The Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society Website -

Why don't we all VISIT ESMONT!

It's SUMMERTIME and if you're looking for somewhere to volunteer your services in the Albemarle or Nelson County areas, then you should JOIN IN with The Friends of Esmont!  Esmont, as I'm sure you're already aware, was a terminus for the Nelson & Albemarle Railway and a key town in it's heyday for the community.  Friends of Esmont is hosted by former Esmont resident, Peggy (Purvis) Denby and support for Esmont and tourism in the immediate area is highly desired!  Reach out to Peggy at and ask about becoming a Friend of Esmont and how to volunteer or show your support for the rebuilding of this vibrant community.  Peggy can be reached at (404) 680-6122 or go direct to the website at for more detail   The rebuilding of the Purvis Store is high on the list of projects for Friends and those in the area that can provide support (in the trades or financial) would be welcome.

January-February 2021 - A Chapter from the upcoming book (Also, a This Month's Article):
Chapter 11 - What if the N&A were still operating?

Continuing on with our publishing chapters from the upcoming book on the Nelson & Albemarle Railway is a fanciful tale of supposes.  Suppose there were never a flood, suppose there was great business uptick, suppose the railway grew instead of shrank?  The fun begins as you read this next chapter.  Enjoy!

Chapter 11 – What if the N&A were still operating?

            One of the most defining moments in the history of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway was the flood along the Rockfish River on September 18, 1944 that included the tributary, Ivy Creek, running through the middle of the soapstone works property at Schuyler adjacent to the mill.  As anyone can imagine, this could easily have ended the soapstone works as it was reported to have left 10 feet of mud in the mill.  The Nelson & Albemarle Railway ceased rail traffic along the route to Rockfish where significant damage had taken out roadbed and bridgework and created significant surrounding damage to the landscape. Both the Southern Railway and Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad suffered similar washouts and damage to their lines.  With the soapstone mill inundated with mud, reopening the rail line was secondary to reopening the mill and the livelihood of the company and its employees.  Damage to the line between Schuyler and Rockfish was so heavy that a decision was made to drop the interchange with the Southern Railway (by rail) and the line between Schuyler and Rockfish was officially abandoned in 1947. But what if that flood never happened?  What if the need for soapstone grew further and additional quarries were opened?  While there would have been economic ups and downs, as the soapstone industry faced year-over-year, the look back on this revised history of the soapstone industry in Schuyler (and Alberene) lends itself to understanding how the Nelson & Albemarle Railway could have prospered with a resurgence in soapstone sales and other by-product shipments.  It could also chronicle how the soapstone company would have acquired additional motive power and expanded operations in the quarries and mill. 

The Nelson & Albemarle Railway had purchased its first diesel from General Electric or GE as it’s commonly known.  Construction number 30856, a 44-ton unit, with twin Caterpillar D17000 diesel engines, was built in December 1950 and would become N&A #1, the third #1 to ride the shortline’s rails.  The end was near for steam as Alberene Stone closely followed the 44-ton acquisition with the purchase of a 35-ton GE diesel in 1952, construction number 31768, which would become Alberene Stone #2 though reasonably assumed to be N&A #2, the third #2 on the line.  The 35-ton diesel would be used at Schuyler, making up trains.  Then in 1953, a smaller, GE 25-ton diesel, construction number 31778, was purchased as Alberene Stone #3 (in what would be considered the 2nd #3 on the Nelson & Albemarle Railway).  Smallest of the three diesel purchases, the 25-ton unit would handle quarry duty at Schuyler.  The soapstone works was primarily dieselized with only 3 locomotives and the last steam locomotive left the property in 1954 for the scrapper’s torch.  Historically, the soapstone company would have boom/bust cycles aligning to wartime demand or the cycle of business recessions.  Imagining that there was no pivotal flood and subsequent downturn in business while the mill recovered from the devastation of 20 inches of rain creating 10 feet of water and mud, Schuyler might have seen soapstone production boom into the 50’s with a real need to expand operations and move soapstone blocks not only from quarry to mill, but also to architectural firms for manufacturing into various building products.  We start the story with those first three diesels on the line and turn to the likely next steps.  History as we understood it; has been altered…..    

In the mid-1950's, General Motors’ Electro-Motive-Division locomotive power was very popular with the introduction of the GP-series light road switcher which became a mainstay for many Class 1 railroads.  However, Alberene Stone in its frequent iterations had always been loyal in the use of Vulcan steam locomotives and subsequently GE diesels.  For a small industrial rail line like the Nelson & Albemarle Railway this made sense.  They focused on parts and maintenance procedures that could be used across any of the engines in the roster and keep spare parts storage to a minimum.  In 1955 with the Rockfish line still in existence and the last of the steamers already scrapped, there was increased business so an additional 44-ton GE switcher was bought used that became the 2nd # 4.  This new-to-N&A diesel, purchased secondhand from the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, easily handled the increased traffic along the Rockfish line including the transport of marble blocks from a marble quarry outside of Knoxville, Tennessee that the soapstone company purchased in the mid-1930’s.  The N&A had a history with the AT&SF as they were the source for secondhand flat cars used to move soapstone from the quarries to the gang saw building that had been purchased years earlier. AT&SF #465, GE construction number 18153 built in December 1943, was relatively well-maintained.  The unit visited General Electric in Erie on its way east to be serviced, updates made to control systems, repainted a matching green, and lettered for the N&A the same as the first 44-ton unit had been lettered.  The primary difference was the inclusion of yellow stripes on both ends that matched ones added to the original 44-ton diesel in 1954 (due to a grade crossing accident). It was during this period of the mid-1950’s that the roadbed and bridges began receiving upgrades and improvements to manage the heavier loads going east to the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway at Warren and west to the North-South route of the Southern Railway at Rockfish by the almost twin 44-ton locomotives.  Noting a slight recession in 1958, the stone company held off any additional purchase of a new or used locomotive, even though business remained somewhat steady.  The focus in 1959 became general drainage improvements and pulling up lighter rail for replacement with heavier rail to support the priority of expected growth coming out of Schuyler headed to Rockfish and Esmont/Warren. 

If you look at the pattern of purchasing equipment, Alberene Stone really liked bargains.  They’d had several in their existence including two used Forney’s bought secondhand from the Manhattan Railway through construction dealer, Patricius McManus at Cape Charles, Virginia.  The last steam engine purchased had also been a used locomotive, originally built for the Chile Exploration Company but never delivered and destined to become N&A #15.  So as times improved, and business expanded, the stone company needed to manage additional quarries including 2 new ones in Alberene (where the mill had been shut down in 1936), an expansion of the quarries at Schuyler, and greater deliveries of marble from the soapstone-owned quarry near Knoxville, Tennessee for processing at the Schuyler mill.  All of this meant more movement by rail and a realization that stronger motive power would create better handling of freight and higher profits.  With two 44-ton units handling mainline traffic and the 35-ton unit shuttling between reopened Alberene quarries (including two situated east of the old mill location) and Esmont with loads for pickup, it became obvious that a couple of smaller switchers were needed to support general operations so the mainline engines could increase the number of runs between the endpoints.  Two used 25-ton GE units were picked up in 1964 from the Panther Valley Coal Company in Coaltown, Pennsylvania. GE construction number’s 32237 and 32238 were built in February 1955 at Erie.  Taking on numbers 5 and 6 from the old Manhattan Railway Forney units, they were stationed in Schuyler with #5 handling runs between the quarries and the Schuyler yard including staging for the gang saw operations.  Making up trains for east or west shipments, #6 would also assist #5 with feeding the gang saw operations including the inbound marble blocks from Tennessee.  It quickly became apparent that a new siding for the shipments to Rockfish was necessary and Alberene Stone contracted to extend the Schuyler yard past the engine house at the east end of the property before the line turned south then west to follow the banks of the Rockfish River.  As part of the project, the original engine house was expanded and most of the bay originally dedicated to steam locomotive parts and repairs got cleaned out for use in diesel inspections. The N&A now had three of these little diesels with the original one now stationed exclusively in Rockfish to handle switching duties there.  The 70’s came in quickly with business flourishing. 


