~~ Introduction ~~


Dear Ms. Mason:

I guess you have given up on me by this time, but where Washington and Beaufort County are concerned, I always manage to come through. My first order of business is to thank you for your kindness in offering to post samples of my material on your website about Washington and Beaufort County. Although primarily about railroads, it is still a part of the passing parade in Beaufort County.

A couple of notes are in order. There have been two Norfolk Southern Railroads, the original Norfolk Southern having been chartered in 1881 as the Elizabeth City & Norfolk Railroad. In 1887 the name was changed to Norfolk & Southern Railroad, a name that was used until 1910 when the road was reorganized as simply the Norfolk Southern Railroad eliminating the "&."  In 1974 the original Norfolk Southern Railroad was absorbed by the giant Southern Railway System, and what had been the Norfolk Southern Railroad was operated as the Eastern Division of Southern Railway until 1982. In 1982 the two giant railroads, the Southern Railway and the Norfolk & Western Railway merged into one company which they chose to name the Norfolk Southern Railway. It is pure coincidence that what had originally been the Norfolk Southern Railroad got it's old name back. From 1974 until 1982 there was no such thing in this country as a Norfolk Southern Railroad.

The original Norfolk Southern Railroad didn't start using the name Chocowinity until about 1970 when the present yard office was built to replace the old wooden depot built in 1917.

In 1917 the management of Norfolk Southern elected to use the name "Marsden" instead of Chocowinity since the name Chocowinity was too long and cumbersome to spell out on the telegraph key. "Marsden" was derived from the name of Mr. Marsden J. Perry a member of a New York finacial group that had been backing the construction of the Norfolk Southern Railroad. He would eventually serve as president of the railroad.

Also enclosed are a couple of samples of feature articles I have had published in railroad periodicals. One is titled "Growing Up On The Old Norfolk Southern" which contains some references to Washington. On page 21 of this feature is a photo that I took circa 1936 of Norfolk Southern passenger train No.1 backing out of the station in Washington. Right now I did not have a copy of that photo to send you. Since I do not have a scanner with my computer, I don't know if it is possible for you to cut out the photo and scan along with the caption. I will try and get a copy of the photo to you later. The other feature is about my various encounters with Atlantic Coast Line copperhead locomotive No. 1031. The term copperhead has nothing to do with snakes. When this type locomotive was built in 1913 they came with a polished copper rim around the top of the smokestack as an adornment. They were nicknamed "Copperheads" and the name stuck. The 1031, which I did have a photo of, is typical of the motive power used on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and the Washington & Vandemere Railroad (ACL) between Parmele, Washington, and Vandemere. Again, on the first page of that article is a photo circa July 1950 that shows the 1031 tied up at Parmele for the week-end while in service between Parmele, Washington, and Vandemere. I do not have a seperate copy of that photograph.

I have given a number to each photo and have listed the captions for each photo on a seperate sheet of paper. Also enclosed is a letter to the editor from me to "Our State" magazine which you mayor may not want to use. A couple of the photos involve the Albemarle Sound railroad bridge which of course was not in Beaufort County, but which you are free to use if you so desire.

As noted in the featur about ACL No 1031, I personally fired that locomotive in June 1942 to doublehead a 75 car trainload of irish potatoes from Aurora to Rocky Mount via Washington, Pactolus, Whichards, Stokes, Parmele, Bethel, and Tarboro. The locomotives were placed six cars apart account of weight restrictions on the Pamlico- Tar River bridge and the trestle over Tranter's Creek.

You are perfectly welcome to use any or all of this material, and if you determine that it has no value, I will not feel offended in any way if you choose not to use it. If, on the other hand, you have any further questions about any of the nmaterial, since we both have e-mail, we can bat it back and forth very easily on any of the subjects. In any event, the material is yours to keep for whatever reason.

I hope that you and all of yours are doing well, and thank you again for offering me the use of your Beaufort County website. It will only get better if we continue to add to it.

