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in this shortline standard gauge railroad with where to find articles, pamphlets, booklets, books, photographs (some unpublished and heretofore not known as available for prints).
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 NEARSH 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or send email direct using this email address:
email@example.com - For MEMBERSHIP: Please email request to participate as a member of the NEARHS.
Welcome to the Nelson & Albemarle Historical Society Website!
Copyright 2015: NEARHS
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 #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
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: http://albemarlehistory.org/index.php/membership
Please write to NelsonAlbemarle@comcast.net if you have memorabilia you'd like to sell or donate!
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
Upcoming: Don't forget - We need your help to finish our new N&A map with detail on the track layout at the junction in ROCKFISH or a partial map will be made with this area left blank. Your help would be appreciated in locating this detail.
NEW: Chapter 11 is finished! Expect to see it posted here soon
This Month's Article: January 2016
Photographers of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway, Part 2
In Part 1 of our article series on the Photographer's of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway we mentioned how being shown in the feature film, "Virginia" (1941) brought attention to the shortline even though the train was actually out on the C&O mainline at Howardsville for the action shown with Vulcan-built #9 (circa 1920) leading a boxcar and combine into the depot. Shortly after WWII ended, two books then featured the N&A as rail enthusiasts got back to being 'normal' once fighting in Europe and the Pacific was over. Archie Robertson's depiction of the backwoods shortline in "Slow Train to Yesterday" didn't feature any photograph of the diminutive locomotives on the line, but Lucius Beebe's "Mixed Train Daily" introduced a photograph chosen from 18 taken by compatriot Charles Clegg, Jr. during their winter visit before the book's publishing in 1947. Rail photographers did descend on Schuyler and Esmont just after the release of the movie, but while photographers such as Harold "K" Vollrath, G. M. Best, D. Wallace (Wally) Johnson, James Sandridge, and Theodore Gay would make themselves comfortable taking personal still shots of Nelson & Albemarle Railway locomotives, it would be two significant rail photogs that would add photographs into their publications and one other that would bring along his motion picture camera and capture live action footage of the N&A train running through the Albemarle County countryside. *#* Newspaperman by trade, H. Reid (who along with Harold Vollrath, preferred to go by a letter as their nickname) would be visiting rural Virginia as part of his passion for the new hobby of rail photography. His work was captured on many negatives with prints being made into postcards for sale. While his railroad interests were diverse, he held some high esteem for the N&A producing an early photo with caption in the November 1949 issue of "Railroad Magazine" (Volume 50, Number 2) showing Vulcan #10 near Schuyler, Virginia with an "extra" freight (on page 128). He would next share credit with an August Thieme photo by preparing the prose for a "Trains" Magazine July 1955 issue (Volume 15, Number 9) with a single page "photo and blurb" on "Train's comin'" (page 13). His writing expressed the feeling of the back country shown in the photograph of Vulcan #9 on Gold Mine Hill (printed as Gold Mine Crossing in the caption). The 'hill' was actually the highest point on the line. A few years go by and in 1963, the magazine/bulletin, "Steam Locomotive & Railroad Tradition" publishes an article by H. Reid in the May 1963 (Number 13/14) issue, "An Upcountry Romance: A reminiscence of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway" (starting on page 27). There are eight photos with four taken by "H" himself, ONE comical diagram of the shortline's realm stretching across the top of two pages, a copy of an Agent's ticket stub, and a brief map to put the 'realm' into perspective plus a locomotive roster. The remaining four photographs are builder's photos of #8 and #12 (with misspelled lettering as "Albermarle" instead of Albemarle), and the original builder's photo of #11 as sold to the Culver & Port Clinton RR and as refurbished by Vulcan just before delivery to the N&A. H. Reid followed that up the next year with his own book, "Extra South" published in 1964 with a second edition some years later including a "New Photo Section" with a different photograph of the #10 locomotive. A photograph of his would also appear in the 1972 book, "A Search for Steam" by Joe G. Collias, showing #9 again but this time in Esmont. However the book was published many years after the photo was taken as it had even been nine years since the line was shut down in January of 1963! His photographs would appear in later books and publications, but the period between 1955 and 1972 were his prime years for having his N&A photos in the public eye. *#* While all of this was going on, another prolific railroader and author, Richard E. Prince, would publish a huge set of photographs by many of the previously mentioned persons and also himself in the 1973 introduction of one of his several rail line historical books. "The Richmond-Washington Line & Related Railroads" (RF&P for those not aware) had a complete chapter on the Nelson & Albemarle Railway as a 'related