F&P ceased operating. Lou also found several of the spikes used to fasten the rail to the crossties.

Lou Revelle and his son Anthony dig out 26 feet of small 56 Lb. to the yard rail like that originally used on the F&P.
Lou Revelle and his son Anthony dig out 26 feet of small 56 Lb. to the yard rail like that originally used on the F&P.

[divider]

Events that occurred in the month of April

  • April 15, 1886: Virginia Midland RR taken over by Richmond & Danville RR who assumed the lease of the F&P RR.
  • April 15, 1902: Professional & Business men of Rocky Mount sent a petition of complaint to the Supt. of railway mail in D.C. about bad service by the Southern RR.
  • April 16, 1880: The first maiden run of the Franklin & Pittsylvania RR.
  • April 22, 1922: The F&P was sold to Nathaniel P. Angle although the sale wasn’t finalized by the court until August.

Meet Joseph Fralin

Joseph Milton FralinOur featured employee this month is Joseph M. Fralin.

Mr. Fralin’s job was to inspect the tracks of the F&P Railroad. He would walk the tracks from Union Hall to Rocky Mount looking for any problem with the tracks, spikes, crossties; anything that would affect the train. The F&P was noted for jumping the tracks. It sometimes left the tracks daily and became the source of many jokes for the residents of both counties.

Any problems were reported to a section gang who were assigned an area or “section” to repair. They were a group of men using hand tools to fix the track.

Mr. Fralin would walk the track starting in Union Hall inspecting one rail then upon reaching Rocky Mount checking the other rail on the way back.

Joseph Milton Fralin was born in 1866 and died 1-17-1931. He lived in Union Hall and married Eliza Wright.

When his son, Silas Franklin Fralin, was born in 1911 the railroad gave him the day off because he named his son Franklin.

joseph fralin- Right-frontThis photo of the entire group shows Joseph Fralin on the front right. The man standing in the back on your left is thought to be Harry Robertson who later ran a store in the Union Hall depot after the F&P closed.

Notice they all are holding a bottle of an adult beverage and one man has some “Extra” playing cards conveniently located in his hat band.

From the Editor: March 2015

From the Editor – March

Exploration and mapping of the F&P Right of Way (ROW) in Franklin Co. has made some major strides in 2015.

On February 9 we were lucky to meet with Ulis Chitwood and his daughter Paulette at the Hub in Rocky Mount to reminisce about the F&P. Ulis is 91 years old and remembers seeing the F&P engine passing near his home in Redwood.

After lunch we rode down Rt. 40 with them and he pointed out the route the track followed as it traveled out of Rocky Mount. The old ROW between Rocky Mount and Redwood ran a short distance off the north side of Rt. 40 and has seen a lot of residential and commercial construction in recent years.

Very few visible traces of the old ROW remain in this section but with his help we were able to add or confirm where the F&P ran for fifty two years.

Ulis was able to show us many places it ran even though most traces of its existence are gone now. With his help we were able to identify some of the road bed that had been un-known to us and fill in some blank areas in our recording where the old track ran. This has been one of the hardest areas to trace and we are indebted to Ulis for his help in documenting this part of Franklin Co.

This is the final reminder for the trip to see the mine branch area in Pittsville. It will be March 28th at 11 A.M. For directions contact us at: 434-332-3878 or e-mail at tex@fandprailroad.org
______________________________________________

In the January column we reported that the proposed Mountain Valley Pipe line had presented a possible new route that would take it directly through the area where the Mattox Curve wreck occurred. On our trip there we saw survey flags where the maps had indicated they might go.

At present it seems they are still considering the Nelson Co. route and no decision has been made. The line would not cross any remaining cuts, grades or fills in that area as surveyed. As long as access to the old right of way wasn’t limited there seems to be little objection to the line going through this historic area.

We will continue to monitor this project as nothing has been settled yet.

Two passenger coaches are off the tracks at Mattox Curve on a cold January day in 1915.

[divider]

Events that occurred in the month of March

March 2, 1913: W. E. Doss sues the F&P for starting a fire on his land near Pen Hook.
March 6, 1922: Court orders the sale of the F&P RR. It was purchased by Nathaniel P. Angle of Rocky Mount.
March 6, 1873: Permission to extend the Rocky Mount and Liberty Narrow Gauge RR into Henry and Patrick Co. to the state line.
March 7, 1879: Ground breaking for the F&P at Gentry’s field.
March 7, 1933: The receivers of the F&P sold a strip of land in Rocky Mount to the N & W RR.
March 23, 1872: The Liberty & Rocky Mount Narrow Gauge RR charter approved.
March 29, 1933: Contract to sell scrap metal from the F&P to the Roanoke Scrap iron & metal Co. for $1.00 a ton.