It was during this time in the early 70’s that the entire small switching fleet, one-by-one, had their Caterpillar D17000 diesel engines replaced with the newer Cummins diesel engines found in more-current GE-model switchers, along with pulling out their original GE 733 traction motors and installing new GE 752E6 gear.  Units #1 and #4 received new GE replacement wheel-sets and then took back-to-back trips to Richmond to visit the now-Chessie System paint shop for a new livery.  Next, the 25-ton units including the most recently purchased used ones received their new GE 752E6 traction motors as their power plants completed rebuilding.  Each of these units, #3, #5, and #6 would also take their turn in the Chessie System paint shop in Richmond where they were provided a similar paint scheme to the 44-ton units including yellow stripes on their ends. Finally, the last of the small fleet, #2, the rare GE 35-ton unit, was given a major overhaul by replacing its diesel power plant, refurbishing the frame due to some damage, and installing new electrical gear as minor problems had become an issue while switching in Alberene.  Matching paint and lettering were also completed while the diesel was in Richmond by Chessie System’s paint shop.  The company never considered replacing the 35-ton unit as it well-served the Alberene quarries delivering loads to Esmont for shipment to points east or west. While #2 was being refurbished, Alberene Stone decided to build a connecting track in the form of a double-wye junction at Guthrie, Virginia with a siding that could hold up to 16 cars.  The addition gave #2 a straight shot into Esmont without having to back from Guthrie into the yard there.  The double-wye had been needed there since rail shipments from Alberene had become great enough to expand the Esmont yard by extending tracks south of town.  During the 35-ton’s absence, 44-ton #1 did double duty serving the Alberene quarries (a 25-ton couldn’t handle the trip down to Esmont with multiple cars) and temporarily staging trains in Alberene rather than Esmont.

For a time, things settled down pretty well, but while a small recession slowed operations in 1974 and 1975, business rebounded dramatically starting in 1981 with the introduction of new uses for soapstone.  New cosmetics products caused a significant increase in demand for talc, a by-product of processing all that soapstone.   Alberene would have to add capacity to its crusher at Schuyler to handle the large amount of stone needed for talc production.  Creating the talc was a bonus for Alberene Stone as any scrap stone, any stone of poor quality, or just tailings from the mill could be input to the crusher.  Carload types not previously seen on the N&A were becoming the standard instead of boxcar loads, specifically flat cars with blocks shipping direct to customers and gondolas with containers of specific soapstone products.  While hopper cars had made their way onto the line during the 50’s, now the covered hopper became a necessity to handle the talc shipments.  It was time for more motive power and an adjustment to assignments for the existing fleet.  

With business looking upward, GE called on the stone company to try to drive up interest in purchasing a stronger, more road-worthy locomotive, the U18B.  Now, the U18B would be a 2-step progression from the diminutive 44-ton GE switchers on the road and this led the N&A to think about turning locomotives at Schuyler & Warren for the first time in their existence.  GE had planned for Alberene Stone to order a new engine straight from the factory and took the general manager and an engineer over to visit the Seaboard Coast Line in Richmond.  Seaboard had invested heavily in that model branch line road switcher to the tune of just over 100 units used in various operations up and down the lower east coast states.  This visit would lead to a dialog between the two railway companies that would culminate with the sale of a specific U18B, their #252 (previously used in Alabama and Tennessee), to the N&A.  Number 252 had been purchased with a specific design of a small fuel tank allowing it to be used on light-weight branch lines which was a perfect fit for the N&A Railway.  It wasn’t exactly what GE had hoped for, but it followed the Alberene Stone game plan of supplanting existing power with good used equipment when funds were needed elsewhere to expand and exploit soapstone sales.  The U18B rode on FB-2 trucks (GE Floating Bolster 2 axle design) unlike many of the SCL units which were riding on traded-in EMD Blomberg trucks.

In Schuyler it was rather simple to add two switches and create a ‘wye’ so the newest locomotive, # 7 could be turned there at the west feeder to the yard.  Initially, the N&A couldn’t get land in or near Warren to support having a ‘wye’, so they contracted with the Chessie System to rebuild and reopen the abandoned turntable they had used before turning operations over to the N&A just south of the town of Esmont while still the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.  That old 56-foot turntable situated just south of the road crossing and next to the two additional storage yard tracks was quite tight for the 54-foot, 8-inch U18B locomotive, and newer controls were added by GE to allow the unit to run backwards from Warren up to Esmont for turning.  In a year, the turntable proved too cumbersome for operations to be efficient.  It was the stumbling block to improving the number of runs per day, so the N&A bought land just north of Warren and added a two-track storage yard and a ‘wye’ that would end the need for a turntable at Esmont…again. 

Chessie System won the job of repainting the U18B from the black & yellow of Seaboard Coast Line to the ‘Western Pacific Green’ that had become the color of the soapstone line in the first repaint of the GE small diesels in the mid-70’s.  This was ever so lighter a green than the original DuPont paint the diesels received at the GE works.  Lettering for the U18B would be similar to the #1 diesel with one big exception – along both sides of the long hoods, the words “Nelson & Albemarle” were boldly emblazoned.  This large diesel would take over primary main line duties between Schuyler and Warren – bumping the original first N&A diesel #1 to a post in Schuyler making up trains (as the 25-ton #5 and #6 could not handle the capacity now required to complete moving cars into position).  A new yard track was added just west of Schuyler so that the train make up could be pushed out of the way from operations around the mill.

Soon, it became apparent to Alberene Stone that even more changes would be necessary to commit to meet the increased demand for both talc and blocks of soapstone being used for architectural purposes as well as sculpting by artisans working with the soft stone to create architectural details for commercial designs or statues. 

Sixteen new covered hoppers appeared at the Rockfish interchange in September 1983 for outbound talc service.  In a strange twist, these would end up interchanging with the Chessie System (now CSX since their 1980 merger with the Seaboard Coast Line) to be destined for two cosmetic companies in the Cincinnati area.   With the large number of orders, the multiple round trips to cover that demand both from the quarries as well as between the mill and the terminals, the N&A needed to increase capacity on each train.  Consideration was given to double track the line from Schuyler all the way to Esmont, but economics within the soapstone company prevented funding that improvement.  It would be sorely needed over the next few years as additional covered hoppers were delivered during the next year to meet the increased demand for soapstone product used in the production of cosmetics increasing traffic on the line even further.  It was time for larger motive power.

The Southern Railway had always had some tenuous moments with servicing the N&A from the Rockfish depot.  Now the Southern would offer up the sale of one of its surplus locomotives, a GE B23-7 (yes, a Dash 7 series!).  This would have seemed unimaginable in the mid-50’s to think of this large a locomotive on the rails of the N&A, but 30 years later (with the line double-tracked), the B23-7 was really just a step up electronically from the U23B – and that was just a step up from the U18B in power and capacity.  The improvements from rail upgrades, bridge rebuilds, and improved roadbed would now pay off with larger train consists and a significant increase in the amount of soapstone being moved by rail.  So Southern #3971, with its high short hood, arrived on the property from Greenville, SC still in the dark green & gold scheme of the freight service it had seen on the neighbor road though quite a bit dirtier than expected when the shop crew first saw it.  The B23-7 would make a first trip behind the U18B #7 to interchange with CSX so that their Fulton Shops could have the unit repainted as the 2nd N&A #8.  Number 8 took up the prime spot of handling the heaviest loads between Schuyler and Esmont, adding on the Alberene traffic and bringing the largest trains into Warren.  The now four-track yard north of the interchange at Warren allowed #8 to stage the cars for service by the CSX local while U18B #7 took on the role of major two-way loads between Rockfish and Schuyler, delivering outbound soapstone blocks on flatcars and boxcars of dimensioned soapstone slabs for use in counter-top production for homes and businesses while bringing in most of the necessary supplies and equipment to handle mill operations at both Schuyler and the now-reopened Alberene factory.  Marble blocks continued to flow north from Knoxville, Tennessee, and the soapstone companies only marble quarry.  With plenty of space to add track at Rockfish, the N&A added a wye so that the U18B wouldn’t have to run backwards back to Schuyler.  

As July of 1989 came around, the N&A once again reached out to the Seaboard Coast Line (now officially a part of CSX) and in an unusual twist, purchased a gently used B23-7 from them.  This time the unit had one unique distinction.  It was a locomotive with a crew quarters cab, allowing for a station for the conductor to manage paperwork while in route and possibly exclude the use of a caboose on runs.  This GE BQ23-7, originally Seaboard #5131 but partially painted with a bright-yellow nose and CSX markings as #3001, would become the 2nd #9 on the Nelson & Albemarle Railway.  In another unusual twist, the BQ23-7 became the primary engine handling Schuyler to CSX interchange traffic as its predecessor Vulcan steam locomotive #9 had done for just over 30 years.  Before arriving at Schuyler to take on its duties, the traditional repaint by CSX in its Fulton Yard shops would take place.  CSX would also perform a swap of sorts as the SCL had purchased all 10 of the BQ23-7’s with Blomberg trucks from EMD locomotives they traded in.  When the new-to-N&A engine arrived in Richmond, the N&A foreman mentioned that the only issue he had with this specific GE unit was the Blomberg trucks. CSX kindly offered to trade them for FB-2 trucks coming off a recently wrecked U23B, refurbishing them in the process and only charging the N&A with the additional labor to make the swap.