railroad' starting on page 223. While this book can be found on eBay or other booksellers sites occasionally, it is not inexpensive! There are SEVENTEEN photographs including Builder's Photos of #9, #10, #11 (the same builder's photo taken at Vulcan before delivery to the N&A after refurbish), #12, and #14. Included is a locomotive roster, but the section is missing mention (or photographs) of any of the GE diesel's that came to the line in the early 1950's. Five of the photo's were personally shot by Prince and include a view of passenger coaches sitting on a siding; one of the few photographs of non-locomotive subjects. As a reference book, this one is tops for Virginia railroading and it's good coverage of steam era, N&A. *#* Separately, no tale of the photographers visiting the Nelson & Albemarle Railway could be complete with speaking of August A. Thieme. A chemist by trade, his passion for capturing those last minute opportunities in photographing and filming 'steam' powered trains (and fortunately, the N&A) was tremendous. Many of his photographs ended up in publications, but none so important as the single home movie camera-captured film from late in the steam error around August of 1948 between Esmont and Schuyler. While much of his negatives and prints collection was sold off many years before his passing in 2010, it was the sale of his industrial line home movies to JMJ Productions in Florida that provided for the lasting view of the N&A steam-powered saddle tank engine pulling freight through the woods and fields now forever remembered on "Steam Locos on Industrial & Short Lines, Volume 2" released in 1990 (on DVD). The original home movie films included Elk River Coal & Lumber Company, Rockton & Rion, E. J. Laving Company, Norfolk & Portsmouth Belt Line, Shenandoah Central, Interstate Railroad, Ft. Eustis Military Railroad, Buffalo Creek & Gauley, and N&W Narrow Gauge as well as the Nelson & Albemarle Railway. The 60 minute, 60% color video is tremendous not only for the N&A, but in generally capturing an era in the late steam period where small steam plied industrial rails that would soon disappear to diesel or gasoline critters and local trucking. It doesn't appear that this video can be purchased any longer, but auction sites may still have this show up on occasion. *#* While these are the primary photographers having spent the time trekking through the woods and along Route 6 in Albemarle down into Schuyler in Nelson County, there were many amateur photographers that also took pictures of the N&A either because they or a family member worked at the Soapstone Works or they lived along the rail line. A few of those amateur photos are shared on this site as well and we continue to look for more unpublished, family photos of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway. The prolific rail photographers of this period when the Nelson & Albemarle Railway ran under small, but notable tank engines powered by steam, were able to capture a time and place that cannot be revisited. Long gone are the steam tankers having been scrapped starting in 1951-1952 and the railway itself since 1963. H. Reid died at the age of 67 in October, 1992 in Norfolk, Virginia after struggling with a period of declining health. Richard Prince would be 95 today having lived in the small community of Millard, Nebraska outside of Omaha for many years. August Thieme passed away at his Goochland, Virginia home in May 2010 when he was 83. The only remaining steam locomotive from the Nelson & Albemarle Railway is the original Old Dominion Soapstone #2 tank engine stored at the lumberyard in Goshen, Virginia. It's not likely to see a restoration to operating condition (and not likely even a cosmetic refurbishing), so the photographs from these rail photographers and the many amateur photographers are the only ones that can help us visualize just what it felt like to be standing by the rail line, watching steam engines go by hauling soapstone to market or supplies to the mill and quarry.
Next month we'll continue this series with Builder's Photos by professional photographers.
Book Planning Update As you can probably tell by the topic of last month's, this month's and future month's of articles, we are deep into the book planning with writing for Chapter 9, Photographers and Authors.
Send email to NelsonAlbemarle@comcast.net if you have any comments or questions or wish to contribute to future articles.
We will continue to include the book planning segment in each month's article as shown here:
Cover - Photo of #9 with boxcar and combine from California Railroad Museum (a Charles Clegg photograph from the Mixed Train Daily series)
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 (4-wheel Sheffield Velocipede bought from Fairbanks-Morse Company model="Maude" which name it kept)
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.; (boxcars from NYC, etc.; hoppers, ballast car, flat cars to service quarries and gang saws;
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)
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.
NOTE: The Roster of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway will be staying with us as we listen to your comments and make corrections and/or updates!
Nelson & Albemarle Railway - Roster
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.
This is the annual 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 NelsonAlbemarle@comcast.net and share your data.
Reference: Photographs are available from sources as noted next to each picture used in the article.
Send email to NelsonAlbemarle@comcast.net if you have any comments or questions or wish to contribute to future articles.