November 2009 Article


This Month's Article - November 2009

In Search of Steam err.... DIESELS

(and Motorcar)!


Over the last couple of months I've tried to entice the reader to think about life after the Nelson & Albemarle Railway.  For one steam engine that started with Old Dominion Soapstone before merging onto the roster of the N&A, this life means sitting static without a saddle tank in Goshen, Virginia in a lumber yard - but that engine still exists!  Escaping the scrap heap or torch of the scrapper for a steam engine is quite a feat unto itself.  But for the non-steam powered locomotives (read that, DIESELS), the life span is much longer and can have multiple reincarnations if renovated/restored properly and kept serviced.  Such is the case for most of the DIESEL roster of the N&A.  +  In keeping with the chronological order that most rosters follow, I'd like to mention the non-diesel, gasoline-powered railcar first.  I kept reading about this 'motorcar' in Garth Groff's Soapstone Shortlines: Alberene Stone & It's Railroads as a vehicle primarily left in Rockfish for the benefit of H. L. Lane's use.  Originally built on October 13, 1924 by the Fate-Root-Heath company in Plymouth, Ohio as a 42" gauge model DLC, Type 6 for the Phoenix Stone Company of NYC with a location in Arrington, Virginia, the gauge was changed on March 10, 1926 to standard gauge and noted as the property of Standard Soapstone of Arrington, Virginia.  Next, this gas-powered motorcar went to Virginia Alberene Corporation in Schuyler, Virginia on December 18, 1930, thence to Alberene Stone.  There are no known photographs of this Plymouth motorcar, but I’m always on the lookout for one.  In the Image Repository (see sidebar), there is a sample photograph of the DLC, Type 6 as an example of what this might have looked like while on the N&A.  If you have a photo of this motorcar or know of someone who does or where one might be located, please write to me at so that we can share that with the readers.  +  Like many railroads, the Nelson & Albemarle found that dieselization was a methodology to save money.  Not only was it difficult to find replacement parts for the aging steam locomotives (the last new one was purchased in 1926), but the ratio of energy spent to energy produced was always higher than a diesel.  So, it became time for the Nelson & Albemarle to purchase its first diesel, a GE 44-ton center-cab unit built in December, 1950 as builders #30856.  It arrived on the property with bright lettering proclaiming the Nelson & Albemarle Railway.  Immediately taking ownership of the main operations between Schuyler & Esmont (thence to Warren over C&O tracks), the GE unit hosted a Caterpillar diesel which became the focus of an ad for Caterpillar in the 28 June 1954 issue of Railway Age. (See an ad copy in the Image Repository.)  +   The problem was there were still multiple steam locomotives performing quarry duties that also needed to be replaced.  Purchased in 1952, the 3rd #2, a 35-ton GE end-cab locomotive with builders #31768 has a brief history.  In May of 1963 when operations of the Nelson & Albemarle ceased, the unit was packed up and transported to the Gantt’s Quarry, Alabama facility of Georgia Marble, rightly known as Alabama Marble Division #2 (2 miles west of Sylacauga, AL).  It stayed in colors and lettering for awhile, but eventually was fully repainted into parent Georgia Marble colors and lettering.  According to Tom Lawson, as of 5 or 6 years ago, the locomotive remained at that site.  I’ve got someone going out to the Gantt’s Quarry location after the first of the year, and will hopefully confirm it’s continued use or disposition.  Don Hensley of has also provided a photo of the unit in Georgia Marble garb that is in the Image Repository and available for purchase from his site.  Thanks, Don, for the assistance in getting the next generation of life for these diesels documented on film and available to us.  +   After being the 3rd #1 on the N&A roster, the 44-ton center cab unit spent a few years in service for Georgia Marble at Tate, Georgia, but was then moved to Gantt’s Quarry, Alabama to join sister 35-ton builders #31768.  Somehow the 44-ton GE #30856 was sold to Industrial Maintenance Service which was a locomotive repair shop/dealer located in Hammond, Indiana.  It was sold by Industrial Maintenance to Hamburg Industries (a freight car repair shop) in North Augusta, SC in 1976 having been shipped direct from Alabama to SC and never forwarded to Indiana.  Trailer Train Corp. (TTX) now owns the site as TTX Co.-Hamburg Division and continues to show that there are two 44-ton centercab GE diesel there.  Unfortunately, there is some discrepancy to this.  According to a report from Tom Daspit, the two 44-ton units are builders #27828 (former CNO&TP) and #18145 (American Smelting and Refining Company of Mexico) and neither is the 30856 unit built for the Nelson & Albemarle Railway.  Then the confusion starts as Don Hensley over at has a photo by Mac Connery of Hamburg Industries #2 on 30 July 1982, which is noted as builders #30856!  So there is some hope that this may be the current disposition of this locomotive.  There is also another photo of #30856 in the Hamburg Industries paint scheme as locomotive #2 and this is also included in the Image Repository.  I’ve been in contact with TTX at their corporate offices in Chicago and have a contact that I’ll be reaching out to at the South Carolina site.  They are located at:  TTX Co.-Hamburg Div., No 1 Hamburg Rd. N., Augusta, SC 29840.  This is a private company facility and visitors are not welcome to roam the property or take photographs.  + For the 2nd #3, a 25-ton GE critter (builders #31778), there was a similar fate, with a twist at the end.  The 25-ton unit went to Nelson, Georgia to live out a new existence supporting Georgia Marble.  While still there in 1992 according to Tom Yorke, another contact, Tom Lawson found that after it had been stored unused at Nelson for several years, it was sold to Great Lakes Calcium Company in Woodville, Ohio.  In 2004, GLC sold the Woodville plant to National Lime & Stone which planned to immediately close the plant and move operations to its Carey, Ohio site.  I’ve got no additional detail yet on the fate of this 25-ton unit, but have someone going to visit National Lime & Stone in Carey for some follow up early next year. +  Now, this isn’t the end of the story – there is no disposition noted on any of these units and while the gas-powered Plymouth motorcar was gone from the property of Alberene Stone by 1967 (and likely scrapped), where and for what purposes the diesels still exist has yet to be answered.  We'll be following up on the final disposition of the diesels (and motorcar) sometime next year, so stay tuned!  Please enjoy the photographs and reach out to Don Hensley for copies (they are going into frames on the wall in my train room!) 

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