July-August 2016 Article


A late-August postscript to our July-August 2016 Article:  We also are searching for the impossible - a photo of any of the original Lynchburg trolley cars as used on the Schuyler Railway and subsequently the Nelson & Albemarle Railway.  This would be especially nice to find if the Rockfish Depot of the Southern Railway were shown in the background, but we might be asking a bit much to even find a photo from the 1903-1906 era.  We have only 2 photographs of the Rockfish, Virginia area - one, a photo of the Southern Depot from 1957 (long after the Southern Railway was no longer a terminus for the N&A) and the other, a photo of the nearby businesses from the early part of that century (but not showing how the N&A Railway track interfaced with the Southern tracks there).   Remember, to spot cars, the N&A had to 'pole' them into position.  See Archie Robertson's book, "Slow Train To Yesterday" for the prosaic description of this process.

This Month's Article:  July-August 2016
What we don't know about the N&A Railway

Whenever we write an article about the Nelson & Albemarle Railway, there has been a huge amount of research building up to actually composing the message and preparing it for publication.  We have been fortunate to travel to the University of Virginia's Special Collections Library and hold in our own hands, the documents and ledgers of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway, the Albemarle Soapstone Company and the Virginia Soapstone Company plus the unpublished manuscript of Garth Groff's entitled the same as his booklet, Soapstone Shortlines: Alberene Stone and it's Railroads.  What a wealth of knowledge is carried inside that work!  But still much remains to learn about the N&A Railway and it turns out that while we know quite a bit, we don't know everything we'd like to know.  What's missing?  The list keeps growing on us as we discover clues to several parts of the Nelson & Albemarle and soapstone operations in general.  So here is a partial list of what we don't know about or what we're looking for:

1) A page from a Fairbanks-Morse catalog of about 1903 or 1904 with the "Sheffield"-brand motor car with the model name "Maude".  We know it kept that name on the N&A as it was mentioned by the name in correspondence.  Not likely to find a photo of this, just a copy of that page would be nice to know what Maude really looked like.  We've written about this motor car before, but still have not found the catalog.
2) A copy of C. E. Fisher's roster of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway.  Charles Eben Fisher, noted for being a founder of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, prepared typewritten rosters for many railroads and included the N&A (2 pages) in his listing which can be found in the Youngstown University Library.  Unfortunately, the actual roster he prepared was not part of that collection and may be lost to the times as it is not included in the current day holdings of the R&LHS archives. 
3) What was the first #2 locomotive?  Was it a little 0-4-0T like the first #1?  Was it leased from Henry Lane, the builder of much of the N&A railway?  There's no photograph of it known to exist, but we're still looking.
4) Same goes for the first #3 locomotive!
5) Where oh where is a photo of #8 locomotive - thought to have a tender based on first hand observations and comments noted by writer, Garth Groff.  However, the only locomotive found with a tender is a graphical representation of the N&A soapstone train on the face of the N&A stock certificate.  No clear proof that the locomotive actually existed, but at least interesting as it may have been the model chosen to be displayed on the company's stock.
6) Who scrapped the locomotives in the 1950's?  Were locomotives 9, 10, 11 (known to be scrapped in 1954), 12, 14, 15 all scrapped at Deepwater Terminal in Richmond?  Do photos exist of them in the scrap line there?
7) Speaking of scrapping locomotives, we'd like to know whether Progress Rail actually scrapped diesel #1 of the N&A when TTX traded it in sometime in the late 1990's.  We'd also like to know where diesel #2 of the N&A was scrapped after it left Imerys in Sylacauga, Alabama in about 2011 for the scrap heap.  (Yes, diesel #3 is still operating in Green Bay, Wisconsin).
8) We'd like to know when and where the saddle tank from the second #2 locomotive was removed.  This is the locomotive from the Old Dominion Soapstone Company merger, which still exists in Goshen, Virginia at the North Fork Lumber Company (the little locomotive sits next to a Shay that is also owned by Will Harris).  It would be nice to see this cosmetically restored (with a replacement saddle tank) and part of a dis
play in or near Schuyler, Virginia.
9) A diagram of the track layout at Rockfish would be very nice!  We've had a new drawing of the track layout with detail on Warren, Schuyler, Alberene, and Esmont but we don't have detail on Rockfish and it's holding up publication of the new drawing.
10) And lastly for now (before we think of more things we don't have or can't get) there is the 2nd motor car, likely acquired from merger with the Phoenix Soapstone Company which was noted as a 4-wheel, gas-powered model DLC, Type 6 Plymouth (Fate-Root-Heath Company).  It was noted in the engine house at Schuyler in 1965 making it the last unit from the roster to be present on the property.

So, there you have it - a list of what we don't know, cannot find, may not exist.  But we continue to look as the search is almost as good as the finding.



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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