Collins Genealogy, By Ethel (Buxton) McLean
They Say It's Unique . . .
That Triple Crossing
The only triple railroad crossing in the world is in Richmond, just south of Main Street Station at Byrd Street. There, on three levels, tracks of the Southern, Seaboard, and Chesapeake and Ohio railroads cross each other.
On the ground level is the main line of the Richmond Division of the Southern Railway, tracks first laid in 1861. Passing above on a viaduct is the main line of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, Virginia Division. And above that, on one of the longest railroad trestles in North America, sweeps the main line of the James River Division of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. The C&O overpass and the Seaboard viaduct--which is both underpass and overpass--were built in 1900.
The triple crossing has long intrigued fanciers of railroad lore, and ever since it was built, photographers have cajoled and connived continually for the opportunity to take pictures of three trains at the crossing simultaneously. If three trains ever passed at the crossing by coincidence--and the odds are they haven't--there were no photographers on hand. But three times since 1900 the railroads have undertaken the troublesome project of "posing" three trains at the crossing.
Three old steam engines chugged onto the crossing for the first picture in 1911. Then in 1926, when railroad officials had partly forgotten how much trouble it was, three more locomotives were photographed at the crossing. This Fall the cycle came around again, and the three companies sent crack locomotives to the crossing for the color portrait on our cover.
It was quite a project. S. F. Osteen, assistant supervisor of the Seaboard's Virginia Division, said it this way:
"You try to get three railroads to do anything together and you'll have a devil of a time, but when you fool with something like this where three sets of intricate schedules are involved, you really have a problem."
Representatives of the three companies met weeks before the picture was taken to work out plans. After consulting various freight and passenger schedules, and considering the chances of plan-wrecking late runs on all the lines, it was decided that a particular Thursday at 12:01 was the time. The locomotives would converge on the triple crossing at 12:01, remain for exactly 10 minutes, and then clear the tracks for more important business. Photographers would have to pray for good weather and good luck.
On Thursday at 12:01 the weather was clear, the sun shining and the three locomotives arrived at the appointed instant. Into position on the Southern track moved a 1500-horsepower, multi-purpose roadswitcher, a powerful Diesel electric unit. The Seaboard was represented by a 3,000-horsepower Diesel unit like the ones used to pull the Silver Meteor and other streamliners. Across the high C&O span came a K-3, standard freight engine on the James River line, a steam locomotive capable of hauling about 160 coal cars.
After 10 minutes--during which Photographer Herbert Wilburn squinted into his view and shouted remarkable orders like "Move that top train back a foot or two, keep the middle train still and move the bottom train back about three feet"--the triple crossing was cleared and the railroads went about their business as if nothing had happened.
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