Telegram

Long before “Tweets”, “Twitter” or e-mail when you were in a hurry to send a message you sent a telegram. The arrival of one meant important, often bad, news. The first telegraphs in the Franklin Co. area belonged to the Franklin & Pittsylvania Railroad. They were installed about 1883 in the headquarters and depots along the line. For a time it was the only communication with the train once it left Rocky Mount. It also connected the citizens of the county with the outside world.

Click to enlarge the telegram.
Click to enlarge the telegram.

Recently Brenda Overholt of Rocky Mount was looking through some old family photos and memorabilia when she ran across what appeared to be a telegram from 1921 about a family member killed in WW1 whose body was being shipped home.

The telegraph message had been received at the Franklin & Pittsylvania RR office and forwarded to the family in Glade Hill. It seems the body of Harvey L. Holland had been sent home from France to a staging area in New Jersey and was being sent home for burial by way of the F&P Railroad.

Brenda had never heard of a railroad in Glade Hill but got the F&P name from the telegram letter head and did a search that led her to the F&P web page. After reading about the railroads history on line she realized that the cuts, fills and grades behind her grandparents’ house had been where the F&P ran between 1880 and 1932.

On Sunday, 11 January, Brenda and several members of her family gave us a tour of some remaining signs of where the railroad ran between Glade Hill and Redwood. The track bed curved in a serpentine path as it went through the rolling hills and crossed Rt. 40 near the Hodges garage. One family member said that was the place known as Lloyds which was a flag stop for the train although no depot was there.

Click to enlarge the Transportation of Corpse form.
Click to enlarge the Transportation of Corpse form.

Brenda, her husband and other family were excited to learn of the long extinct railroad and its connection to her family years ago. The day turned into a real family outing for everyone who were proud to be a part of Franklin Counties’ history.

It seems ironic that a document that brought much sadness to their family years ago finally gave some closure to the entire family. When the telegraph operator sent that message back in 1921 we’re sure he never imagined it would be found by relatives almost 100 years later who would be glad to learn about a long deceased family member.

The people and places that day were recorded by Lou Revelle who photographed the event and got GPS locations for use in mapping the route of the F&P on the web page and preservation of the Right of Way.

From the Editor: February 2015

The mine branch trip has been rescheduled for Saturday; 28 March, 2015 with a weather date of the following Saturday; 4 April.

The trip starts two miles east of Pittsville on Rt. 672 at 11 A.M. The total time should be about 1½ hours
which includes about a half mile of leisurely paced walking on a gentle grade. Those signed up for this trip last November will automatically receive e-mails about this trip. Others wanting to attend should contact us at 434-332-3878 or by e-mail tex@fandprailroad.org

The map of the Pittsville branch. Click for a larger image.
The map of the Pittsville branch. Click for a larger image.

The tour includes a short history of the area and the operations of the F&P. The grades of the main line and branch are unique. Both are three dimensional, rising from the creek bottom up Hogan’s Hill. You will see where the main line climbed the hill while the branch rose above it before going under the Pittsville Road.

Few other locations along the old line can match this one. This would make a great area to copy for anyone into model trains and it is easy to access compared to other places the F&P ran.

The Pittsville depot, far left, and the mine branch on the right.
_______________________________________________________

On Sunday January 11 Lou Revelle and Tex Carter continued getting GPS locations of the F&P right of way through Franklin County. Lou took 115 photos that included GPS co-ordinates that can be used to locate the exact point on Google maps. The results of this in Pittsylvania Co. can be viewed now on the “Maps” tab.

We were fortunate to have several people along to show us the grades, cuts and fills on several places between Glade Hill and Redwood.

IMG_0943

L to R: Robert Amos, Ernest Amos, Nancy Brooks Lambert, Jonathan Perdue and in the back row Tom and Brenda Overholt.

Brenda first got in touch with us through the F&P web page when she found a family document with the F&P name imprinted. We will have the full story of that on the web page in the near future. It led us to a lot of new discoveries and has proven several miles of where the tracks ran. Many thanks to Brenda and her family for their interest in the F&P RR. It is through the efforts of people like them we are able to bring information about the F&P to you.

About the F&P
Click on our “About the F&P” tab of this web page and see a short summary of the railroad’s history. It is an abbreviated overview of the F&P to help visitors to use this web page. It will be a permanent part of this site for those who just want a brief idea of the lines history without going into all the details.
___________________________________________________________________

Events that occurred in the month of February
February 2, 1899: Court decision that forced the Southern RR to continue running the F&P RR.

