Norfolk & Western Railway Co. showed improved net income for the second quarter and a record for the first half, N&W President John Fishwick said yesterday.

The Roanoke-based railroads, which operates over 7,500 miles of road in the East and Midwest, had second-quarter net income of $59 million ($1.88 a share), up 7 percent from $55 million a year earlier, Fishwich told financial analysts here.

First-half net income reached $107.4 million ($3.43), up 6 percent from the previous record of $101.6 million ($3.25) set last year, Fishwick said.

"Strong export coal traffic levels during the second quarter produced the good results despite a recession-caused slump in merchandise traffic," he said.

"Our healthy earnings illusttrate the value of our balance of traffic between coal and merchandise," he said. "There have been some periods when coal traffic was low and merchandise carried the ball. Right now, coal is making the big plays for us and we expect it will continue to be strong in the future."

Second-quater revenues were $406.2 million, up 7 percent from $378.9 million a year earlier. Total railway operating expenses for the quarter were $317.3 million, up 8 percent from $293.7 million a year earlier, the railroad said.

First-half revenues were $777.4 million, up 10 percent from $706.7 million a year earlier, and first half operating expenses were $617.3 million, up 12 percent from $552.1 million a year earlier.

N&W shipped 20.7 million tons of coal, up 9 percent, in the second quarter. Shipments for domestic steelmaking were 5.1 million tons, down 12 percent from a year earlier. Shipment of coal to utilities rose slightly to 6.7 million tons from 6.6 million tons in the second quarter of last year.

First & Merchants Corp. has reported a 7.5 percent rise in second-quarter profits, bringing to 8.2 percent the bank holding company's profits increase for the first half of the year over the first half of 1979.

The corporation, which is the holding company for First & Merchants National Bank, reported second-quarter profits of $4.13 million ($1.27 a share), up from $3.84 million ($1.16) in the second quarter last year. For the first half of the year, the bank reported profits of $8.23 million ($2.52), up from $7.6 million ($2.30) in 1979.

Total average deposits at First & Merchants were $1.7 billion at the end of the second quarter.

Smithfield Foods Inc. reported second-quarter profits of $746,000 (36 cents a share), up from $563,000 (24 cents) for the same quarter in 1979. Sales at the firm, based in Smithfield, Va., dropped to $46.5 million for the quarter from $48.9 million for the 1979 second quarter.

First-half profits rose to $1.58 million (74 cents) from $879,000 (37 cents) last year.