Monday, November 11, 2019

The Wilmington & Western R.R. gets a Boost from Governor Carvel

In early November 1962 the notion of the Wilmington & Western Railroad was just a dream. Even though the fledgling Historic Red Clay Valley owned locomotives and passenger cars, the B&O Railroad was unwilling to allow tourist trains to operate on its Landenberg Branch. In an effort to convince the B&O to allow tourist trains on its tracks, W&W
From the Morning News
founder Tom Marshall along with Alto Smith, George Sargisson, and Pete Steele met with Delaware Governor Elbert "Bert" Carvel. The contingent explained the young but determined organization’s plans and how Delaware stood to benefit from the operation of the envisioned historic railroad. Tom presented, and Carvel, who as described by Tom, stood six foot six and had a husky, booming voice, liked the idea. Carvel said he would make a phone call to an old college friend at the B&O, Vice President of Research and Development Douglas C. Turnbull.

Later, W&W volunteer Tim Cronin recounted how one day Pete Steele stopped by during a work session and explained that Carvel was actually calling in a huge favor. The Pittsburgh Consolidated Coal Company was planning on building a coal slurry pipeline that would connect the coal mines of West Virginia to the eastern seaboard in Delaware. In West Virginia there was concern about taking so much water out of the state’s rivers and in Delaware there was concern over where the dirty water from the slurry would end up and how it would be cleaned. The railroads and their unions opposed this pipeline, knowing it would mean a huge loss of business. The battle pitted railroads against their biggest customers and the railroad unions against the coal miners’ unions. Amidst this tempest of controversy, the large and powerful coal company kept the process moving along. It was Turnbull who lead the B&O’s effort to fight the pipeline and it was Delaware, under the leadership of Turnbull’s old college friend Gov. Carvel, that refused to allow permits for the pipeline to be built.

Governor Elbert N. Carvel
From the Delaware Public Archives
Carvel’s phone call worked and Turnbull soon met with Tom and explained that the B&O was ready to allow Wilmington and Western to operate passenger trains. Now the holdup became the labor unions. Under long-standing labor agreements, every train operating on the branch did so with a five-person union crew. Governor Carvel gave Tom contact information for local union leaders and Tom made several presentations at various union meetings. It took two more years until the first train operated. Tom Marshall’s persistence and leadership really paid off.

The Wilmington & Western Railroad operated its first steam-powered passenger train through the Red Clay Valley on Memorial Day Weekend in 1966 and continues as Delaware's only full-size historic railroad. The men who met that day in 1962 have all passed on but their legacy carries on. More info on the Wilmington & Western RR can be found online at WWRR.COM.

W&W No. 58 at Ashland, Del 5-25-2019
Photo by Tom Gears

1 comment:

  1. Tom, Being a member & supporter of HRCV I found this fascinating.
    Thanks, John Pulci


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