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Apr 28, 2009

Falwell Virginia

by Amanda Sullivan

The burly man dressed in a plaid flannel shirt steers the 17-car locomotive, ensuring the train stays on track. He picks up his radio and called in his location as he passes an emerald green sign, signifying the train’s close proximity to Montview Yard.

“Entering Falwell, Va.,” he says as his voice crackles over the radio handset, reading the sign.

The sign does not signify a city named after or devoted to Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. Rather the marker acts as a control point for the railroad. The sign is located in close proximity to Liberty University.

“If you are traveling from Wards Road to the Liberty campus the sign is located just to the left of the crossing of the railroad tracks next to Sonic Drive-In,” Lynchburg Railway Historian Charles Long said.

The control point known as “Falwell, Va.” was named for Falwell, according to Long.

“The crossover at the south end of Montview Yard was manually operated in 1971 and was later automated,” Property Manager William Gorby said. “When it was automated Norfolk Southern had to name it something, so they named it ‘Falwell.’ There wasn’t anything with a name here prior to ‘Falwell.’”

The control point was renamed between 2001 and 2002 to help alleviate confusion on radios for crewmen. Previously, the points within the proximity were referred to “Montview North” and “Montview South.”

“(The control point was so named) because of its close proximity to Liberty, (which was) founded by Dr. Falwell, and it could be easily understood on the radios that train crews use,” Long said.

Although the point was named for Falwell, the decision was based on which words possessed the most clarity over the radio.

“The names are frequently chosen to be clear and decipherable over the radio even when reception is poor,” Norfolk and Western Historical Society Secretary Gary Rolih said. “Names are frequently chosen for nearby locations and 'nearby' can be of some distance away. Ideally the location can easily be remembered by the train crews from the local geography.”

Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. is pleased to have the history of the sign revealed.

“The Liberty Champion should be commended for solving this mystery. We had noticed the ‘Falwell’ sign on the railroad behind the home run fence at Worthington Field for many years but never knew why it was there,” Falwell said. “Even railroad officials were unable to provide information to us in the past. We are pleased to learn that the switching station is named in Dad's honor."


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