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BLET history
Danville District history

* from the BLET website at
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) is a  Division of the Rail Conference of the International Brotherhood of  Teamsters (IBT). Its predecessor union, the Brotherhood of  Locomotive Engineers, was the senior national labor organization in  the United States and also North America's oldest rail labor union.  The BLE marked its 140th anniversary in 2003 and was founded in  Marshall, Mich. on May 8, 1863, as The Brotherhood of the Footboard;  a year later, its name was changed to The Brotherhood of Locomotive  Engineers. The BLE merged with the International Brotherhood of  Teamsters and became the BLET on January 1, 2004.

MISSION STATEMENT: "The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and  Trainmen exists to promote and protect the rights, interests, and  safety of its members through solidarity, aggressive representation,  and education." From BLET National Division Rules, 2004.

MEMBERSHIP: The BLET represents Locomotive Engineers, Conductors,  Brakemen, Firemen, Switchmen, Hostlers and other Train Service  Employees on numerous railroads in the United States. The BLET's  total membership is more than 59,000 and growing, in spite of  industry consolidation. Since Jan. 1, 1992, Locomotive Engineers  must be trained and tested to be federally certified and licensed to  operate trains.

ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE: Local units of the BLET are known as  Divisions. Each Division elects four primary local officers -  President, Local Chairman, Secretary-Treasurer and Legislative  Representative - each serving three-year terms. The BLET is  comprised of more than 600 Divisions.

  • All the local chairmen on a particular railroad constitute the  BLET General Committee of Adjustment on that system; this General  Committee is autonomous and responsible for negotiating, making,  interpreting and enforcing contracts between engineers and their  railroad. Larger railroad systems may have more than one General  Committee and General Chairman.
  • All the legislative representatives for divisions within a  state comprise the State Legislative Board. These legislative  boards are responsible for educating legislators, policy makers  and the public about the impacts of regulations and laws on  transportation and public safety.
  • At the National Division, officers include the President,  First Vice-President, National Secretary-Treasurer and eight  "regional" vice-presidents, who assist and offer resources to  General Committees. National Division officers are elected to  four-year terms.
  • One vice-president serves as the BLET's National Legislative  Representative, administering the Washington D.C. office and  coordinating federal activities of the BLET, and its various state  legislative boards.
  • The BLET is governed by its Bylaws. Policies are set and  officers elected at conventions every four years. Convention  delegates are elected by local BLET Division members.

HEAD QUARTER OFFICES: The BLET National Division is located at: Standard Building, 1370  Ontario St., Mezzanine, Cleveland, OH 44113-1702 (built and owned by  the BLET). The National Legislative Office is located in IBT  Headquarters in Washington D.C.

For more information, contact the BLET Public Relations  Department at the International Office by calling (216) 241-2630,  ext. 248, from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., E.T.

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Danville District History

What is known today as the Danville District of Norfolk Southern, is a storied mainline with a rich past and bright future.  The Danville District runs from North to South from Linwood, NC to Lynchburg, VA, and extends East from a line between those points toward Raleigh, NC.   The Danville District is a part of Norfolk Southern’s Piedmont Division, and this area was formerly a part of the Eastern Division of the Southern Railway & Norfolk Southern, before the two divisions were combined around 1990.

The North South mainline from Linwood, NC to Greensboro and the H-Line to Goldsboro, NC & beyond is a part of the North Carolina Railroad (NCRR), which was formed  prior to 1850 by a private group of investors to construct a rail line between Charlotte, NC & Morehead City, NC.  The cost of the original 223 miles of mainline was $3.4 million. Today, Norfolk Southern leases the mainline from the NCRR and maintains & improves the infrastructure as a condition of the lease.

Spencer Yard at Linwood, NC was constructed between October 1976 and the fall of 1979, built to relieve congested flat switching yards on the Eastern part of the Southern Railway System. It would also replace the aging “Old Yard” & “Spencer Shops” at Spencer, NC.  Built as a “state of the art facility” at a cost of $48 million over 25 years ago, it is one of the last major classification yards in America to be built from the ground up.  It is named Spencer Yard in honor of the first president of the Southern Railway, Samuel L. Spencer.

Yardmaster's desk & console 1980's. Click for a larger view & use your back button to return to this page.
Aerial view during construction of Spencer Yard at Linwood. Click for a larger view & use your back button to return to this page.

During construction, 5.6 million cubic yards of earth were moved, 6.5 miles of underground pipe were installed for drainage, 370,000 tons of crushed stone was spread to a 6 inch depth, & 225,000 tons of ballast was used under 65 miles of welded rail, culminating in the facility we have today.

Spencer Yard typically processes over 1,200 cars per day & sees an average of over 30 trains per day, including “run throughs.”  The yard is 4 and one -half miles long and occupies a 275 acre area in Southern Davidson county North Carolina.

Computer Room on 1st floor 1980's. Click for a larger view & use your back button to return to this page.
Dreafus (Dee) Jefferies in the pullout, 1980's. Click for a larger view & use your back button to return to this page.
Aerial view of Spencer Yard at Linwood. Click for a larger view & use your back button to return to this page.

Yet another noteworthy part of this district’s heritage was the operation of “The Crescent” passenger train by the Southern Railway.  Southern had many trains that operated over this district over the years, and more than 50 passenger trains per day used to make stops at Salisbury, NC.  However, the Crescent was the premier passenger train of the entire Southern Railway System, offering service between New York City, NY to New Orleans, LA.  It offered the very best in accommodations & hospitality available.  In fact, so proud of The Crescent & the level of service which it offered, the Southern kept operating it, even though they lost money, several years after Amtrak took over operation of all the nation’s passenger service.  Today’s Amtrak Crescents, numbers 19 & 20, still carry the name of the train, which began service over 100 years ago. 

Unfortunately, perhaps the most famous event to occur on the Danville District was The Wreck of the Old 97.”

 "Old 97," which consisted of four cars and locomotive No.1102, crashed on September 27, 1903.

Running behind schedule, Engineer Joseph A. Broady was trying to make up time as his train approached Danville down White Oak Mountain. 

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He realized he did not have enough air pressure to slow the train for an upcoming curved trestle, and in vain he reversed the engine to lock the wheels. "Old 97" vaulted off the trestle, and 11 people were killed.  "The Wreck of the Old 97" was initially recorded commercially by Virginia musicians G. B. Grayson and Henry Whitter. More recently, the song was recorded by Lester Raymond Flatt & Johnny Cash.

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The lyrics to “The Wreck of the Old 97”

Well they gave him his orders at Monroe, Virginia,
Said: "Steve, you're way behind time,
"This is not 38, this is Ol' 97,
"Put her into Spencer on time."

Then he turned around and said to his greasy fireman,
"Shovel on a little more coal.
"And when we cross that White Oak mountain,
"Watch Ol' '97 roll."

And then a telegram come from Washington station,
This is how it read:
"Oh that brave engineer that run ol 97,
"Is lyin in old Danville dead."

'Cos he was going down a grade making 90 miles an hour,
The whistle broke into a scream.
He was found in the wreck with his hand on the throttle,
Scalded to death by the steam.

One more time!

Oh, now all you ladies you'd better take a warning,
From this time on and learn.
Never speak hard words to your true-lovin' husband.
He may leave you and never return.
Poor Boy.

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