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the Readings


Inquiry Question

Historical Context


Reading 1
Reading 3



Table of

Determining the Facts

Reading 2: Behind the Scenes

This reading includes brief descriptions of some of the most important jobs performed at the depot around 1910. Operations required the depot to stay open 24 hours a day.

Yard Master: The yard master managed rail operations. He located empty and full freight cars along the railroad through the telegraph operator and arranged for them to be picked up and sent to new destinations. He called for yard crews and kept main line tracks clear for incoming trains. He made a train list of freight cars and their destinations for the yard conductor.

Yard Conductor: The yard conductor received train lists from the yard master and ordered yard crews to find each car and assemble the train into station order, which meant that at each stop on the run, cars for that point were in the correct sequence to be disconnected. The yard master gave a copy of the train list to the engineer.

Well, youíre in charge of the whole train....And if anything goes wrong, why, they want to talk to the conductor....if anything happened to the train, if you derailed, they want to know where itís at; they want to know how many cars is involved in it. Well, they canít nobody else tell that but the conductor.¹

Call Boy: When the yard master had need of an off-duty yard crew, he would give the job of finding them to the call boy, who would run off to round up the men.

The only man that could go into a saloon [during his working hours] without getting fired was the call boy. He could go in and come out. They didnít pay no attention to that, you know, because that was where he had to go most of the time to find the man, you know, when he was out lookiní for him to go out on the run.²

Car Distributor: The area mines would call the car distributor to request that empty cars be dropped off and loaded cars removed. He had a clerk list this information and pass it on to the yard master.

Telegraph Operator/Signal Operator: A telegrapher could quickly send and receive information through wires by Morse code. Women and men telegraph operators communicated with other operators up and down the line to relay information vital for a safe, efficient transportation operation. The telegrapher relayed or received orders to switch tracks if necessary, or to slow or stop trains. The telegrapher would post a signal for the incoming engineer and throw the track switches.

Chief Clerk: Several clerks, both men and women, completed paperwork. Often this position gave new employees their start. A clerkís time would be divided among the offices: working four hours for the track supervisor, writing letters and taking dictation; then four hours for the train master, keeping records and inspecting schedules and bulletin books; then another four hours with the car distributor preparing car lists. The chief clerk would relay vital schedule information to the yard master.

I had written the C&O Railroad superintendent here in Hinton, telling him that I had finished high school and I had taken shorthand and could use a typewriter, and if a job should come open, I would be glad if he would give me consideration for was Christmas Eve and I got a phone call...that a job was awaiting me.³

Questions for Reading 2

1. Which job do you think you would like to have had? Why?

2. Which jobs do you think carried the most responsibility? received the highest pay? the least pay?

3. How many hours per day did the clerk work?

4. What do you think the yard master would have done if his relief shift did not show up for work?

Reading 2 was compiled from Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company Schedule of Wages and General Regulations for Conductors, Trainmen, and Yardmen, C&O Railway, 1927; and Michael W. Caplinger and John T. Hriblan, "Thurmond Passenger Depot and Offices," Historic Furnishings Report, the Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaeology, West Virginia University, 1993.

¹Robert Carter, National Park Service oral history interview, November 15, 1983. Interview conducted by Jim Worsham.
³Ray E. Sawyer, National Park Service oral history interview, September 10, 1983. Interview conducted by Jim Worsham.


Comments or Questions

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