Thursday, October 31, 2013

Railroading in the Foothills

Railroading in the Foothills

We all have memories that have shaped our lives. For
most people these memories remain because of defining
moments from childhood. We learned from and emulated the
people who loved us. Parents, relatives, friends, teachers and
preachers etc. We held tight to the many passions of life they
exhibited to us. You know the ones, God, family, country and
on and on. The list varies greatly for each family.

My earliest recollection of railroading was shaped by
my Dad, Bobby Sr. and my Uncle Ralph. They along with my
other two uncles – Leslie and Henry grew up on the family
farm situated adjacent to the railroad just north of Rural Hall
during the 1930`s through the early 1950`s. Dad and
especially Uncle Ralph instilled in all the family children a
love and respect for the railroad. To this day I still enjoy
hearing them talk of old times and life along the railroad and
watch them get that gleam in their eyes speaking of such
things. Uncle Ralph has said you did not need a watch to tell
the time of day working the farm. The morning passenger
train came by at 9:00 am west bound for North Wilkesboro.
At noon the dinner whistles of Brady Furniture Factory and
Stauber Veneer Plant in Rural Hall sounded and could be
heard for miles. I remember those very whistles myself
working the tobacco fields in the 1970`s. The afternoon
passenger train came through eastbound for Greensboro at
4:00 pm.

Railroading has a rich heritage here in the piedmont
foothills with Rural Hall being the focal point of two different
railroad company's coming within 50 feet of one another in
1891. The A&Y track as it is still called today runs northwest
to Mt Airy and was completed in 1888. At one time it was
possible to ride the train from Mt Airy to Sanford on the
Atlantic & Yadkin Railway and ultimately on to Wilmington.
The “Shoofly” passenger train left Mt Airy for the last time
bound for Sanford during June of 1939. All of the A&Y
trackage just south of Rural Hall to Greensboro was
abandoned in the late 1970's.

The K Line track turns west, just north of Rural Hall
and concludes in North Wilkesboro and was completed in
1891. This track follows the Yadkin river all the way to
Roaring River, NC and on to North Wilkesboro. Passenger
train service on the K line ended July 31st 1955. Uncle Ralph
and Aunt Carell Jean then newlyweds boarded the train in
Siloam and rode to Rural Hall. Seeing the last train was a big
deal, for all the major crossings were lined with people to see
this last train go by on its way to Greensboro.

Since 1989 Yadkin Valley Railroad (YVRR) owned
and operated by Gulf & Ohio Railways (G&O) of Knoxville
Tennessee on a short line lease from Norfolk Southern (NS).
YVRR interchanges with NS at North Winston yard at
Liberty Street & US 52 in Winston-Salem and pulls incoming
trains to Rural Hall, and on to various destinations along the
tracks. The K line receives the bulk of the incoming trains. 75
car unit grain trains and numerous soy cars for the feed mills
to produce chicken feed. Tyson foods, Wayne farms and
Purdue chicken are all serviced along the K line. Various
types of empty rail cars are needed for businesses to fill
orders for customers all over the country and abroad. A
typical eastbound (outbound) train consist; loaded center
beam cars, wood chip cars, loaded box cars, empty soy cars
and empty grain unit trains pulled to North Winston yard to
interchange with NS.

What does all this railroad traffic mean for the piedmont
foothills of North Carolina? A huge economic impact! What
can the train enthusiast and the average citizen get out of
railroading here in the foothills? Many opportunities to see,
hear and experience an idea from the past still alive and
thriving today!

So just like my dad and my uncle, when I hear the train
coming I get that gleam in my eye and go outside and watch
the train go by and with it the sweet remembrances of
childhood, stories told, laughter shared and love that was felt.
That is the best part of the deal.

Bobby Kiger

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