As of late 1990, the C&O/Chessie System/CSX shops had repainted every diesel on the line.  By maintaining an all-GE shop, the N&A general manager was considerate to the amount of maintenance support the units would require.  This minimized the number of differing parts stocked and also meant that once trained, the mechanics would be prepared to work on most any of the GE locomotives.  The similarities between the smaller switches, 44-ton, 35-ton, and 25-ton units was easy to manage and the larger U18B was closely similar to the B23-7 series locomotives as its electronics had been updated when the additional controls were installed in the unit.  The U18B, #7 soon began handling the Alberene to Esmont run bringing large loadings of soapstone out for transport over CSX, while #8, the B23-7, now ran strictly between Rockfish and Schuyler where another wye was added to turn the diesel east of the yard.  Redistribution of power was in order and the 44-ton units, #1 and #4 were soon assigned to primary quarry duty handling larger flatcars and heavier loading to bring the soapstone out for mill use or to add to loads headed to one of the terminals.  The single 35-ton unit, #2, became the mill switcher at Schuyler handling all loads to satisfy the gang saws and making up trains for either direction on the mainlines.  The three 25-ton units now became celebrities in their own rights as #3, purchased back in 1953 continued to serve the Rockfish terminal tracks and used 25-ton, #5 had the honors of serving the expanded Warren tracks and interchange with CSX including a periodic run up to Esmont for a pickup from the Esmont Slate Company quarry.   The last of the 25-ton units, #6 served with honor at the Schuyler mill shuttling cars between the car shop and putting flatcars into position for the overhead crane to pick up or deposit soapstone blocks or stacks of slabs.  This unit was also responsible for lining up boxcars for loading or unloading at the mill doors.  Schuyler was quite the busy place by 1995. 

 Alberene Stone had survived many bad economic times and yet continued to find new markets for soapstone or soapstone by-products.  During the 1990’s they saw unprecedented growth yet stayed cautious when it came to capital expenditures having seen their success and failure at different times not predictable.  In 2001 everyone experienced a shock from world events yet the largest difference in soapstone operations was awareness that people far from Schuyler, Esmont, Alberene, and Warren had no regard for the simple way of life in rural Virginia or elsewhere in the country.  Many times, dark events had foreshadowed loss of contracts followed by loss of jobs but not this time.  In an unusual twist, business actually grew and more demand for talc as an ingredient to products would take on the largest amount of sales for the first time.  By 2003 the company was thinking it was time to rethink its motive power strategy, but cool heads prevailed and the company rode out the boom cycle with the locomotives on hand.  Wishful thinking on how the boom could keep growing was not to be.  Across the nation a crisis was brewing that would take many people’s homes and destroy many a business.  With good management, Alberene Stone had stayed solvent, never borrowing more than needed to maintain operations that met the current sales.  Suddenly 2008 would turn out to be an economic downturn for the employees of the company who lost investments or their homes or both. 

As 2009 drove on, the company downsized significantly, but never removed the schedule of trains whose shipments were the lifeblood of the company.  But talc would again save the day when in 2010 and 2011 when business boomed riding on the coattails of talc shipments.  The shipments had become the primary target for business success not only for Alberene Stone but for its wholly-owned subsidiary, the N&A.  It was evident that a dedicated trainset was needed to take advantage of what might be a limited opportunity.  The Nelson & Albemarle Railway took over this plan and decided to lease from another entity, CSX.  Bold ideas took hold and the availability of a newer, GE ES44AC Evolution series locomotive was acquired on a year-to-year lease proving 4400 HP in a single diesel and riding on 6 axles (a C-C truck arrangement) to lighten the load on the rails.  CSX #876 would become N&A #10 (with small lettering below the number, “CSXT”.  Built in April 2008, the GE diesel (construction #58562), was good business for CSX to lease to the N&A as it fed all of the talc shipments  direct to their James River Line.  Rather than a full repaint, CSX put large yellow letters down both sides of the blue locomotive, “NELSON & ALBEMARLE”, in a similar fashion to how they had lettered the U18B, the B23-7, and the BQ23-7 in past years.  The letters “N&A” were painted on the nose in blue contrasting against the standard yellow nose of the leased diesel.  Accordingly, Alberene Stone upgraded track between Warren and Schuyler to specifically prepare for this locomotive.  Train control had never been an issue with the Nelson & Albemarle Railway.  Their schedule defined each train movement and with the use of cellular technology, all trains were now controlled through Schuyler on the top floor of the former General Store.  While signaling was not purchased, there was a distinct fear of miscommunications between train crews or misreading train orders.  And so these considerations finally led the N&A to double-track the line between Esmont and Schuyler and station the leased #10 at Esmont to bring in materials to Schuyler and return twice daily with a 20 car talc train.  A new yard based just south of Damon, Virginia allowed for making up the talc trains out of Schuyler.  The double-track main line truly doubled capacity for all afternoon trains as they used both tracks eastbound to deliver shipments to an expanded south-Esmont yard where #10 would add them onto a long drag into the yard at Warren for transfer to CSX.  Realizing the increase in business, CSX decided to double-track their portion of the rail line between Warren and Esmont including the addition of a double crossover just north of Warren and four additional sidings to store cars waiting for the local to switch the covered hoppers into trains for the journey to manufacturers in Cincinnati. 

 Nelson & Albemarle “Leased from CSX” Roster






Comment / History






CSX #876 Leased by Nelson & Albemarle as their #10

            In 2013, the Nelson & Albemarle Railway celebrated their 110th anniversary with the dedication of a train-themed park in Schuyler and a similar park in Alberene.  The only surviving steam locomotive, the 0-4-0T Vulcan built in October 1909 as construction #1436, was brought to the park in Schuyler for the dedication, being not far from its original home rails on the Old Dominion Soapstone Company tracks at Damon. With a recently constructed replacement water tank (the original having been removed many years past so the tank engine could be displayed at a motel in Marion, Virginia), the engine would be reconstructed/refurbished at the Roanoke Shops of the Norfolk Southern in time for the return of passenger service on the N&A albeit for only one weekend in the summer of 2015.    The 2nd #2 steam locomotive was restored to working condition handling a 3-car lightweight passenger car special six times in two days as it moved from the NS interchange at Rockfish down through Schuyler past Damon and on to Esmont where it posed for photographers including several photo run-by on the line south of town before heading into Warren and meeting up with the CSX and then retracing its route back to Rockfish.  The diminutive locomotive would spend time in Goshen, Virginia to remember the people that saved her from the scrapper’s torch and then in a fitting tribute, would become part of the C&O Railway Historical Society’s collection on display at Clifton Forge, Virginia.

By late 2017, architectural use of soapstone become the second most shipped product out of the mill at Schuyler.  Slabs of soapstone travelled like plywood on large bulkhead flatcars but with load limits requiring the N&A to acquire twenty of the specialty rail cars to serve the interchange with the Norfolk Southern at Rockfish.  The lead time for a return flat car was almost three weeks, so this became a bottleneck for shipping until additional used cars were acquired in 2019.  Soapstone talc for cosmetics had been the saving grace for the soapstone works and now architectural stone used in countertops, floor tiles, and other building uses supplanted the cosmetics industry needs. 

The fog starts to lift and the realization that this was just imagination sets in as the fantasy of continued operations gives way to an overgrown trail through the woods with dilapidated bridges and washed-out roadbed.  While it was fun to think about the “What if’s” for this article, the reality is much harsher.  Gone are the sounds of steam whistles in the deep cuts and hollows of lower Albemarle and the Rockfish valley.  The diesel horn is silenced as well and the sound of trucks travelling up and down Route 6 is all that you hear in the distance.  Overgrown vines and weeds cover most of the original roadbed and trying to traverse the pathway is near impossible today.  But the dream of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway continues.

Author’s Notes:  The last couple of years has been left to the reader’s imagination as the events of the world have taken over much of our thinking about economies, personal safety and getting back to a normality that feels comfortable.  

**  Many thanks go to Jerry A. Pinkepank and Louis A. Marre, authors of “Diesel Spotter’s Guide UPDATE from 1979 for providing inspiration that added to this fanciful tale.  They included photographs of SCL #252 on page 16, Southern #3971 on page 27, and SCL 5131 on the cover and page 27 which became the basis for thinking about this “What If…”.  

**  If you were expecting photographs of the 'supposed' diesel engines or the refurbished #2 steamer, those will be in the book and are still at graphics being 'photoshopped' for the N&A look and feel.

Send email to if you have any comments or questions or wish to contribute to future articles.

Copyright 2021 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.

Still looking for more:  While we found a great 1892 topographical map updated to include tracks into Rockfish, we continue to look for diagrams of the railway track at Rockfish in the era of 1905 to 1930.  Even more desired are photographs of the area.   If you have something to share, please write to us at the email address above.
Copyright 2021 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.