Kindest Regards,

Bill Sellers --
955 Sunset Blvd., N. W. Gainesville, Ga. 30501-2733



Photo #1 Original Norfolk Southern depot at Marsden, N.C. ( Chocowinity )

Photo #2 Former Norfolk Southern crew quarters building at Chocowinity as re-Iocated to 1150 Frederick Road and converted into a private residence.

Photo #3 One of five modern steam locomotives purchased in 1940 by the Norfolk Southern Railroad.

Photo #4 Contemporary view of Norfolk Southern freight train shown crossing the rarely photographed south end of Pamlico River bridge. Photo made from a boat by George Fields of Washington, N.C.

Photo #5 Southern Railway locomotive No. 4501 with steam excursion on Albemarle Sound bridge circa August 1974.

Photo #6 Northbound Norfolk Southern passenger train crossing Pamlico River bridge circa 1910. The bridge was completed in 1907.

Photo #7 Norfolk Southern passenger train No.2 at station in Washington, N.C. about to depart for Pinetown, Plymouth, Edenton, Hertford, Elizabeth City and Norfolk, Va.

Photo #8 Norfolk Southern railroad Pamlico River drawspan in the open position for river traffic. WON photograph.

Photo #9 Norfolk Southern depot at Washington, N.C. as it appeared during the era of the depression 1930's.

Photo #10 Mr. and Mrs. Frank Rollins and guests photographed in 1907 in front of the Norfolk & Southern station in Washington. The station had two floors and was the headquarters for the Pamlico Division of the Norfolk & Southern Railroad. The railroad car next to the depot is clearly stenciled "N&S."

Photo #11 Norfolk Southern passenger train No.2 standing at station Marsden, N.C. (Chocowinity) circa 1936.

Photo #12 Old postcard view of Norfolk Southern passenger train at night on the Albemarle Sound bridge.

Photo #13 Northbound Norfolk Southern freight train crossing Pamlico River bridge circa 1956.

Photo #14 Atlantic Coast Line locomotive No. 1031 as restored at the North Carolina Transportation Museum located at Spencer Shops near Salisbury, N.C.

Photo #15 Norfolk Southern Pamlico River bridge as seen from the rear of a train circa 1938.

Photo #16 Sketch of Norfolk Southern locomotive No. 542 with freight train by A.J. Moore of Cary, N.C.

Photo #17 My grandfather Dave W. Arnold ( 1870-1970 )when Mr. Arnold was about age 90 at Macedonia Church Of Christ in Martin County. Mr. Arnold was principal and teacher at Chocowinity School in 1923, and was principal and teacher at the Bath School in 1931-32.



Glimpses of the past

The "Welcome to Our State" column with reference to Mr. Carl Goerch is well taken (January 1998 issue). I have seen Our State evolve from its 1933 beginning to the great magazine that it is today.

Mr. James L. Mayo bought the Washington N.C. Gazette in 1909 and changed the name to the Washington. Daily News. In 1913 in a trade journal Mr. Mayo saw an advertisement saying, "Wanted: A job as reporter." The boy who advertised was from Poughkeepsie, New York, and his name was Carl Goerch. Mr. Mayo sent for him and gave him a job with the newspaper. At the age of 22, Carl came to Washington, where he lived for 20 years before moving to Raleigh.

Mr. Goerch jotted down his impres­sions of Washington when he first arrived in 1913. "I first came to Washington in May 1913... The first glimpse I had of the town was as the Norfolk Southern train swung out onto the bridge across the Pamlico River. It was a pretty sight, and I knew at once that I would like to live in this part of the country." I too, as a young lad during the Great Depression of the 1930s, would experience several times that wonderful sight as seen by Mr. Goerch. In fact, it would affect my entire life and career.

- William A. Sellers Jr.
Norfolk Southern Railway (Ret.)
Gainsville, Georgia



------------------- BIG RAILROADS ARE NOT ALWAYS BETTER -----------------------
by: Bill Sellers

All in all, Wilson, North Carolina was not a bad town to grow np in. During the 1930s eastern North Carolina was primarily agricultural in nature with tobacco the big money crop. In the fall of each year the town was a beehive of activity with tobacco auctions ringing out the sound of money at five separate locations on any given weekday. Tobacco redrying plants were in operation around the clock and it was not unusual to hear a factory whistle blowing for a change in shifts in six or eight locations at one time.

