April 2016 Article

This Month's Article: April 2016
Photographers of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway, Part 4 - The Not-So-Amateur Photographers



Our series on the Photographers of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway has taken us from the Hollywood filmmakers to professional photographers (both the rail author variety and the company photog professionally capturing the builder's As-Built photograph).  We've seen the likes of H. Reid, Charles Clegg, Jr., and August Thieme.  There have been numerous 'unknown' professionals snapping those builder views of company product.  And while we spent a large amount of time on the 'professionals', the amateur photographer, possibly with a rail line in their backyard, cannot be excluded nor should they necessarily be called amateurs!  It is these Not-So-Amateur photographers that give the N&A history some character. 
They captured personal views of elements that meant something to them without any preconceived notion of how a locomotive photo should be aligned.  Before there was ever a digital camera, this group spent their hard-earned money to fund a hobby and capture on film the world around them.  In 1943, Obed O. Brown was employed at the Schuyler Mill and his son, James M. Brown photographed his younger siblings (a brother & a sister) standing on the foot-boards on either side of Vulcan locomotive #10's pilot.  In sharing this photograph, Janice Kennedy of Falls Church, Virginia (James M. Brown's daughter), provided a perfect example of how a personal photo could show detail not seen anywhere else in this not-so-amateur view of the front end of the locomotive.  Charles Wales would take action photos of GE diesel #1 on the line near Esmont in October 1953 again providing more than just the locomotive
but also the consist (including a 'blue' caboose).  We use a cropped part of this photo on our masthead along with N&A Vulcan locomotive #9.  Other amateur/railfan photographers gave us views of what life was like after the N&A ceased to exist.  For example, Mac Connery captured photos of GE diesel #1 (c/n 30856) after being sold to Hamburg Industries and repainted/lettered in their scheme in July 1982 providing yet another opportunity to capture more of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway story.  Only recently, William "Bill" Gordon, having lived near enough to the N&A to spend moments photographing various vistas, started sharing the pictures taken in 1959 and 1960 that
captured the essence of the GE diesel #1 operations at various points on the line, connecting the viewer to the  industrial surroundings and countryside near the tracks.  Seen in his photos are operations on the C&O mainline at Warren, siding view of Boiling Spring, switching at both Warren and Esmont, and non-revenue equipment sitting next to the main line tracks.  His vivid photo shown here is a freight coming by the Boiling Spring, Virginia siding.  Many photographers would focus on just locomotives, so this is a fresh view of the late era of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway just three/four years before being shut down. We'll be sharing more of Bill's work in future articles as his sharp, crisp, definition found in his many photographs is remarkable.  His own personal story of how he came to record these images while in Charlottesville is quite interesting but even more so when you find that he now resides in North Augusta, South Carolina where TTX Corporation resides (they purchased Hamburg Industries there who had purchased the N&A #1 diesel some years back and scrapped the 44-ton unit from there with Progress Rail).  Not planning to do so, he followed GE c/n 30856 from Virginia to South Carolina.
Locomotives of the Southern Iron & Equipment Company
Another not-so-amateur photographer with a love for locomotives is Tom Lawson, Jr. who took his passion for trains to the level of documenting the engine rebuilder, Southern Iron & Equipment, in Cabbage Stack Publishing release of "Locomotives of the Southern Iron & Equipment Company".  Tom's book is an invaluable reference to anyone researching railway history.  More recently, we visited Green Bay, Wisconsin to view and pilot the last remaining
N&A diesel (former #3, now Great Lakes Calcium #1) capturing our own not-so-amateur photos of the diminutive engine while on site.  We're always on the lookout for new sources of old, amateur photographs taken from the steam and diesel eras on the Nelson & Albemarle Railway and always hopeful for finding picture evidence of the existence (and detail) of N&A #'s 3 or 8, and any view not already captured by the known photographers.

Send email to NelsonAlbemarle@comcast.net if you have any comments or questions or wish to contribute to future articles. Copyright 2016 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.

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