The N&A Roster is presented here for reference:
** Note:  Updates noted in BLUE typeface

The Nelson & Albemarle Railway Roster 2021 Update
This is the 2020 update of information on the Nelson & Albemarle Railway equipment and includes steam, diesel, and motor-car information.  If you have additional information on the roster, or have a previously unknown photograph of any equipment, please write to and share your data. We are especially looking for data on the first #2 and #3; engine #8 and the Fairbanks-Morse motor car (velocipede).

"Since C. E. Fisher first compiled a two-page document chronicling the motive power of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway in the 1940's, there have been 4 published collections of data that provided detail on the equipment used by the soapstone companies that was leased or provided to the Nelson & Albemarle Railway for it's use.  C. E. Fisher's roster is held in the Youngstown State University (Ohio) Archives Library in the Lester L. Dickson Collection and is a minor part of C. E. Fisher's lifes work.  He was author of such books as The Early Railroads of Kentucky, The McConnell Locomotives, and The United States Military Railroads."

Nelson & Albemarle Railway Roster
Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
Schuyler Railway Trolley N/A --- Lewis & Fowler 1891 Unknown 1899-1905

Three (3) Lewis & Fowler single truck, open platform trolley cars purchased secondhand from Lynchburg Street Railway.  Originally built with Eickemeyer trucks (jack shafts and side rods) there were 6 cars purchased from the manufacturer in Brooklyn, New York and received starting 3 March 1891 and ending 5 May 1891 as the Lynchburg Street Railway's first trolleys.  Schuyler Railway purchased and received them in summer/fall 1899 with Maguire #20 trucks and Westinghouse motors that had been retrofitted in May 1892.  Though the Lynchburg Street Railway had tried a different version of the Eickemeyer trucks, they were no more successful than the original and were discarded in favor of the change out to Maguire trucks and Westinghouse motors.  A fourth trolley may also have been purchased to use for parts (or as noted in Hill City Trolleys by Harold E. Cox. this may have been used solely as locomotive). Noted in soapstone company memorandums, one car had all seats removed for use as locomotive.  Two remaining trolley had some seats removed to provide mixed train service.  Three non-powered freight cars were also noted as owned.  It is significant to note that while at a reunion of sorts, Thomas Drumheller reported that some of the trolley cars came from trolley systems in Washington and Baltimore though no documents have been found to support that recollection.

* Photograph in Hill Street Trolleys by Harold E. Cox in NEARHS colletion of Nelson & Albemarle Railway memorabilia.  Copyright Protected - Permission requested to use.

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
Alberene Railroad C&O         Equipment --- --- --- --- --- 1897-1903

Leased by the C&O immediately upon completion on 13 July 1897 for five years as their Alberene Branch, the line was subsequently purchased by the C&O on 15 February 1902.  All equipment used on the line was C&O power.  Albemarle Soapstone Company likely had own small locomotive (ST) to manage quarry operations moving soapstone to mill.  Typical motive power on branch lines by this time were the Consolidations (2-8-0) and a C&O roster is available for locomotives that were purchased and in use from 1890 through 1901 and likely available to use on branch lines.

* Digital photo of the Roundhouse model 84773 Chesapeake & Ohio steam locomotive 2-6-0 #425 typical of the era (though paint scheme more likely black) and typical type used on branch lines from photograph of model in the NEARHS collection of Nelson & Albemarle Railway memorabilia.

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
1 (1st) 0-4-0T 7x12 28" Porter May 1887 836 1903-1920

Former Richmond City Railway #1 "Belle" an 0-4-0DY based on Vulcan catalogue style, "Lake Side"; subsequently sold to SI&E in 1920 as #1599; thence to Pierce-Williams (Fruit Basket Company) in Jonesboro, Arkansas on 17 April 1924.  Only known photograph available in Smithsonian Institution, Negative #893603, Frame 42077.

* Photo Print on heavy photo paper from NEARHS collection of Nelson & Albemarle Railway memorabilia.

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
2 (1st) Unknown --- --- --- --- --- 1903-1920
Likely small 0-4-0T unit serving quarry operations at either Alberene or Schuyler.  No confirmed record of this locomotive has been found as of 1/1/18. 

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
3 (1st) Unknown --- --- --- --- --- 1903-1920
Likely small 0-4-0T unit serving quarry operations at either Alberene or Schuyler.  No record of this locomotive has been found as of 1/1/18.
Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
4 2-6-2T 14x20 --- Porter Dec 1904 3107 1904-1924
Built by Porter in December 1904, the first NEW locomotive for Nelson & Albemarle Railway provided mainline power for 19 years and was subsequently sold to SI&E in 1924 as their #1939.  From there it was sold to the Batesville & Southwestern on 13 September 1924 as an 0-6-0 with 8 wheel tender becoming B&SW #11 in Batesville, Mississippi.  The locomotive was resold to SI&E as #2483 for scrap in 1942.

* Photo courtesy of David Price collection with permission provided for use.  View as seen at Southern Iron & Equipment before conversion to 0-6-0 with tender.  Print now in NEARHS collection of Nelson & Albemarle Railway memorabilia.

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
5 0-4-4T 12x16 42" Pittsburgh Jan 1894 1510 1905-1924

Former Manhattan Ry. 2nd #60; Class K-2, engine weight 47000#, weight on drivers 33000#, wheel base 16', 1"; number of tubes=14, heating surface 546sf; boiler diameter 42" with Belpaire firebox; water capacity 512g; built 10 January 1894; (20 total locomotives built in this series). Noted to have vacuum brakes.  To Virginia Alberene Corp. via P. McManus, Cape Charles, Virginia (dealer).  Sold to Virginia Soapstone, 6 March 1905.; reportedly resold to P. McManus around 1920 though no documentation found to support the resale.  Commonly referred to as a Forney-type locomotive.

* Photograph is from Collection of New York Transit Museum Archives (see copyright restriction embedded in thumbnail image) from NEARHS collection of Nelson & Albemarle Railway memorabilia. Courtesy of the New York Transit Museum Archives.  "This image cannot be reproduced without the written permission of the New York Transit Museum Archives."  Please do not copy or infringe on these rights. Copies are available from the New York Transit Museum Archives via their website

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
6 0-4-4T 12x16 42" Pittsburgh Dec 1893 1508 1905-1924
Former Manhattan Ry. 2nd #56; Class K-2, engine weight 47000#, weight on drivers 33000#, wheel base 16', 1"; number of tubes=14, heating surface 546sf; boiler diameter 42" with Belpaire firebox; water capacity 512g, built 22 December 1893; (20 total locomotives built in this series). Noted to have vacuum brakes. To Virginia Alberene Corp. via P. McManus, Cape Charles, Virginia (dealer); Sold to Virginia Soapstone, 19 May 1905.;  reportedly resold to P. McManus around 1920 though no documentation found to support the resale.  Commonly referred to as a Forney-type locomotive.

* See photograph from N&A #5 above (note restrictions from copyright and see the New York Transit Museum Archives at their website: 

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
7 2-4-2T 8x12 26" Baldwin Nov 1887 8874 1905-1920

Ex-Proctor Coal Company #1, "Hutchcraft"; Used as primary locomotive on Schuyler to Rockfish run; sold to SI&E in May 1920 as their #1597.  thence to A. F. Langford Co. #2  Bartey, Florida on 23 September 1920 with cylinders changed to 17x24.  Original Photo in Smithsonian Institution, Negative #893602 - Frame #42076.  The photograph that has been requested for permission to use is now from the R. C. Ballard Thruston Collection of the Filson Historical Society Special Collections Library at the University of Kentucky.  This was likely photographed when the locomotive was newly acquired from Baldwin Locomotive Works.  Note the lettering under the cab, "Hutchcraft".

*  Original photo in use was of photographic print "Nelson & Albemarle Railway Baldwin 2-4-2 Tank Locomotive", circa 1920, Thomas Norrell Railroad Collection, NMAH.AC.1174, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, box number 80, folder 17, digital file number 893602/42076 from NEARHS collection of Nelson & Albemarle Railway memorabilia.  In 2017, we have received permission to use the photograph now shown providing credit to the R. C. Ballard Thruston Collection of the Filson Historical Society Special Collections Library at the University of Kentucky.  The high-resolution image was used for the topic of the April 2017 This Month's Article on this Baldwin-built locomotive when first in service at the Proctor Coal Company.

