July 2014 Article

This Month's Article: July 2014
Modeling the Nelson & Albemarle Railway (Part 1)
If you've spent any time at all walking the old trail of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway you know that the line met up with the C&O Railway and the Southern Railway.   Back in 2001, I spent a few days hiking the old roadbed of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway from it's connection at what was once the C&O Railway's Warren Depot through the woods of lower Albemarle up to Alberene and from there backtracking to the mill at Schuyler over in Nelson County.  The trek to Rockfish and the former connection with the Southern Railway (now Norfolk Southern) was not able to be completed over the roadbed as the overgrowth was tremendous. Hiking gives you a sense of a time when getting from place to place took hours and sometimes days instead of minutes by car.  Returning from that trip, I decided to start planning a model layout for how the N&A operated but it had to have significant elements to keep the interest of not only myself, but also anyone who might visit (including our grandchildren).  It could have a timetable to follow (though if you've seen the twice daily trip of the N&A schedule, this isn't difficult to recreate) but really needed to showcase moving trains.  I decided to start formulating the details for that layout in mid-2005 and took 3 years to come to a workable plan  (shown here in concept) that included:  all of the elements needed to provide constant movement, slow trains to yesterday over the N&A, and enough detail to give me several years of model building to complete.  Before construction on the model layout could begin, another construction project had to complete.  Starting in 2012, the basement went through an emptying process to remove junk, stored clothing, old furniture and computer printers.  In 2013, a contract was signed and a finished basement was completed by late in the year providing for an area of about 200 square feet to be dedicated to either a pool table, exercise room, or model train layout.  Many people would take a space of this size and build against the wall, but this model layout has some factors that were important to include.  Prerequisites were to match up with the new basement's furniture wood finish (Mocha) and to fulfill the "must have" features such as having a double track C&O main line (James River Line Division) that would be continuously operating.  If possible, there would be a staging area where 2 alternate C&O trains could be prepared and shift automatically to the main line to provide the visual action that would keep people's attention.  At the same time, there needed to be an interconnection with the Southern Railway at Rockfish and if that could be continuously operating as well, then another key element would be met.  Between the two would be the Nelson & Albemarle Railway - an HO DCC segment that would circle away from Warren and the C&O interchange to wind it's way into the southern end of Esmont, crossing old Route 6 at a Gas Station and moving up to the village across the field where the C&O once located a 56' turntable.  Just past the low end of Esmont would be the village business area.  The buildings include the Esmont Depot with businesses across the road including Lane Brothers Construction Company (and store) just across the road next to the Esmont Bank Building and a Quonset-hut general hardware store.  Opposite the tracks would be the ice house.   Because there had to be a limitation on the operating time for the model layout, I chose to limit the old Alberene mill to a siding as after 1936 there were really no operations there.  Crossing into Schuyler, the Company Store, mill, gang saw building and engine house/machine shop would be modeled and at least one quarry would be included to show operations of moving soapstone blocks to the mill.  Circling out of Schuyler and around into Rockfish, the interchange would have it's one siding reversed from prototype to avoid poling cars on the opposite track as the actual N&A had to do when delivering cars to the Southern Railway. In actuality, the line to Rockfish was discontinued after a big flood in the late-1940's severely damaged the line and bridges.  But artistic license let's me model the late-1940's/early 1950's and get some fun out of the model layout as well.   Modular construction was used for the 4 main village areas (Warren, Esmont, Schuyler, and Rockfish).  This will allow the separation of these modules from the full layout and permit them to be connected in a point-to-point layout focused primarily on switching if we decide to downsize our home in the future.  Either set into the full layout or connected together as module-to-module I expect to find great enjoyment in operations.    ***   When we get to Part 2 of this series later this year you'll see the first photos of the layout with scenery, roadbed, track, and some structures such as Warren Depot and houses near the Rockfish Depot.
Send email to NelsonAlbemarle@comcast.net if you have any comments or questions or wish to contribute to future articles.  Copyright 2014 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.