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Timber, cut from pine plantations located along the greenbrier river, had traditionally been rivertransported in the form of log drives during high tide levels in the spring to ronceverte mills, but higherelevation spruce forests remained inaccessible, and the high cost of rail line construction, despite some 20 postcivil war attempts, never proceeded, leaving mountain obstacleladen upper greenbrier valley the last area of the state to be so connected.
Work commenced two years later, on august 5, in burnside and had reached marlinton 23 days later.Construction members, housed in strategically located camps, numbered some 1, 500 by september, and actual track laying occurred by the end of the year, extending four miles north of renick in northern greenbrier county by means of the newlycompleted knapps creek bridge in marlinton and officially opening to this destination on october 26, 1900.Service to cass followed in december.
A scatter of wooden, decaying barns and houses on the light green grass canvas, formed by the gently descending base of the mountain on the far side, indicated human lifeor former human lifeonce rooted within this pristine isolation.
Designed for any practical gauge, and wood, steel, and even pole roads, the geared locomotive featured drivers on all of its wheels and put the entire weight of its engine and fuel on the rails, enabling it to effectively ply light, cheaply constructed, rough, and uneven track with positive traction, yet inherent flexibility.
Screeching and swaying, the train, still moving at a lumbering pace on its 5.5mile outbound leg, was reswallowed by
the vegetation, moving inland, before once again intercepting the Greenbrier River as it plied the Chesapeake and Ohio's Greenbrier Division track through the Monongahela National Forest.
The sun, periodically piercing the white and gray cloud quilt, instantaneously brightened the forest and hinted of imminent summer, highlighting lowgrowth bush where it had succeeded in penetrating the forest's secondary canopy cover.
Characteristic of its logging rail system had been extremely steep grades only a specialized steam locomotive design could surmount.That locomotive had been built by climax.
Surveys of the latter route, conducted in 1896, and from durbin, at the forks of the greenbrier river, to marlinton, the following year, resulted in the decision to construct a line in a northerly direction, from ronceverte into pocahontas county.It would be an extension of the chesapeake and ohio's existing track, operated by a subsidiary incorporated in 1897 and designated the"Greenbrier railway company. "It later became known as the"Durbin route. "
The short, fourcar and caboose train moved over the trestle before being swallowed by a tunnel of tall, cool trees.Interspersed campfires released their own smoke plumes, which unimpededly wafted into the windowless coaches.
The durbin rocket rail journey
The track, still grass camouflaged, arced into a gentle left curve until it intercepted the river bank, the chain of cars seemingly suspended above the water's mirrorreflective surface.
The chesapeake and ohio railroad, which had been formed as a result of the 1868 amalgamation of the virginia central and covington and ohio railroads, had,
by 1873, already carried passengers, freight, and coal on track which stretched from richmond, virginia, to huntington, west virginia, and therefore seemed the most logical company to forge this last link, especially since it had two waterlevel routes at its disposal:The first followed the greenbrier river from ronceverte, while the second followed both anthony's and knapps creeks from white sulphur springs.
Terminating its outbound journey, the durbin rocket screeched to a halt at piney island, an equally vegetationdense patch in the middle of the greenbrier river which caused it to split into dual, circumventing branches, while the forward caboose, serving as an overnight respite for its renters, was disconnected and pushed on to a very short spur track known as"Heavener station. "
One of the local logging operations had been run by the moorekeppel lumber company.Founded in 1902 by john b.Moore and henry keppel, two lumbermen from pennsylvania, the enterprise began with 9, 440 acres in randolph county, west virginia, but later expanded to 29, 640 acres.A logging railroad, constructed in 1905, utilized track in midvale which the coal and coke railroad had already laid, but the moorekeppel main line portion stretched 19 miles to ellamore and adolph, from where several other branches were established.One, radiating out from lindale, lay oneandahalf miles to the north and followed the middle fork river.
The river itself, in places so shallow that its marbleized mosaic bed rendered it a coffeebrown, was formed in durbin by the confluence of the east and west forks and entirely flowed within northern pocahontas county.The largest, untamed waterway east of the mississippi, it was actually a tributary of the 173milelong new river which, by means of the kanawha and ohio rivers, drained a 1, 656squaremile area.Branching into short steams above 3, 300 feet, it flowed through the monongahela national forest at its upper reaches.
The greenbrier railway company, which was also known as the"Greenbrier division"Of the chesapeake and ohio, operated over a branch line from whitcomb which extended northward and then entered pocahontas county, with stations in droop mountain, beard, seebert, watoga, buckeye, marlinton, clawson, clover link, sitlington, cass, hosterman, boyer, durbin itself, bartow, and winterburn along the greenbrier river, facilitating industrial development in the area for the first time.