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
8 Unknown --- --- --- --- --- 1905-1920

Remembered by 'old-timers' as having a tender; however no known photographs or references.   It should be noted that some switching locomotives sold by the Baldwin Locomotive Works included separate tenders to extend the operational capacity of the locomotive when access to clean water was not always available. 
However, Virginia Alberene purchased a Vulcan locomotive secondhand originally built for W. A. Douglas & Co. as Vulcan construction number 138 in June 1883.   Having 9x14" cylinders and no other defining characteristics noted with exception of gauge being 36".   There is no record of this locomotive being a tank engine or having a tender, but most of the locomotives built in this sequence by Vulcan were tank engines.  Note that Virginia Alberene was formed about 1916 at or near time of purchase of the Old Dominion Soapstone Company.

* Image taken from Virginia Alberene stock certificate blank in NEARHS collection of Nelson & Albemarle Railway memorabilia.

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
"Maude" 4-whl  "Sheffield" Velocipede --- --- Fairbanks-Morse Company Unknown --- 1903~05-Unknown

A unit purchased through Fairbanks-Morse, a Sheffield Velocipede, (though term velocipede had been changed to 'Sheffield Car') was used in early days of N&A for the personal service of the general manager and executives though frequently allowed to be used for other purposes.  Purchased by J. W. Foster of the N&A Railway several years before 1910 (Reference:  Memo to Fairbanks Morse in 1910 where the unit is called 'Maude').  Note:  Sheffield Velocipedes had model names that all started with the letter "M" including "Maude", though no catalog has been found with the specific model mentioned.  There was continued search for this in several higher education libraries (Vanderbilt University, Southern Methodist University, etc.) during 2017 and only possible lead on this unit was a photo book of F-M Velocipedes priced at over $2500 that will not be purchased to see if "Maude" has a photograph included.  The search for an illustration of "Maud" or "Maude" continues with the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution in 2018.  Calls to Fairbanks-Morse Engines in Beloit, Wisconsin did not yield results even though this is a descendant from the original company (Wheeling Eclipse Windmills).

* Photograph from public domain copy of Fairbanks-Morse catalog circa 1905.  No.2 is Code Word, Minturn while Code Word Maude is another model though similar to this depiction from the NEARHS collection of Nelson & Albemarle Railway memorabilia.

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
1 (2nd) 0-4-0T 7x12 24" Vulcan Jun 1905 675 1916-1920

Old Dominion Soapstone Company was merged into the Virginia Alberene Corporation in February 1917 and their locomotives became part of the soapstone companies operations though on separate properties. Built for Old Dominion Soapstone of Esmont, Virginia as "Vulcan".  Company headquartered at Damon, Virginia at time of merger. Sold by the Nelson & Albemarle Railway to Southern Iron & Equipment in 1920 as SI&E #1600.  There was no record of resale from SI&E.  Photo in Smithsonian Institution, Negative #893604 - Frame #42078.

*  The image in use is a copy of a photographic print "Nelson & Albemarle Railway Vulcan 0-4-0 Tank Locomotive", circa 1920, Thomas Norrell Railroad Collection, NMAH.AC.1174, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, box number 80, folder 17, digital file number 893604/42078 from NEARHS collection of Nelson & Albemarle Railway memorabilia.

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
2 (2nd) 0-4-0T 11x16 30" Vulcan Oct 1909 1436 1916-1942

Old Dominion Soapstone Company was merged into the Virginia Alberene Corporation in February 1917 and their locomotives became part of the soapstone companies operations though on separate properties. Built for Old Dominion Soapstone on 4 October 1909, the locomotive had service weight of 41,000#, tank capacity of 750 gallons, Fuel capacity of 500#; a working pressure of 145# and rated tractive effort of 9050# and an oil headlamp.  Company headquartered at Damon, Virginia at time of merger.  Received new boiler in June 1926.  Continued in service until 1 December 1931 noted as out-of-service on the quarry property.  Virginia Alberene merged with Alberene Stone Corporation in April 1935 with no change to numbering or out-of-service status of locomotive except added to the Nelson & Albemarle Railway roster.  Though noted as sold to American Cyanimid in 1942, records from the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway held by the Whippany Railway Museum confirm that the locomotive was sold to the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway in June 1942 for $600 as their first #4 where it was used for a year and a half hauling ballast trains as the railroad upgraded its roadbed to accommodate  increase of traffic from aplite plants and Southern Mineral Products facility.  Noted historian, Tom Lawson, Jr. (author of Locomotives of the SI&E Company) received detail from Alan Maples in 2014 that showed that VBR had shipper, American Cyanimid at Piney River pay for work on the locomotive and they did not have an ownership stake in the engine.  The Virginia Blue Ridge sold the locomotive when no longer needed to Leas & McVitty, Inc. a tanning extract manufacturer in Buena Vista, Virginia on 22 December 1943 for $2500.  Taken out of service in the late-1950's, the locomotive was sold to Charles Watson in 1962 who displayed locomotive in front of a motel in Marion, Virginia (with the saddle tank removed).  Purchased later by Will Harris of North Fork Lumber Company of Goshen, Virginia where the locomotive remains in static condition on siding (next to a Shay) in private collection and viewable on request.  This is the only remaining Nelson & Albemarle Railway rostered-locomotive not scrapped.

* Photograph part of misc. set of photo prints purchased from dealer at Railroad Memorabilia show at Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles, Illinois with no identified photographer and now part of NEARHS collection of Nelson & Albemarle Railway memorabilia.

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
9 2-6-2T 17x24 46" Vulcan Apr 1920 3045 1920-1952

Vulcan built the next new locomotives for the Nelson & Albemarle Railway 15 years after #4 was purchased from Porter.  2-6-2ST #9 was purchased by Virginia Alberene Corporation and delivered to Schuyler, Virginia in 1920 weighing 74 tons (148,000#).  The locomotive became the primary mainline engine from delivery until replaced in the 3rd (and last) set of new locomotives with GE 44-ton diesel #1 taking over in 1951, 30 years after #9 arrived.  #9 would be sent for scrap in April 1951 with scrapping likely occurring in Richmond, Virginia at Peck Iron & Metals (though actually at Deepwater Terminal where C&O, SAL, ACL locomotives were scrapped in long lines of processing that put the scrap metal on ships for eventual export).

* Photograph from unknown photographer with negative in the NEARHS collection of Nelson & Albemarle Railway memorabilia.

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
10 2-6-2T 15x24 42" Vulcan Dec 1922 3278 1922-1953

Built for the Nelson & Albemarle Railway as 2-6-2ST #10 two years after #9 was built, this slightly smaller tank locomotive was purchased by Virginia Alberene Corporation and delivered to Rockfish, Virginia weighing 56 tons (112,000#).  Used for traffic between Schuyler and Rockfish and also as the secondary locomotive for mainline between Schuyler and Esmont/Warren whenever #9 was out of service.  With the arrival of GE-35 ton diesel #2 in late 1952, #10 would be scrapped in 1953 with scrapping likely occurring in Richmond, Virginia at Peck Iron & Metals (though actually at Deepwater Terminal where C&O, SAL, ACL locomotives were scrapped in long lines of processing that put the scrap metal on ships for eventual export).

* Photograph is W. H. Thayer picture postcard from NEARHS collection of Nelson & Albemarle Railway memorabilia.  A negative of this photograph is also in the NEARHS collection.

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
11 2-4-2T 14x22 40" Vulcan Oct 1909 1381 1923-1954

Built for Culver & Port Clinton Railroad, Gypsum, Ohio as their #2, this Vulcan-built locomotive weighed 43 tons (86,000#) and served a mining industry (Gypsum) in much the way locomotives served the Nelson & Albemarle Railway support for the soapstone works.  #2 was said to have received a new boiler (#2929) in July 1916.  Due to an as yet unknown reason, #2 was at the Vulcan shops at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania before being sold to Nelson & Albemarle Ry in March 1923 (noted as going to N&A in April 1923).  Another new boiler was noted as installed in 1927 (though shown places as same boiler #2929 from 1916).  While said to have been scrapped in 1954, there is a known photograph from 1951 with #11 in Warren where the locomotive was usually operating only in Schuyler (likely meaning that both #9 and #10 were out of service and #11 was the only available engine before GE 44-ton #1 arrived) .  With diesel power replacing #9 as the mainline locomotive, #11 would be the last active steam survivor on the N&A with scrapping taking place in 1954.  Like #9 and #10, #11 may have traveled via the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway into Richmond, Virginia to be transferred onto the Seaboard Air Line Railway at C&O's 17th Street rail yard (next to the former Richmond Locomotive Works) for transport to Peck Iron & Metal (at Deepwater Terminal) where the locomotive would have been cut up by torch for scrap metal that was then loaded onto ships.

* Photograph is an unknown photographer print from photo taken on 20 August 1941 from NEARHS collection of Nelson & Albemarle Railway memorabilia.  N&A #14 is also shown in photo (and photo from opposite direction is also in the NEARHS collection).