To me, a dyed-in-the-wool railfan, those factory whistles paled in comparison with the train whistles/in the area. For the average railfan, I suppose the fact that the double track Atlantic Coast Line Railroad bisected the city north and south would have been reason enough to spend many happy hours at trackside. Train variety was endless on the ACL, from local freights pulled by ten-wheel copperhead locomotives all the way up to the huge R-l class 4-8-4 locomotives, pulling into the depot with the famous Havana Special or any of several other famous name trains. The allure of the Atlantic Coast Line was sufficient that I would become a fireman on that road out of Rocky Mount for several years before joining the Southern as an operator. It was on the Southern that I made my career, retiring in 1986. When it comes to railroads, I was to discover that big is not always better. The town of Wilson was also fortunate enough to be situated on the main line of the old Norfolk Southern Railway. To a rail fan, being on NS property was a gift. Norfolk Southern's employees seemed to sense my love of their railroad and did just about everything to make me feel at home. Case in point: the interlocking tower where the NS crossed the ACL was staffed by NS personnel around the clock and was also an NS train order office. I became so proficient at operating the plant that they had no hesitation in letting me line up train movements on either railroad. Although I never copied train orders, I was permitted to hand them up to passing trains.

One spring day in 1940, train 64 arrived from Raleigh with a brand new 600-class Berkshire locomotive which had just been built by Baldwin [see p. 24]. The engineer saw me at trackside and motioned me to come on over and climb aboard while they did the local work in the yard. He was as proud of that engine as he would have ever been over a new automobile. Those were the fIrst and only stoker fired steam engines the Norfolk Southern ever had, a fact reflected in the smiling face of the fireman. The little 2-8-4s also came equipped with a throaty steamboat whistle which would send chills down the back of most mortals.

Norfolk Southern's passenger trains were far removed from the Crescent Limited, but they were all an eastern North Carolina railfan could ask for. A clean Baldwin ten-wheeler usually pulled an RPO car, baggage car, two coaches and maybe a car of express. In most cases, the front number plate on the smokebox had a brass ring around it which set off the front of the engine just so. When the engines were standing, it was hard to keep from patting your foot to the asynchronous cadence of the air pumps. I managed to make several trips between Wilson and Washington on trains #1 and #2 - trips on cloud nine as far as I was concerned. The trip in each direction took about two hours and the round trip fare was ninety cents. Even on the little Norfolk Southern, a news butch would 'York the train, selling candy bars, peanuts and such.

The open-window coaches were innocent of screens, so for a kid to enjoy the ride, all he had to do was raise the window and hang his head out to his heart's content. I suppose trips on 1 and 2 were the first experiences I had in getting cinders in my eyes, and I loved every minute of it. The back platform was mine to occupy at will, which I did for most of each trip. The posted speed limit of 45 mph was perfect for enjoying the six-wheel trucks clattering over each rail joint in triplicate. Loose tie plates jangled, and when I heard a low rumble, I knew that the engineer had applied the air brakes. The smell of hot cast iron permeated the coaches almost at once as the conductor would appear in each coach to announce the next stop. Many of the flag stops had no depot or ticket office, and when a passenger got on board at one of these places, there was usually a small cash transaction between the passenger and the conductor.

At the end of each school year my parents would let me spend most of the summer with my grandparents who lived in Washington, NC. If there ever was such a thing as a Tom Sawyer town, Washington (Little Washington) would certainly be near the top of the list The NS depot fronted the Pamlico River, which the railroad crossed on a 3,897-foot trestle. The bridge also had a draw span, as river traffic was plentiful in those days. Northbound passenger trains would cross the bridge and back into the station, while southbound trains would head in and back out before heading across the river. For some reason, the station was at the end of a short spur about four-tenths of a mile from the main line) Seeing #1 or #2 in silhouette on that Pamlico River bridge typified for me the NS in the Depression.

