August 2019 Article

This month's article is credited to the hard work and research of good friend, Mark Chase, who models soapstone railroads and has walked the same grown-over brush I have in following the path of the Nelson & Albemarle roadbed through those counties.  His diligence has uncovered the true locomotive and train featured on the Virginia Alberene stock certificates.  The story is told below and re-opens a mystery of N&A locomotives.
August 2019 - The Hardwick & Woodbury Railroad
As much as research has consumed my efforts to provide a reference to the Nelson & Albemarle Railway, its someone else who has researched the data for this month's article - Mark Chase.  Thanks go to Mark for identifying the stock photograph used on the Virginia Alberene Corporations' stock certificate.  While it would have been extremely nice to have an original photograph of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway's locomotives leading a line of flat cars hauling soapstone, the reality is a stock photograph was easier to acquire and use to prepare stock certificates used for the soapstone company.  While another railroad is depicted on the stock certificate, it's not an uncommon practice to have available photographs that are 'representative' of the industry used for other company purposes.  In this case though, the missing identify of locomotive #2 or #8 remains a mystery that must again be researched and hopefully found at some point in a distant folder of papers that could be in almost any library, railroad memorabilia collection, or someone's home.  But this story really circles around whose locomotive and train was featured on the Virginia Alberene Corporations stock certificate.  Mark Chase noted that the locomotive was a 'Shay' and the photograph was found in several places on the internet including a reference to the best history of the actual railroad shown. 
The Hardwick & Woodbury Railroad, much to my surprise, was a granite-hauling railroad serving a single industry, close to how the N&A was supporting the soapstone company (though slate, lumber, and other goods were also transported by the N&A).  The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society featured the Hardwick & Woodbury Railroad history including several photograph (though not including the one shown on the stock certificate which was from a postcard printing) in their Bulletin #68 of November 1946.  John S. Kendall was the author of the coming and going of the railroad in the article and he was able to paint a picture that was typical of most of the short line, single-industry rail lines, built to support a single company.  The evolution of the granite quarry business in Vermont was covered thoroughly and much like the Nelson & Albemarle Railway's experience with the soapstone company in Virginia, the highs and lows were tied to the economics of the need for granite and it's accessibility.  The H&W RR was created by act of the State of Vermont legislature on November 23, 1894.   While the incorporation allowed construction to begin, Kendall noted that the St. Johnsbury & Lake Champlain Railroad had already constructed about 1 1/2 miles of track to meet up with several stone sheds that were in operation.  That railroad also provided rails, spikes, and ties (56-pound rail) for the Hardwick & Woodbury RR to start their main line construction.  The H&W RR also turned to another regional railroad, the Boston & Maine, to rent out some flat cars and B&M locomotive #250 - a 4-4-0 Hinckley.  Five miles of the railroad was constructed to a point known as Foster's Summit by January 1896..  Unfortunately, the rented B&M engine had reached the end of it's usefulness.  No work happened for over a year when finally a Lima Locomotive 'Shay' bought from the Barre Railroad arrived.  It was August of 1897 and the Shay locomotive had been quite the model - exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair when the Montpelier & Wells River RR (who controlled the Barre Railroad) bought it for use between Montpelier and Barre.  It was not a well-treated locomotive while in the hands of the Barre Railroad company though and required some re-work to operate on the H&W with a rename of "E. H. Blossom #1" in honor of the General Manager.  Some years later, two additional Shay joined #1 on the H&W and it is #3 that ties in with the Virginia Alberene Corporation stock certificate though the high-powered microscope image appears to show #2 as the selected locomotive,  It was noted in the H&W RR history, that a
photo of #3 was printed on post cards of the time and it was that photo that graced the soapstone company certificates.  Trying to identify this photo as a soapstone train looked to be easy, however, it was granite on the flat cars, not soapstone.  With the use of the R&LHS Bulletin, the opposite side of the Shay could be seen and it's obvious there were signs that should have noted the locomotive as a Shay anyway.  What should have been noted, was the offset of the boiler on the frame which sits more on the fireman's side of the locomotive.  Unlike the N&A, the H&W could cease operations in upper Vermont during December, January, February, and March as noted in their charter!  Snow was a larger issue for the railroad and they utilized both home-built snow flanger mounted on a single truck or secondhand snow plows.  As the railroad declined, the St. Johnsbury & Lake Champlain Railroad took over operations until in 1925 and kept things running until abandonment was approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission in October of 1934 (though the rails were not actually removed until 1940).  The Hardwick & Woodbury Railroad had only 11 miles of track - a very short line that had two Shay, #2 and #3 with 47 freight cars, all but one being scrapped, at the end of operations.  The similarities to the Nelson & Albemarle could be understood in the hard work and effort to operate quarries and move the heavy cargo to market.  So the stock certificate did not solve the mystery of the original #2 or #8 (said to have a tender), it puts this author back on the hunt for documentation of what those likely secondhand locomotives were and where they were acquired and disposed.

Send email to NelsonAlbemarle@comcast.net if you have any comments or questions or wish to contribute to future articles.  

Copyright 2019 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.
Comments