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
12 0-4-0T 12x18 33" Vulcan Feb 1924 3426 1924-1953

During the boom years in the early 1920's, Virginia Alberene Corporation purchased additional motive power from Vulcan including 0-4-0T #12 which as delivered to Rockfish, Virginia weighing 30 tons (60,000#).  Like the remainder of steamers, diesel power would cause #12 to be scrapped 1953 once GE 25-ton #3 was delivered early in the year. Scrapping likely occurred in Richmond, Virginia at Peck Iron & Metals (though actually at Deepwater Terminal where C&O, SAL, ACL locomotives were scrapped in long lines of processing that put the scrap metal on ships for eventual export).

* Photograph is an H. Reid picture postcard from NEARHS collection of Nelson & Albemarle Railway memorabilia.

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
Not Named or Numbered 4 wheel - gas powered --- --- Plymouth (Fate-Root-Heath Company) Oct 1924 1860 1924-1963

Puchased by Phoenix Stone Company of New York City for delivery to Standard Soapstone of Arrington, Virginia as 42" gauge locomotive, this gas-powered, 4-wheel unit was built 13 October 1924 as Model DLC, Type 6.  When soapstone companies merged, the ownership was transferred to the Virginia Alberene Corporation on 18 December 1930 and converted to Standard Gauge at some point.  A single photo of tracks by a quarry appear to show the unit at Schuyler, however, the photo may actually be of a side-dump ballast car that the N&A owned.   According to an article by Ed Fielding in The Short Line: The Journal of Shortline & Industrial Railroads in January/February 1978 (Volume 6, Number 1; TSL #31), this Plymouth unit (un-numbered) was in the engine house at Schuyler in 1965 making it the last of the roster to be present on the original property.

* Photo from NEARHS collection of prints.

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
14 0-4-0T 12x18 33" Vulcan Feb 1925 3507 1925-1953

Built in February 1925 (though shown some places as built in 1926) this Vulcan 0-4-0T was purchased by the Virginia Alberene Corporation as Nelson & Albemarle #14 delivered to Schuyler, Virginia weighing 30 tons (60,000#) and a basic duplicate of N&A 0-4-0T #12.  Scrapped 1953 as #12 was, the scrapping likely occurred in Richmond, Virginia at Peck Iron & Metals (though actually at Deepwater Terminal where C&O, SAL, ACL locomotives were scrapped in long lines of processing that put the scrap metal on ships for eventual export).

* Photograph is an unknown photographer's picture postcard from NEARHS collection of Nelson & Albemarle Railway memorabilia.

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
15 0-4-0T 12x16 33" Vulcan Jan 1917 2590 1928-1953
Originally built for the Chile Exploration Company, weighing 26 tons (52,000#), the company never took delivery of the engine.  It was sold to the Rhodes Construction Company.  On March 7, 1928, the locomotive was then sold to the Virginia Alberene Company.  Used on their subsidiary, Alberoyd Company of Esmont, Virginia as their #1, it was assigned to the crusher plant at Damon where it would remain until the crusher plant was moved to Schuyler and the locomotive followed (becoming #15).  Disposition unknown but assumed scrapped around 1953 along with #12 and #14. Scrapping likely occurred in Richmond, Virginia at Peck Iron & Metals (though actually at Deepwater Terminal where C&O, SAL, ACL locomotives were scrapped in long lines of processing that put the scrap metal on ships for eventual export).  Note that the Richmond Deepwater Terminal where Peck Iron & Metals were located nearby was serviced by the Seaboard Air Line Railway and traffic destined for scrapping arriving from the C&O made interchange to the SAL from the adjacent C&O 17th Street yard in Richmond.

Note:  Previously, the only known photograph of N&A Railway #15 was the copy of the original builder's photograph found within a copyrighted book.  While this was originally reported to be in the Library of Congress (see This Month's Article - March 2016) it was recently found at the Smithsonian Institution archives where their Department of Transportation moved the entire Southern Iron & Equipment collection including photographs circa 1903-1960 between departments in 1989.
Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
1 (3rd) B-B --- --- GE Dec 1950 30856 1951-1963

GE 44-ton B-B Diesel c/n 30856 was built in December 1950 for the Nelson & Albemarle Railway #1 (the third #1) on requisition #RIC-29947 555/733/D-17000 and was rated at 44-tons and 400hp.  It was shipped to the N&A on 9 January 1951.  (The D-17000 is technically rated as 2, Caterpillar V-8 diesel engines at-180hp each plus 2-134kw motors though listed as 400hp for this unit).  This diesel replaced 2-6-2T #9 as the mainline engine until the end of the N&A line when shutdown in 1963.  Officially transferred to Georgia Marble ownership in 1963, the diesel was moved to Tate, Georgia.  After some time, the diesel was sent to Gantt's Quarry in Alabama, then sold to Industrial Maintenance (Service) Co. in 1976 but never sent to their property before being sold to Hamburg Industries of North Augusta, South Carolina (Hamburg Industries was later purchased by TTX).  The diesel did get painted in a Hamburg Industries color scheme and numbered as their #2.  (Photograph in Hamburg Industries color scheme exists but no permission to use at this time).  Last known photograph taken 30 July 1982 by Mac Connery of Durham, North Carolina.  When TTX planned a re-engine project, 30856 was not selected for upgrades.  Instead, #2 was used as spare parts for the remaining 44-ton units on the property, stored for a short time on the west side of the TTX property until eventually scrapped with Progress Rail (possibly as a trade-in for another 44-ton unit).  Noted as scrapped at Patterson, Georgia, but Progress Rail reports that any unit sent for scrapping would have been forwarded to Mayfield, Kentucky.  The detail on how TTX handled the disposition and scrapping of former N&A #1 (Hamburg Industries #2) was relayed verbally while visiting the TTX facility in North Augusta, South Carolina.

* Photograph is from Photographer, Charles Wales (slide) taken on 30 October 1953 near Esmont, Virginia and is original slide from the NEARHS collection of Nelson & Albemarle Railway memorabilia.

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
2 (3rd) B --- --- GE Nov 1952 31768 1952-1963

GE 35-ton B Diesel c/n 31768 (rare unit) was built in November 1952 for Alberene Stone Corp. as Nelson & Albemarle #2 (third #2) on requisition #RIC-49116-2 558/733/NHBIS and was rated at 35-tons and 234hp.  It was shipped to Alberene Stone Company on 5 December 1952.  Diesel #2 replaced multiple steam locomotives used in quarry operations and was in service until the end of the N&A line when shutdown in 1963.  Officially transferred to Georgia Marble ownership in 1963, the diesel was sent to Alabama Marble Division, Gantt's Quarry, as Alabama Marble #2 in Sylacauga, Alabama (repainted into Georgia Marble colors at some point) and served the Imerys Pigment Plant (merger activity of Georgia Marble).  Last know photographed in 2005.  Confirmed scrapped for metal in 2009 or 2010 by security personnel at Gantt's Quarry on August 26, 2015 while onsite in Sylacauga, Alabama.  Unit was rusted out badly and no longer able to perform workload.  Working to confirm what company scrapped the diesel with Abel Mendoza, Imerys rail operations manager in Georgia.

* Top photograph is from an original negative owned and in the NEARHS collection of #2 when still new on the Nelson & Albemarle Railway in 1953 at Schuyler, Virginia.  The original photograph shown at the bottom was taken by Tom Lawson, Jr. on 8 June 1963 at Gantt's Quarry Alabama and is from a picture postcard in the NEARHS collection of N&A Railway memorabilia..

You might remember that Tom Lawson is the author of "Locomotives of the Southern Iron & Equipment Company" available from Cabbage Stack Publishing in Birmingham, Alabama 35219 (P.O. Box 19912) for $49.95. Go to this webpage to complete form and forward for purchase:   If you haven't bought "Locomotives of the Southern Iron & Equipment Company" yet, don't delay!  The book is an invaluable resource to anyone working to find locomotive history such as that of the N&A Railway. 

