William E. Simonton, III


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C&O Train No. 90, 'The Expediter"

By Roy Long

    Manifest Train No. 90 was called the "The Expediter" for good reason. She had almost a thousand miles of ribbon steel to cover on a tight schedule from Chicago, Ill to the C&O terminal at Newport News, VA. Night and day, day and night a1ong the C&O's shining steel artery the Expediter speeds eastward toward the cities on the Chesapeake Bay. Before one reaches the end of its journey, two others are rumbling on their way.

    It begins at Union Stockyards and Burnes Yard south of Chicago. Three section leave Chicago the rail hub of the United States, every day. Cars from Union Stockyards and Red Balls (fast manifest freight) from Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana for the east are made up into three trains for the C&O.

    The first section hauls only meat and is schedu1ed to depart Union Stockyard at 5:00PM. and is due into Cincinnati Ohio at 6:00AM for an early morning distribution of cargo there.

    The second section of the Expediter is scheduled out of Union Stockyards at 7:00 p.m. and due into Calumet Yard at 8:00PM for the Belt Rai1way of Chicago.

    The third section of the Expediter, Advance 90 by the time it reached Hinton, was made up of freight arriving at Burnam Yard for a 9:30O PM. departure. Car inspectors with their lanterns bobbing from car to car, checking wheels, journal boxes, brakes and couplings making ready for the long journey ahead The minutes rush by, but at 9:30 the third section moves to begin its long journey and accelerating to speed which will only ends when it reaches it's final destination, Newport News, Va.

    The third section, hereafter called Advance 90 passes the second section on the Chicago Division due to scheduling for yard work and interchange with other railroads.

    At Peru, Ind., a short stop is made to change engines and take on fresh engine and train crews. During the next thirty hours, or so an engine and crew change will occur at Cheviot Yard in Ohio, Stevens and Russell Yards in Kentucky, at Hinton in West Virginia and Clifton Forge, Gladstone and Richmond in Virginia. In all nine different engines (in steam power days) and forty- five crewmembers will be responsible for the fast schedules between Burnam Yard in Chicago and Newport News. This does not include a short pusher service the Expediter gets leaving Fulton Yard at Richmond.

    Stevens Yard is a very important stop for the Expediter. Extensive switching is done here bunching cars in various groups such as refrigerator cars to be re-iced at Clifton Forge and cars for interchange for the Southern, Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line Railroads and cars for Newport News and Norfolk. Before this job is completed, a transfer rolls in with the section of No. 90 that had been by passed on the Chicago Division. This train is pushed over the hump and consolidated with the other cars. Soon a yard engine has the train made up for its race to the Bay.

    The Expediter becomes a "red-ball" manifest and is soon burning the rails over the Cincinnati Division. Train dispatchers along the route have given No. 90 a green board and except for an engine and crew change at Russell and Hinton, the Expediter, with a powerful Mallet H-8 engine out of Hinton, is chewing up Alleghany Mountain like it was on a water grade.

    The reefer (refrigerator cars) are re-iced at Clifton Forge and No. 90 is soon easing out of the yard onto the main line and approaching JD Cabin where the te1eggaph operator switches her over onto Jackson River bridge and past Rainbow Rock The engineer looks at his watch and calls out to the fireman, "Clear." The fireman in turn acknowledges the engineer, "Clear." The engineer grabs the whistle cord and after a loud moan of the whistle the throttle is set for authorized speed.

    And so, on down the James they speed past Eagle Rock, Buchanan, Balcony Falls, Major, Big Island, are just a blur the Expediter glides along the smooth track.

    Around 11:30 AM. the Expediter stops at Second Street Yard on the outskirts of Richmond where cars are set out. Just minutes later the train is easing through Richmond en route Fulton Yard where more cars are set out and others added. Then a Mallet H-8 pusher engine is attached to the rear. Up ahead the road engine gives two blasts of the whistle and the pusher gives the slack a nudge. The Expediter is again on its way to the Chesapeake Bay. The pusher helps her over the grade onto the Peninsula Subdivision, cuts off on the fly and returns to Fulton Yard Very soon the Expediter is passing miles of coal-receiving tracks and comes to a halt in a yard track at Newport News where her race ends Already two more such movements are on their way out of Chicago and each day the action repeats itself. Manifest Train No. 90 has earned its name, the Expediter.