Tag Archives: Williamsburg

- I Fought the Railroad and Won, or Did I?


Drawing of a cross-section of consolidation in an engine boiler filed in the judgement Gatewood vs. Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company, June 1885. James City County/Williamsburg Judgments, 1877-1891, Local Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

While examining the James City County/Williamsburg court records recently, I came across a civil suit titled Gatewood vs. Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company that contained two oversize exhibits.  The first was a plat, which is not unusual since plats are commonly found in court records; however, the second oversize exhibit was unusual.  It was an illustration of the engine boiler of a steam locomotive.  The sketch included numerous tiny arrows showing the direction of air flow in the boiler.  The exhibit piqued my curiosity so I read the suit to determine its purpose.

The plaintiff, R. E. Gatewood, filed a civil suit against the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company in James City County Circuit Court on 3 November 1884.  In his statement to the court, Gatewood blamed C&O Railway for a fire that caused extensive damage to his property on 14 October 1884.  Greenwood claimed that a C&O steam locomotive passing through his property did not have a spark arrestor or, if it did, the spark arrestor was not working properly. (A spark arrestor was a wire netting designed to prevent sparks or other tiny flaming debris from escaping the locomotive’s “balloon stack.”)  As a result of the “careless negligence” of the defendant, the plaintiff’s property was set on fire by sparks emitted from the steam locomotive.  Valuable timber including oak, chestnut, walnut, and pine … read more »