SAL history in Dinwiddie Co., Va. : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

The following letter was sent to us; can anyone help?

I am the youngest daughter of Benjamin Fitzgerald, who was a prominent African American farmer in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. He was the son of slaves. I am 82 years old and a retired teacher. I am seeking information for a book of my familys history. The railroad figures prominently in our history; however, some details are missing.

We lived in Dinwiddie County approximately two miles from the town of McKenney. The Seaboard Railroad bordered my fathers farm. My father gave the railroad permission to build a pumphouse on the creek, which was operated by a coal furnace. He then gave the railroad a right-of-way to install a pipeline to carry water to McKenney for the steam engines. After many years, the company negotiated with my father for a right-of-way to run a line for electricity from the pumphouse to McKenney to change the pumphouse over to electrical operation. My father negotiated with the company for electricity in exchange for the right-of-way.

Another interesting bit of history notes that my cousin Adam Byas was the porter on Train No. 4, which got to McKenney at 4:00 p.m. When the train passed the farm, the engineer would blow the whistle for the railroad crossing and my cousin would wave a white towel at us.

For many years we were the only family in that rural area to have electricity with exception of the few families whose electricity was generated by windmills.

I hope you can answer the following questions:

 When was the railroad built through Dinwiddie County?  How long did the railroad furnish the Fitzgerald family with electricity?  When did diesels take over?  Was Adam Byas the first porter on Train No. 4?

Helen Fitzgerald Tucker

-- Larry Goolsby (, November 12, 1999


Larry - There may be an error in the question. Using a December 1923 public timetable, SAL train #4 did not stop at McKenney. It appears to have roared through there, northbound, at about 3:30pm. But, train #14 did stop there at 4:04pm. #14 was a Norlina-Richmond local. Trains #3 & 4 were the SEABOARD FAST MAIL, a Florida-New York train with lots of heavyweight first class cars, sleepers, parlor, diner, observation, etc. From the tenor of the question it seems to indicate at least as far back as the 1920's, when it asks about the first porter. My sources are incomplete, but trains #3 & 4 began running sometime between 1906 and 1923, a large "window", to be sure. As for as when the line from Petersburg to Norlina, through Dinwiddie County, was opened, the first regularly scheduled passenger train ran June 3, 1900, preceded a week or two before by one or more specials for SAL officers. I'll leave question three to our diesel mavens. Questions two and four may be beyond the keen of the society. Topm

-- Tom Underwood (, February 02, 2000.

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