February 2, 1934: The court ordered the final sale of the F&P RR.

February 4, 1873: Act to allow the Va. & N.C. RR to assume the new name of Washington City, Virginia Midland and Great Southern Railroad.

February 12, 1886: The part of the Roanoke & Southern RR in Virginia was incorporated.

February 17, 1873: The town of Rocky Mount was incorporated. The first mayor was Capt. Giles W. B. Hale who was later the first president of the F&P RR.
_________________________________________________________________

Meet Frank Haley

Frank Haley
Frank Haley

Frank David Haley was born near Pittsville in July, 1872 and moved to Gretna where he lived near the railroad yard and worked on both the Southern RR and the F&P RR.

He was a laborer with a section gang that walked the tracks making repairs or working the yard helping switch the cars.

Fortunately for him and the other workers by 1888 the gauge of the track on the Pittsville and F&P track had been converted to standard gauge to match the main line. The yard workers no longer had to switch the trucks on the cars when going from one gauge to another.

Frank was killed in 1906 in an accident near Glad Hill when he fell between some cars. The accident was also reported as an engine mishap. From these reports it is possible he was crushed between two cars when the engine moved which was a common accident when the old pin and link coupling system was in use.

A laborer would have to go between two cars being coupled and insert a link rod by hand. This was a very dangerous method and many men were injured or killed as most railroads used the link pin system in the early days. Safety was of little concern to the business in those days. If you were hurt or killed there was someone waiting to take your place.

The 1900 census list Frank and family living in the Chatham district of Pittsylvania Co. which included Elba (Gretna). Frank was shown to be working as a railroad section hand. He had a wife, Minnie R. born May 1875 and a daughter, Dora G. born 1898. In 1903 they had another daughter, Ruth H. Shelton.

Frank lived in this house very near the yard in Elba (Gretna).
Frank lived in this house very near the yard in Elba (Gretna).
Frank’s grandson, Sammy Shelton, owns this piece of F&P track damaged in one of many wrecks on the F&P line.
Frank’s grandson, Sammy Shelton, owns this piece of F&P track damaged in one of many wrecks on the F&P line.

________________________________
We invite anyone that had family working on the F&P to send us their story and a photo if available for posting on this web page.

From the Editor, January 2015

Nathan White at the Angle siding.
Nathan White at the Angle siding.

It has already been a year since this web page launched. Thanks to the efforts of Nathan White we have reached many people interested in the F&P RR through the internet. He has also added a place people can exchange information about the F&P on Facebook.

Both of these mediums are a good way of reaching the younger generation, many who have never heard of the F&P. It has also been a good way to announce upcoming trips or events and report on past happenings.

We hope all of you have enjoyed reading about the field trips, the history of the F&P and the stories of the people involved, both leaders and employees. Most of these stories have been condensed down for the web page. A more complete version is planned for a future book.

Information is still being collected. Many of you had family that worked on the F&P and this is your chance to have them remembered. Please call or e-mail us so we can record your families’ connection to the F&P. This is your chance to pass on to a younger generation the stories of our grandparents that worked on the railroad, our railroad.

tex@fandprailroad.org  or 434-332-3878

Mine Branch Trip
Due to the extreme cold weather in November we canceled the trip to explore the mine branch area. It is now planned for the last Saturday in March, the 28th, with an alternate weather date of April 4th. It is to start at 11 A.M. If you want to attend contact us by e-mail or telephone to receive a map for directions and further details. Watch the “From the Editor” column for more about this event.
—————————————

Lou Revelle, Tex Carter and Nathan White fight the brush at New Town.
Lou Revelle, Tex Carter and Nathan White fight the brush at New Town.

Part of the trip to the mine branch originally was to include the other end of the branch at New Town.

If you wonder why that part was cancelled this shot of the brush we had to fight should answer your question.

There were signs of a road bed where the ore cars ran but walking the area isn’t practical.

NOTICE
The Mountain Valley Pipeline Co. has recently released their proposed maps of the new route they want to pursue. Their new route has the pipe line crossing Rt. 40 at its intersection with Rt. 834, Brooks Mill Rd. This is the area where the Mattox curve wreck was located. We will be following this project to see any effect it might have on this historic location.

Watch for future updates in this column or visit their web site at: Mountainvalleypipeline.info

Events that Occurred in the Month of January
January 6, 1915: The Mattox Curve wreck occurred and several people were injured.
January 14, 1871: The Orange, Alexandria & Manassas Gap RR and the Lynchburg & Danville RR were authorized to consolidate into one company, the Virginia & North Carolina RR.