Number Type Cylinders Drivers Builder Built C/N or S/N Year Range
3 (2nd) B --- --- GE Jan 1953 31778 1953-1963

GE 25-ton B Diesel c/n 31778 was built in January 1953 for Alberene Stone Corp. as Nelson & Albemarle #3 (second #3) on requisition #RIC-49116-3 1503/747/HBI and was rated at 25-tons and 150hp.  It was shipped to Alberene Stone Company on 6 February 1953.  Diesel #3 replaced  steam locomotives used in quarry operations and was in service until the end of the N&A line when shutdown in 1963.  Officially transferred to Georgia Marble ownership in 1963, this small diesel was sent to Nelson, Georgia where it remained stored out-of-service for quite some time.  Lewis Rhodes of Railrhodes, Inc. of Monroe, Georgia acquired the diesel and in 2002 made the sale of the 25-ton diesel to Great Lakes Calcium company in Woodville, Ohio.  In 2004, GLC Woodville site was sold to the National Lime & Stone company who almost immediately closed the Woodville Plant.  Conversation with NL&S found that no 25-ton unit was involved in the takeover of the Woodville Plant facility or movement of materials to NL&S's main site in Carey, OH.  While thought to be scrapped prior to 2004, there was a comment mentioned by NL&S that #3 may have been involved in a wreck at the Woodville Plant property and might have been shipped to GLC's Green Bay, Wisconsin facility.  With no additional sightings since 2003, unconfirmed photos of a GE 25-ton unit appeared in mid-2008 taken by Michael Ostertag (and posted on on 14 June 2008 that appeared to be GE c/n 31778.  Then in late-2013 photographs were taken describing the location as Great Lakes Calcium in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Great Lakes Calcium in Green Bay was contacted by phone and they advised on 14 February 2014, that the unit is in use daily to move cars and is indeed GE c/n 31778.  There are at least 2 photographs on Flickr from photographer Kim Kafura of the Green Bay engine taken in late-2013 and he has granted permission to use his image(s) here (shown at bottom).  During 2015, this last remaining diesel was visited in Green Bay, Wisconsin and opportunity was provided to not only ride in the diesel but also pilot the locomotive on the Great Lakes Calcium site (under guidance of a licensed engineer!) and photographs of this experience have been shared in a This Month's Article during 2017.

* Top photograph is from an original negative owned and in the NEARHS collection of #3 when still new on the Nelson & Albemarle Railway in 1953 at Schuyler, Virginia quarries.  The bottom photograph was provided by Kim Kafura to the NEARHS collection of Nelson & Albemarle Railway memorabilia.  Thanks also go to Tom Lawson, Jr. for additional historical and personal detail on 31778 that was previously unknown and fills a large gap of the missing story.  Tom knew Lewis Rhodes of Railrhodes, Inc. when they were both with Republic Locomotive Works in the early 1980's.  Tom tried to purchase 31778 (d/b/a Locomotive Marketing, Inc.), but Railrhodes, Inc. won out.

Remember:  31778 started life in Erie, PENNSYLVANIA; then went to Schuyler, VIRGINIA; from there to Nelson, GEORGIA; and on to Woodville, OHIO before appearing in Green Bay, WISCONSIN.  66 years old and lived in 5 different states!

Reference:  All photographs are available from sources as noted with each picture used in the article.

Send email to if you have any comments or questions or wish to contribute to future articles.

Copyright 2009-2021- Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.

Dedicated to the historical significance of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway, this site provides a reference point for publications, websites, film, and photographs of the N&A and where to find them and/or buy copies of those references, publications and photographs.

The Nelson & Albemarle Railway, notable for it's end to end connections for a number of years between the Southern Railway at Rockfish, Virginia (Nelson County) and the C&O Railway at Warren, Virginia (Albemarle County), was wholly-owned by the Alberene Stone Company (and predecessors).  Starting in Nelson County at company headquarters at Schuyler, Virginia, the original line extended along the Rockfish River within the county to Rockfish Depot for interchange with the Southern Railway while the company was known as the Virginia Soapstone Company.  With the C&O already providing trackage to another company with a mill operating in Alberene, Virginia, the track originated in Warren, Virginia (Albemarle County) thence to Boiling Springs, Dawson Mills, and Esmont (depot and other industry including Blue Ridge Slate Company) and from there on to Alberene.  A merger later, the combined company added trackage from Schuyler to a point at Guthrie, Virginia (Albemarle County) where it joined the original C&O tracks.  The Nelson & Albemarle took over rights to trackage down to Esmont and had right-of-way on the C&O from there to Warren based on maintaining the trackage.  My personal interest in the N&A is simple:  My Father worked at Schuyler for the Alberene Stone Company in the gang saw building as his first real job.  I've collected data about the N&A for years and this site has been started to share, where possible, any and all of the information gathered about the N&A.  Ever so often I'll make the effort to inform and enlighten those people who have interest in this shortline standard gauge railroad with where to find articles, pamphlets, booklets, books, photographs (some unpublished and heretofore not known as available for prints). SEE OUR CONTRIBUTIONS NOTE, DISCLAIMER, LIST OF RECENT ADDITIONS TO THE NEARHS LIBRARY, AND SPECIAL PHOTOS BELOW.
Contributions are welcomed, as your input to where information about the N&A can be found is invaluable.  I'm also going to give credit where credit is due: Garth Groff did extensive research and published a great booklet about the N&A.  His booklet rekindled my interest in collecting this "where to find the N&A" effort.  Garth is employed over at the University of Virginia (my brother Gary works at Darden School of Business there) and while his publication is out-of-print, a copy can be found now and then via auction sites. Garth has planned to retire from the UVA community and now follows other interests around medieval re-enactments and archery (including teaching archery to children). There are other references of the N&A in various periodical publications as well, including Railroad Model Craftsman and Narrow Gauge & Shortline Gazette.  You'll see these listed on the "Publications About Nelson & Albemarle" link in the sidebar where we consistently add references with related or of interest publications in the section below on Recent Additions to the NEARHS Library.
DISCLAIMER:  As this is a site to publicize WHERE things can be found, any photo use will be by thumbnail and/or not reproducible in any quality (unless permission has been provided).  Our goal is to show you the link to where the original can be found (website, publication, book purchased, etc.) - not for anything more than a table of contents on where to locate copies or buy a specific book.  There is NO intent to violate anyone's copyrights.  As the owner of an original negative with prints of my negative in the Southern Methodist University Library and recently on an auction site, I am very aware of protecting copyright and having proper permission to utilize materials.  
Please email any references you might have with permission to use (or original photo with copyright permission to print or use on this site) to:  Rob Peters care of or send email direct using this email address: - For 
MEMBERSHIP:  Please email request to participate as a member of the NEARHS.
Welcome to the Nelson & Albemarle Historical Society Website! 
Copyright 2009-2021: NEARHS
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Recent Additions to the NEARHS Library:   
Virginia Railroads, Volume 1: Railroading in the Old Dominion by William E. Griffin, Jr. & Thomas W. Dixon, Jr.;
Crossties to the Depot - Volume 1: Virginia Railroad Stations compiled and edited by John F. Gilbert;
Virginia Railroads, Volume 2:  The Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad by Thomas W. Dixon, Jr.
Historic Photos of Virginia; text and captions by Emily J. and John S. Salmon (photo of Esmont, pg. 46).
The Architecture of Jefferson Country: Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia by K. Edward Lay (photo/plan for Company President's house in Alberene).
West Virginia History - A Quarterly Magazine, Volume XVI, Number 3, April 1955 by State Department of Archives and History, Charleston, West Virginia - Article Canal-Boat Days in Virginia by Marshall Fishwick.
The Canal on the James by T. Gibson Hobbs, Jr.
Yesterday's Trains across the Commonwealth by Dale W. Diacont.
Hill City Trolleys: Street Railways of Lynchburg, Virginia by Harold E. Cox
Architecture In Virginia - Esmont, Albemarle County by Wayne Nelson (part of the series accomplished by the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia) - Spring 1992
Heartbeats of Nelson by Paul Saunders - 2007
O. Winston Link - Life Along The Line by Tony Reevy - 2011 
The Classic Eastern American Railroad Routes by Brian Solomon - 2011
Extra South, 2nd Edition by H. Reid with foreword by Manly Wade Wellman - 1986 (with Extra South New Photo Section and photo of N&A Ry. #10 on page 132)
Tidewater Triangle by Robert J. Yanosey - 1988
Chesapeake & Ohio Railway: A Concise History and Fact Book by Thomas W. Dixon, Jr. of The Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society - 2012 (includes information on Alberene Subdivision)
Off the Track in Ivy - The Wreck of the Old Dominion Express by Garth G. Groff - 1992
Locomotive Quarterly, Volume XVIII, Number 4, Summer 1995 by Metaphor of Mount Vernon New York; Jack W. Farrell, Editor-In-Chief
The Search for Steam by Joe G. Collias - 1972
Short-Line Odyssey: Small Railroads in the Northeast from the '40's to the '70's (The Railroading Series, Volume 3): Photographs and Texts by William S. Young - 1980
Railroad Stories featuring "The Soapstone Limited" (short story):  A Pulp Magazine from November 1935
All Aboard:  American Train Journeys II - Volume 4: Steam Short Lines of the South from Columbia River Entertainment - 1997 (film)
Magazine of Albemarle Count History, Volume 71 - 2013 from Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society - 2013 (feature story on the making of the motion picture, "Virginia")
Illustrated History of General Electric Locomotives by O. M. Kerr - 1979
Centennial Treasury of General Electric Locomotives, Volume 1 by O. M. Kerr - 1981
Centennial Treasury of General Electric Locomotives, Volume 2 by O. M. Kerr - 1981
Images of Rail: Richmond Railroads by Jeff Hawkins - 2010
Greetings from Charlottesville, Virginia and Albemarle County by Samuel Pyeatt Menefee - 2009
H. K. Porter Company - Light Locomotives (catalog reprint) from Periscope Film, LLC - 2010
Train Shed Cyclopedia #6 - Passenger Locomotives from the 1930 Locomotive Cyclopedia by Newton K. Gregg, Publisher - 1973
Train Shed Cyclopedia #2 - Switching & Freight Locomotives from the 1930 Locomotive Cyclopedia by Newton K. Gregg, Publisher - 1972
Virginia Railway Depots by Donald R. Traser through the Old Dominion Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society - 1998
Nelson & Albemarle Railway - Alberene Stone Co. in The Short Line: The Journal of Shortline & Industrial Railroads, Volume 6, Number 1; TSL #31 - January/February 1978
Chesapeake & Ohio Railway: Depots, Towers, and Other Structures 1860-1950 by Thomas W. Dixon, Jr. - 2016
Locomotive Quarterly, Volume XII, Number 3, Summer 1989 by Metaphor of Mount Vernon New York; Jack W. Farrell, Editor-In-Chief
Locomotive Quarterly, Volume XXVIII, Number 2, Winter 2004-5 by Metaphor of Mount Vernon New York; Jack W. Farrell, Editor-In-Chief
Legal History of the Virginia Midland Railway Co., and of the Companies which built its Lines of Road 1881 (2017 printing by Schuler Books) by Charles Minor Blackford of Lynchburg, Virginia; J. P. Bell & Company Printers
Bulletin #119 October 1968 by The Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, Inc., Baker Library, Harvard Business Society, Boston, Massachusetts
SPV's Comprehensive Railroad Atlas of North America - Appalachia & Piedmont 2004 by Mike Walker; published in England by Stuart Andrews, Canterbury Kent, UK d/b/a SPV;  with incorrect map of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway on page 46 (VA-4-Charlottesville) showing Boiling Springs on incorrect segment of line.  From Schuyler to Esmont, Station Stops are Ruffin, Damon, Melvale, Guthrie, and arrive at Esmont.
The Great Railroad War - United States Railway Operations During World War 1 by Rudolph L. Daniels, Ph.D. with foreword by Frank Wilner from The Garbely Publishing Company - 2017
The Toledo, Port Clinton and Lakeside Railway by George W. Hilton published by Montevallo Historical Press 1997
Some Vernacular Railroad Photographs by Jeff Brouws & Wendy Burton.  W. W. Norton & Company New York & London 2013
Soil Map - Virginia Buckingham; Base Map enlarged and redrawn from U.S. Geological Survey Sheet of 1892 by U.S. Department of Agriculture Bureau of Soils with Survey of 1902
The Slate & Willis's River Atlas - Rediscovering Historic Waterways in the Heart of Virginia by W. E. Trout, III and Peter C. Runge for The Virginia Canals and Navigations Society - Third Edition 2018
Your Help Needed: Do you have photographs of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway or the soapstone works?  We're always looking for previously unpublished photographs by known railway photographers (and not so known amateur photographers)!  See photos below that were recently added to the archive.

