November 2014 Article

This Month's Article:  November 2014
Building a new Nelson & Albemarle Railway Map
Over the years, several authors have written about the Nelson & Albemarle Railway, but only six publications have included maps or diagrams that show the routes that the N&A took to interchange with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway and Southern Railway or provided track diagrams for the major interchanges or mill sites. 
Those publications are
1. Right of Way / Track Maps of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway from 1915 (as found in the National Archives); Four full size drawings with track detail
2. Steam Locomotive and Railroad Tradition - May 1963 - An Upcountry Romance: A reminiscence of the N&A by H. Reid; A system diagram
3. C&O Historical Newsletter, September 1977 - Volume IX, Number 9 - The Story of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway Company - including Map of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway Company and Connections; A general map of the system & interchanges
4. Narrow Gauge & Shortline Gazette, March/April 1989 - The Story of Alberene Stone and Its Railroads by Garth G. Groff; Track diagrams at terminals Warren, Esmont
5. Soapstone Shortlines: Alberene Stone and it's Railroads by Garth Groff (separate publication); System route and track diagrams
6. C&O Historical Magazine, April 1992 - Volume XXIV, Number 4 - Nelson & Albemarle: Early Days on a Soapstone Shortline; Early system route and interchanges
Topographical maps have always been a good source for showing the routes and rail lines were included in those cartographs showing the main routes (though the June 1892 Buckingham Quadrangle was prior to either the Schuyler Railway or Alberene Railroad and only show the Southern Railway - nee Virginia Midland - and the C&O James River Division).   
So, why is a new map necessary to show this old and abandoned right of way?  Well, most of the maps created for the above publications were drawn to fit the stories being told at the time and not as an overall view of the N&A route.  While several times, the N&A route has been generally described and diagrammed, there has  never been a complete mapping created that includes all of the bridges, sidings, other businesses served, or elevations of the track (except where we previously published the Track Elevation chart earlier this year).  Some federal government rules also required right-of-way track diagrams to be published for rail lines and associated terminal areas or general sidings which provided invaluable detail on how track as laid out.  Some of these sources provided detail utilized by Garth Groff in his unpublished full manuscript, Soapstone Shortlines: Alberene Stone and it's Railroads, to show track around each of the key communities served by the N&A.  His track diagrams were invaluable in initial research to locate C&O and Southern Railway documents that held the original detail. 
So the plan began to prepare this new map, ANSI size E (34"x44"), which would include as much information from Topographical Map sources, right-of-way and track maps, photographic details, and annual reports.  For other industries along the line, some anecdotal evidence from books and advertisements is to be included.  It's also important to recognize detail gathered from the Nelson & Albemarle Railway company records which include the impact of how the line used equipment and also the type of rail used on segments of the route.  Our local cartographer (me!) has pulled together all of the information noted above, plus the utensils of the trade (drafting board, vellum, soft and hard pencil instruments, India ink with various pen sizes, and plenty of fortitude).  As we start this project, it's expected to take about 40 hours of effort to draw in the elements of the terrain, show the route of the N&A, highlight (in magnification) the track detail at the important points along the line, and define the interchange with the two Class I railroads.  The drafting board sits in front of the under-construction HO-gauge model of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway and supersedes any efforts there so that the new map can be ready for publication in December.  Information continues to be collected and there will be references to each source of detail so that a comprehensive understanding of the origins of the map can be supported.  See This Month's Article: December 2014 for the unveiling of the new map of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway.
Correction:  The ANSI size was corrected to the correct letter, 'E'.
Send email to if you have any comments or questions or wish to contribute to future articles. Copyright 2014 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.