For the better part of six days each week, I would haunt the Norfolk Southern depot, doing everything from trucking LCL freight to running errands for the office staff. Besides the two passenger trains, the local freight operating between Chocowinity and Belhaven would stop a do local work each morning. I would sit on the steps at the end of the freight platform, completely engrossed in the whole operation. I remember visiting Washington in 1970 and going by what uSed to be the depot. Although it was occupied at that time by a local beer distributor, I could not resist the temptation to sit in that same spot for old time's sake. But somehow, it wasn't the same.

The through freights typically went by Washington in the middle of the night, but I was still privy to the sounds of their passing. My grandparents lived only two streets over from the river and on a hot summer night, while lying in bed, I could hear a train easing across the Pamlico River bridge at the prescribed ten miles per hour. I could tell how many cars were in each train by counting the clunks of each wheel as it hit the open joints at each end of the draw span. To paraphrase the late David Morgan, it was "a sound too incandescent to last."

None of us can return to the summers of our youth. Nearly all traces of the Norfolk Southern of my adolescence are gone, fIrst at the hands of dieselization, then acquisition ten miles per hour. I could tell how many cars were in each train by counting the clunks of each wheel as it hit the open joints at each end of the draw span. To paraphrase the late David Morgan, it was "a sound too incandescent to last."

None of us can return to the summers of our youth. Nearly all traces of the Norfolk Southern of my adolescence are gone, first at the hands of dieselization, then acquisition by Southern Railway. The irony for me is that what's left of the old NS in eastern North Carolina is operated by a railroad known as . . . the Norfolk Southern. No more passengers to haul, no more LCL to transload, but the locomotives are again shiny and black, and a large white "Norfolk Southern" logo adorns their flanks. Speaking as a railfan from eastern North Carolina fifty years from his youth, I'll take it and be happy.



Above: Norfolk Southern E-3 class 2-8-0 #535 rests on the engine track in downtown Wilson, North Carolina, having just arrived on local freight train #93 from Marsden (Chocowinity). The next morning, 535 will depart Wilson for Raleigh, again performing local chores on train #95. Note the tobacco warehouse in the background, indicative of what supports much of the local economy. Please excuse the quality of this shot, but I took it in 1937 using an old Kodak 110 camera, and I can't get a picture like this again, no matter what kind of camera I use. Bill Sellers - photo....   MAP of Tracks in Eastern NC

Norfolk Southern train #1 is ready to depart Norfolk Union Station on an August morning in 1929 behind glistening 0-4 class Ten-wheeler #111. The little train will lope along the Atlantic Coastal Plain en route to its Piedmont destination of Charlotte, passing through Washington, Wilson and Raleigh, North Carolina in the process. W. L. Wedemeyer - photo; SRHA collection.

MAPS 1 & 2: Norfolk Southern track profiles showing the lay of the land around Washington and Wilson, North Carolina. Marvin Black Collection.

Here's Ten-Wheeler #111 again, this time backing out onto the main line after making the station stop at Washington, North Carolina, with train #1. Once in the clear on the main line, the switch will be thrown and the little train will ease over the Pamlico River trestle at the requisite 10 mph on its leisurely way to Marsden and Charlotte. I took this atmospheric picture in 1937 and it's one of my favorites. Bill Sellers - photo.

This is the Norfolk Southern depot at Washington, NC as I remember it. There is a steam train on the far side of the building, perhaps train #1 again, having come down the short spur from the main line. Thomas King - photo; Bill Sellers collection.

In the reminiscence of his youthful summers spent on the Norfolk Southern, Bill Sellers recounts getting a cab ride in one of the little 600-series 2-8-4s when they were new. Here is 604, storming across the Seaboard and Southern Railway diamonds at Boylan Street tower in Raleigh, on its way to Charlotte. Unfortunately, the photographer and date are unknown. Mac Connery collection.

The fellow at the left is Bill Sellers himself, in the engineer's seat of Gainesville Midland steam locomotive 209 in 1959. He's not on the Southern Railway and arguably he's not at work. Would you believe he's on the railroad equivalent of a bus man's holiday? Bill Sellers collection.


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