Join in! ----- The Nelson County Historical Society is a great place to learn about the history of the community around the Nelson & Albemarle Railway stomping grounds of Schuyler, Virginia.  Membership is only $15 and Lifetime membership is $200.  (Family membership is $20).  Send your money to the society at:  Nelson County Historical Society, PO Box 474, Lovingston, Virginia 22949.  
Join in! ---- The Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society is another great place to learn about the history surrounding the area served by the Nelson & Albemarle Railway (Esmont, Alberene).  Membership is $40 for individuals annually.  Join up at the sites membership page:
Join in! ---- The Friends of Esmont is a place where the promotion of Esmont is paramount to the members.  It is hosted by former Esmont resident, Peggy (Purvis) Denby and with Purvis as her maiden name, the connection to Esmont is huge!  Send email to: to receive an email in return or visit the site to submit a form with your Name and Email.  Peggy can also be reached at (404) 680-6122 as noted on the website, but don't let the Atlanta area code fool you - she moved back to the Albemarle area in March 2018!  See for more information.
Please write to if you have memorabilia you'd like to sell or donate!  
Copyright 2020 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.
 Ever gotten a great photograph that you didn't have anywhere to use?  

We recently purchased a negative of the GE c/n30856 locomotive (N&A #1) switching freight at Esmont with depot in photo and pulp car, hopper, 3 boxcars, another hopper, and caboose.  

Halfway down train at switch stand is N&A employee ready to act when train is in or out of cut.  

 Wish we had the name of this photographer from this photo taken at Esmont in 1953 prior to the addition of yellow stripes to the ends of the locomotive.. 

 Or an even better photograph of Locomotive #10 with a view not seen before?  

This photo is courtesy of Janice Brown of Falls Church, Virginia who graciously allowed
it's use for our website.  The young lady and young gentleman on the younger brother and sister of the photographer, James M. Brown who is Janice's father. Photo likely taken in 1943 while his father Obed O. Brown was working at the Schuyler mill.  

It's rare to see the detail on the front of a locomotive as most photographers took their photo's of side or 3/4 views and few (if any) took views that were straight on from front or back).  We hope to have an article from Janice in the future on her family ties to the Schuyler plant and the N&A.

If you're wondering about our Nelson & Albemarle Railway book, it's expected to be published in 2021.  It is a long-drawn out process to prepare a book of any nature, but this one is also being formatted as both an internet-based book and publication in a soft-cover fashion.  We continue to search for missing key details on the track and building layout at Rockfish in the era 1905 to 1930.

Cover - Photo of #9 with boxcar and combine from California Railroad Museum (a Charles Clegg photograph from the Mixed Train Daily series) - dependent on rights to use
Inside - Detailed map of Nelson & Albemarle (to be prepared from multiple sources including plats, valuation maps, diagrams from COHS, topographical maps, etc.)  Note:  This map has been created, but there is a notable gap in the track diagram for the Rockfish, Virginia area which has kept this map from being completed.  We continue to look for that detail as we move forward to publish this book.
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1 - Origin of the N&A; predecessors Schuyler Railway, Alberene Railroad, Lease of the C&O Alberene Subdivision
Chapter 2 - Soapstone Company histories; (Albemarle, Virginia, Alberene + others such as Old Dominion that merged)
Chapter 3 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway - how it began, leases, where it ran, topical discussions on why and where
Chapter 4 - Depots, Yard(s), Sidings, Interchanges, Timetables
Chapter 5 - Steam Locomotives (1, 2; Old Dominion 1, 2; the mystery of 3; 4; 5 & 6; 7; the mystery of 8 and how it got on the N&A Stock Certificate; 9 & 10; 11; 12, 14, 15.)
Chapter 6 - Diesel Locomotives (1, 2, 3 and their subsequent histories)
Chapter 7 - Misc. Powered Equipment & Rosters (4-wheel Sheffield Velocipede bought from Fairbanks-Morse Company model="Maude" which name it kept and Plymouth critter acquired from merger) 
Chapter 8 - Mixed Train Service (great chapter for photographs, but also to showcase the requirement of mixed trains to serve needs)
Chapter 8A - Passenger Service, Equipment, + Caboose(s) including 1 former RF&P (passenger only trains, equipment 'borrowed' from
 the C&O, end of passenger service, caboose as passenger service)

Chapter 8B - Freight Service, Equipment + off line equipment such as freight dollys, soapstone dollys for gang saws, etc.; (boxcar

Chapter 9
- Photographers (Charles Clegg, August Thieme, H. Reid, etc.), Motion Picture Photographer (only 1 known - August Thieme), and Authors (Archie Robertson, Lucius Beebe, Richard Prince, Garth Groff, Mallory Hope Ferrell)s from NYC, etc.; hoppers, ballast car, flat cars to service quarries and gang saws;
Chapter 10 - Publications, etc. on N&A (the web site detail here)
Chapter 11 - The N&A what if and what is (what if the N&A had continued to exist; what is left of the N&A today and how Soapstone is again in a revival period)
Inside back - Fanciful map of the sightseeing along the route, plus the industries other than soapstone served by the line including school 'bus' service.

Copyright 2021 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.

Copyright 2021 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.

Rob Peters,
Oct 8, 2009, 10:40 AM
Rob Peters,
Jul 28, 2009, 5:22 AM
Rob Peters,
Mar 12, 2010, 4:23 PM