January 2012 Article

This Month's Article - January 2012

New York Central on the Nelson & Albemarle   
While going through the small, but somewhat extensive photograph file on the Nelson & Albemarle Railway, I noticed that I was frequently seeing New York Central boxcars in the consist of the mixed train daily moving from Schuyler to Warren to interchange with the C&O.  This looked pretty incongruous for a short line that leased (or was permitted to use) cars from the C&O as a part of agreements to handle passenger traffic, maintain the C&O trackage between Warren and Esmont (former Alberene Railroad), and other considerations.  So how does a NYC boxcar end up in use in western Virginia?  Most of the time when you think about a mill such as the one at Schuyler, you think about shipping product outbound and the inbound movement of supplies.  Shipping product out included raw or polished cuts of soapstone slabs, soapstone products (such as sinks, lab countertops, etc.), and architectural pieces.  My grade school in Richmond, Virginia even had soapstone slabs used as treads on the steps - albeit very worn by the constant use over the years preceding my time there.  With sales offices in Chicago, New York, and Boston, it is clear to see that Alberene Stone held a northern presence with supplying customer needs.  And in the era, the C&O also held a close relationship with the New York Central.  Naturally, if a request for cars to load for shipping came from the mill and the destination was in the north or northeast, the C&O would supply a car(s) that would make their way back to the home road as per interchange rules in force. For some time consideration was being given that the C&O would be 'dumping' antiquated passenger cars, boxcars, ballast cars, etc. to the chagrin of the operating staff on the N&A.  It seems that while receipt of leased cars was often less than desired but usable, the N&A had little opportunity nor reason to gripe with more than the occasional formal letter of complaint.  But delivery of cars for movement to other roads required that they meet Class I railroad standards.  Also, cars moving off of the C&O might not return for some time while in interchange service.  Providing an off-road boxcar would then be appropriate in moving the car back toward it's home railroad. Seeing a NYC boxcar would then appear to be routine to where delivery would be made.  On N&A property, heavy-load flatcars might be the correct mode to move huge blocks of soapstone into the mill for processing by the gang saws or by skilled artisans for certain architectural uses.  Being sold, the delivery of those end-products required much protection in the form of wooden crating and appropriate protection from being damaged during shipment.  The boxcar provided the most significant protection for car-load shipments as the load proceded to it's final destination. 
(There are no photos available for use in the article this month as no permission was received in time to make publish date - See California Railroad Musuem collection of photographs & negatives)
Send email to NelsonAlbemarle@comcast.net if you have any comments or questions or wish to contribute to future articles. Copyright 2012 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.