September 2009 Article

This Month's Article - September 2009
A review of Rosters and Locomotive Information
This month I'm starting a series of articles on the Nelson & Albemarle locomotive roster that will intersperse with other topics during the upcoming months.  In this first article, I'm going to report on the earliest of those locomotives from rosters compiled by three authors in separate writings published in 1963, 1973, and 1991.  Many of the same resources that supported creation of the rosters from those three efforts continue to be available and some additional resources have recently emerged, notably the "American Steam Locomotive Builders List", a compendium on a DVD data disc from Tap Lines ( for $29.95 and free shipping.  Inside the disc are notations on builders with equipment that ended up on the N&A including Porter, Pittsburgh, Baldwin, Plymouth, General Electric, and the primary contributor of locomotives, Vulcan of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  One nice additional piece is a listing of the photos held by the Smithsonian which included photos of three early Nelson & Albemarle locomotives.  With the exception of 1 diesel and some miscellaneous cars, all equipment was actually owned by the parent companies.  While some equipment was purchased new, many items were purchased secondhand and even sold back to those secondhand dealers.  Georgia Marble was the company owner during the end of life for the N&A and the active roster migrated to Georgia and Alabama on abandonment, but more on that when we get to the 'non-steam' article in a few months.  The first roster came out in May 1963 publication of Steam Locomotive & Railroad Tradition (Number 13-14) and was part of the article, "An Upcountry Romance: A reminiscence of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway" by H. ReidThe roster focused on the BUILD date rather than the acquisition date and therefore starts with the oldest ones, the former-Manhattan Railway forney's # 5 and #6.  H. Reid picked specific predecessors to focus on and the list continues with  # 4 (purchased new in 1904 from Porter), the 2nd # 1, and the 2nd #2 as the next engines on the roster.  Jump forward 10 years to 1973 and the Richard E. Prince roster held in his "Richmond-Washington Line & Related Railroads".  This roster doesn't include predecessor lines and starts with what is now known as the 2nd #1 and the 2nd #2 in a similar manner to H. Reid's roster.  Richard Prince took organization to mean following the numbering of the locomotive and unfortunately leaves out numbers 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and all diesels (as well as the Plymouth 4-wheel gas-engined unit).  It does do a good job of capturing previous history on those locomotives and includes some disposition notes that are much appreciated.  Finally, the 3rd roster was compiled with much research by Garth Groff and published in his "Soapstone Shortlines: Alberene Stone and its Railroads" in 1991 (now out-of-print, but available occasionally on auction sites).  This is a condensed version of a never-published manuscript with so much detail it begs the reader to ask for more.  Note: Garth is going to retire soon from his position at the University of Virginia, so maybe he can be convinced to put down the bow (archery) and pick up the pen for a shot at putting out the most complete history of the Nelson & Albemarle.  His roster is the most complete and starts with the first #1, an 0-4-0T that was built in 1887 for the City of Richmond (The Richmond City Railway Company) as #1, "Belle", by Porter in 1887 (construction #836).  The locomotive was sold to Southern Iron & Equipment (SI&E) in 1920 becoming their #1599.  This is the locomotive photo found in the Smithsonian and was the locomotive sold on 17 April 1924 to Pierce-Williams (Fruit Basket factory) Company in Jonesboro, Arkansas for it's next life.  A copy of the photo (see Smithsonian online to arrange for a print) in thumbnail size is in the Image Repository.  It's also the photo seen in Railroad Model Craftsmen in their article "Inspiration for a Kitbash: A Tank Engine Gallery" in the August 1993 issue.  I've also included a PDF format copy of the Porter construction record in the Image Repository.  What is missing from this 1991 endeavor is the predecessor company, Schuyler Railway, and it's limited roster consisting of three Lewis & Fowler single-truck, open-platform trolley cars purchased from the Lynchburg Street Railway Company which had begun operations in 1891.  These three trolleys purchased used in 1900 from the successor company, Lynchburg Electric Railway & Light Company, were then equipped with Eickemeyer trucks with jack shafts and side rods.  This is all noted well in Garth Groff's book, but failed to make his roster.  What Garth did discover was that, "One car was completely stripped of seats for use as a locomotive.  The other two had only some seats removed and could carry both freight and passengers." (from Soapstone Shortlines, p15).  While I haven't located any photograph of these early units, one photo of a horse-drawn trolley car of the Lynchburg City Railway with open-platforms at each end can be seen at and this must have been similar to the look of the early electric trolley cars roaming the Schuyler Railway under catenary up to Rockfish, Virginia on very light rail.  A rough copy of this photo is in the Image Repository also.  When companies merged, the tall trestle used for the electric trolley in Schuyler was removed and the line rebuilt to handle the N&A early locomotive power, doing away with the catenary.  We've covered a lot of early basic information and next time we'll pick up with the 2nd #1 and move on through the early engines up through the Forney's.  Credit for a huge amount of research goes to H. Reid, Richard E. Prince, and Garth Groff as collectors of history and then as historians for publishing their efforts.  Please note any comments on "This Months' Articles" in the comments section either on the MAIN page or in the sidebar archives section.
"DON'T MISS THE ROSTER SPREADSHEET ATTACHED BELOW"  Copyright 2009 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.
Rob Peters,
Oct 8, 2009, 2:42 PM