The Fruit Growers Express Co., an Alexandria firm that builds and maintains railroad freight cars, laid off its entire work force of 500 and closed its doors yesterday, one of the first area victims of the railroad strike.
"I got a 15-minute notice that I don't have the job," said Ed Lilly, a husband and father of two who said he had been furloughed until further notice.
Most of the company's workers live in Prince William and Fairfax counties, according to Jesse Conner, general mechanic superintendent of the company, at 16 Roth St., Alexandria.
Conners said the company had not received a shipment of materials or railroad cars in three days because of the rail strike and that it will stay closed until the strike is over.
The local freight car firm is one of the types of industries - dependent on goods transported in bulk such as steel, gas, oil or grain - most likely to be affected by the four-day-old nationwide strike of railroad clerks, members of the Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks (BRAC).
It was unclear early last night whether a temporary restraining order issued by a U.S. District Court judge yesterday would halt the strike.
A spokesman for the Virginia Office of Emergency and Energy Services said that in the southeast county of Wise, one coal company shut down yesterday, with a second expected to close if the trains do not start moving by Monday.
According to Norm McTeague, the spokesman, the Westmorland Coal Mining Co., shut down after coal cars from the Southern Railway System did not get through. The Clinchfield Coal Co. is expected to shut down in the next few days.
The two companies have 5,000 employes, McTeague said.
McTeague also predicted statewide "spot shortages" of perishable foods, including fresh vegetables. "If the strike continues and the cars can't move, when you go into a store you may not be able to get what you want."
But a spokesman for Washington area Safeway stores said yesterday they have increased air and truck shipments of foods and expect no shortages.
On Tuesday, Washington became the southern terminus for rail passenger service along the Atlantic seaboard. A spokesman for Amtrak said yesterday it was impossible to estimate the loss of revenue, but said profits during July for the New York-to-Florida run were about $2.6 million.
"We've taken a beating," the spokesman added.
A spokesman for Greyhouse Bus Lines said, "We've had a slight increase in our southbound business." He said that company has beefed up service by adding an extra bus for each of the 20 daily southbound runs.
Trailways Bus Systems also reported an increase in southbound passengers.
Rail traffic through Alexandria's Potomac Yard, the Eastern Seaboard's gageway for north-south freight traffic, ground down to a fraction of its normal activity yesterday, with only 10 trains passing through. Normally 50 to 80 are handled daily.
Yard Supervisor J. F. McGinley said it is too early to say what the effects of the strike will be. "It's got to have some effect on the area, but not as much as in industralized areas. If there was a shortage of paper, that would have an effect on Washington." He said paper and paper products are the largest commodity that moves through the Alexandria yard.
Second class mail, magazines and parcel post from the West Coast were arriving about a day behind schedule, according to the U.S. Postal Service.