Shattered by the piercing engine whistle, the expanse ahead appeared a canyon of dense, skystretching trees protruding from either bank.Would it have been composed of shale rock instead,
i thought, the whistle's sound waves would assuredly have loosened a few of its layers.
Although the earlyafternoon sun had retreated behind some billowing gray clouds on that hot, latemay day in west virginia, the actual gray smoke rising above the wooden, yellow depot serving the tonongahela forestnestled, singlestreet town of durbin originated from the small, black, moorekeppel and company 3 steam engine, a scene somewhat brightened by the colorful blue, yellow, and red open, roofed, and caboose cars it stood poised to pull on its 11mile roundtrip, afternoon run.The multiplyshaded, greencarpeted cheat mountain, like a vast background to a vintage painting, rose from behind the fourcar chain, which itself was alive with journeyanticipatory chatter created by its full passenger complement.
The fiveunit steam engine, coach, and caboose
chain comprising the day's durbin rocket was a colorful, converted collection of cars.The engine, constructed in 1910 by climax for the moorekeppel lumber company, had hauled timber until loads had exceeded its capability in 1940.The caboose immediately behind it had been intended for disconnection and an overnight stay at the train's turnaround point.The roofless car, made of wood and painted a bright blue, had once been a logcarrying flat car used during the 1920s, but was converted for passenger purposes with two sidefacing benches.The yellow coach attached behind it had been built in 1898 and was used by the elevated railway in manhattan, but now sported fourabreast, forwardfacing seats and a roof.The caboose, constructed in 1926, had served the baltimore and ohio, but was acquired by the durbin and greenbrier valley railroad in 1997.
Durbin, rapidly expanding into a boom town because of prevalent logging, sawmill, and railroading ventures, received its inaugural greenbrier railway company service on may 26, 1902, sprouting stores, saloons, and hotels, in order to cater
to the workforce needed to sustain the local operations.When henry g.Davis and stephen b.Elkins, us senators and business partners, completed their own rail line there the following year, it served as the junction between the chesapeake and ohio and western maryland railroads on track which connected lewisburg, west virginia, with cumberland, maryland.Crew changes occurred in durbin.
The day's train may well have been short, but the historical period which had led to it had, indeed, been long, and carrying farepaying tourists could not have been further from its original purpose.That purpose had been sparked by the resources the area could yield, the tracks which could facilitate their movement, and the specialized steam locomotive which could pull them.
The later, more advanced steam engines, optimized for more modest logging operations with their comparatively
smaller sizes and lower gross weights, usually sported two, longitudinallyinclined cylinders at 25 degrees and located on either side of the boiler, stephenson or walschaerts valve gear, and piston rodtoline shaft connections under the boiler itself.These line shafts then powered both axles of each truck.
Urgency for either line had been sparked by the west virginia pulp and paper company's contemplated, but yet unbuilt, mill in the town of cass.
A 55ton steam locomotive built for the moorekeppel lumber company and one of only three remaining geared, climax engines, stood poised to pull the latemay durbin rocket excursion train.Service began on may 16, 1998.
Charles darwin scott, a lumberman with mechanical aptitude, designed such a locomotive to haul timber to the scott and akin mill in spartansburg, pennsylvania, between 1875 and 1878.Subsequently patented and built by the climax manufacturing company in corry, pennsylvania, it featured a canopytype cab;A twocylinder, marinetype engine mounted on a platform frame;A round water tank on one side;A fuel bin on the other;And a vertical boiler, all supported by
two fourwheel, wooden trucks.Power of the tenton engine was transmitted to the axles by gears, resulting in the"Geared locomotive"Classification.
Preceded by a whistle and nudged by the locomotive, which assumed an initial pusher configuration, the durbin rocket, trailing steam and coalcreated soot, inched into laborious momentum on the grassovergrown rails past the restored chesapeake and ohio depot, the single main street town, and the orange mail and c o coal cars stationary on the parallel track.
Subsequent development, with progressively higher weights, yielded three classes of climax engines:Class a, b, and c.
Unlike conventional rodtype engines, those engaged in logging operations needed
to generate significant tractive power and rail adhesion in order to effectively run on crude, uneven, and hastily and temporarily laid rail which often lacked a roadbed, featured steep grades and hairpin turns, and was often partially covered with stream and creek water in the summer and snow and ice in the winter.
Spitting fierce streams of white, hissing steam, the geared climax locomotive disappendaged itself from the"Castaway caboose"And recoupled with the slightly shorter chain of cars with almost geyseremitting eruptions from its stack, shattering
the monongahela national forest's serenity like cracked glass.The roofed, but windowless, benchprovisioned yellow car, still part of the train, responded with its own belching hiss of released air, leaving no doubt of the railed interloper's intrusion.
CILIP Registered Charity no 313014
ISSN 1756-1086 (Online)