January 2013 Article

This Month's Article - January 2013
The historical society's library collection
Our collection of memorabilia, books, photographs, negatives, collectibles, and documents concerning the Nelson & Albemarle has been underway since early in 2001 fueled by discovery of an original pay envelope from the soapstone works in the very early 1940's where my father worked in the gang-saw building at Schuyler in his first real job.  A trip along the original line that same year quickly identified that not much was left to show of this rural railway line in lower Albemarle and northeast Nelson counties.  Quite notably, in 2007 and recognizing that there were no central repositiories for information on the N&A, the idea of starting an historical society to collect this data was set into a motion taking nearly two years to complete.  The plan seemed daunting but was quickly bolstered by the tremendous effort that was then supporting the C&O Historical Socity (COHS.org) and the wealth of information about the C&O that was saved from loss by dedicated staff and volunteers.   So in the spring of 2009, the NEARHS was officially born.  Why NEARHS?  Well, the N&A is commonly referred to in abbreviations as the NEA (though we're not sure where that originated) and the combination of the abbreviation with the letters for Railway Historical Society gave us our own acronym.  The library of reference books grew before the website took hold in the simmer of 2009.  Classic railway books, Archie Robertson's Slow Train to Yesterday and Lucius Beebe's Mixed Train Daily became the first additions as unique references gathered in the library with Garth Groff's booklet, Soapstone Shortlines: Alberene Stone and its Railroads coming into the library's possession shortly thereafter.  Today you can tell much of what 'books' are in the NEARHS Library by noting the asterick (*) behind the Issue date in the Publications about Nelson & Albemarle listing (accessible from the sidebar menu on this site).  The library is primarily located in a credenza consisting of a computer and workspace for tracking information on the railway and preparing these articles and has 3 - 36" wide shelves overhead  (all filled).  There are also 2 - 42" long tubes holding drawings and maps, and a 'collectibles' storage box holding miscellaneous items such as pieces of soapstone, salemen's samples, pocket mirror, keys, paperweights, company store tokens, etc.  There are also specialized binders for holding large print photographs of the railway and original documents.  Our library is NOT the site for research however, and the main libraries of Virginia that hold pertinent information are the State Library of Virginia in Richomd and the University Library at the University of Virginia. There is significant information in other libraries in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia but the bulk of information and the places researches should go for details are in Virginia.  What we've found over the last 3 years is that information is everywhere about this railway.  It's held all over the eastern part of the United States in collections in Florida, Alabama, and other states; held in websites around the country including private sites such as other railway societies (and also, the Smithsonian Institute).  The variety of what we've collected into the library is also significant as there are now postcards, photographs, and negatives that we would never have located were it now for people offering to sell or donate them.  We keep original and copies in the Image Repository (also found from the left sidebar menu) for viewing by our friedns.  And while we hear about items we'd like to have (such as the original bell off of N&A #9), the NEARHS is not a for-profit concern, but receives donations to keep operating and providing the information to others via the website.  We continue to hear about amateur photographers with great photographs from Schuyler or elsewhere along the N&A line, but don't always get the 'deal' completed to add these to the library.  But we continue to add where possible and affordable to an as complete set of information as can be possible.  The next set of collectibles the NEARHS library is pulling into the works are documents used in the performance of work on the Nelson & Albemarle.  From Freight Bills, to Receipts, to memo's concerning the line (these are half-page notes used to manage issues that arise and primarily from the Superintendent, S. H. Purcell.  It's not likely that every item or collectible type will end up in the library, but most references are already here including some video of the N&A from the 1950's, heretofore unseen photographs of the N&A, as well as new photographs of the remaining N&A steam engine in Goshen, Virginia.  There will likely be more new items deposited in the library in 2013 and the significant ones have a good chance of being mentioned and displayed in our monthly article series.  Our goals are to continue to seek information about the railway and the soapstone works it supported and to make commentary on those findings in these articles every month.  We have a lot of work in front of us to keep collecting the writings and the memorabilia of the N&A.
 - Our next article in February will continue on with our Terrain series as we travel up from Warren through Boiling Spring and come to the Tales of Esmont and how there ever came to be an N&A...  Copyright 2013 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.