July-August 2017 Article

This Month's Article:  July-August 2017
What we don't know about the N&A Railway, Part 2

Last year at this time, we took stock of the things we don't know about the Nelson & Albemarle Railway, but would like to know.  It seems almost impossible to look back on the last century and find information about this small, shortline, industrial railway.  A tenacious spirit is required to visit libraries, archives, and museums seeking elusive photographs or memorandums from 100 years earlier.  Those trips have been made both physically and virtually (via web) for several years now, but we still don't know everything about the N&A to complete the story of it's existence.  In last years missive, there were 10 items noted with 1 addition in late August.  This year, I'm trying to be much more descriptive of the items being sought (and the list has grown) so that they can be checked off as some document, photograph, or other piece of memorabilia is located.  There are now four categories with the oldest ones being the most difficult to find.  So here goes with what is still, a partial list:

1) Early Days
    a) TROLLEY: We're looking for a photo of the former trolleys from Lynchburg that served the Schuyler Railway electrified line between Schuyler and Rockfish at the turn of that century up through 1905/6 before the line was rebuilt for the Nelson & Albemarle Railway's steam trains.  Even finding a photograph with the trolleys in their original Lynchburg Street Railway livery would be a good start!  There is one, quite poor photograph in a book on the Lynchburg Street Railways (Hill City Trolleys by Harold E. Cox), however, there's no definitive caption noting which ones in the photo were the ones sold to the Schuyler Railway.
    b) ROCKFISH:  There doesn't appear to be a photo of Rockfish from those early days prior to 1905/06 and we've seen only 2 photographs of the village  (about 1920 and from 1957) and none with N&A or Schuyler Railway rolling stock in the photograph.  We mentioned in Part 1 published in July-August 2016 that...to spot cars, the N&A had to 'pole' them into position and that readers should see Archie Robertson's book, "Slow Train to Yesterday" for the prosaic description of the process.  A photo with poling of cars would be the best possible one to find but not holding my breath on that.  We're also looking for a diagram of the N&A tracks interchanging there up through 1947-48.  Finding any track diagram for Rockfish has been a desire for several years now..
2) Beginnings of the N&A
    a) #2 AND #3: While we know about the N&A's first locomotive, an 0-4-0ST named "Belle" bought used from the Richmond City Railway, we know nothing of the first locomotives numbered 2 and 3.  For those, we can only speculate that they were diminutive switchers primarily used to move soapstone blocks from quarry to mill at Alberene and Schuyler, but again, that is only speculation!  Both of them may have been purchased used, leased, or bought new but there are no records found yet.  If leased and then returned to lessor, then the lack of information (including original documents) could be understandable.  We continue to search for what may not exist - a photograph of either #2 or #3.
    b) VELOCIPEDE: Early on, Henry Lane had a "Sheffield"-brand motor car purchased from Fairbanks-Morse with the model name, "Maude".  This was done around 1903-1904 based on a memorandum written a few short years later regarding parts for the velocipede.  Finding a photograph would be great, but even a graphic depiction of the "Maude" model from a Fairbanks-Morse catalog would be great to at least understand what this motor car really looked like.  There have been several descriptions on it's use, but nothing describing how many seats, how much capacity for baggage, etc.
    c) #8 WITH TENDER: There has been speculation by 'old-timers' that the locomotive numbered 8 on the N&A roster had a tender.  This was further complicated by the fact that Nelson & Albemarle stock certificates were adorned with a graphic image of a locomotive 'with tender' pulling a line of flat cars loaded with soapstone blocks!  Whether this was actual or imagined doesn't matter anymore.  What is known is that prior to #8 being acquired, the N&A bought two used-Manhattan Railway Forney locomotives in 1905 that would become N&A #5 and #6  (from Patricius McManus in Cape Charles, Virginia, a used locomotive dealer), Around the same time, another locomotive was bought used from the Proctor Coal Company of Kentucky that received #7 as it's locomotive number.   Likely, the locomotive that came to be N&A #8 was bought used and per 'old-timers' (and some N&A correspondence) was assigned to serve the Alberene mill site.  Finding an actual photo of #8, properly documented, would be huge.  Also note that on the Nelson & Albemarle stock certificate, the locomotive doesn't appear to have a saddle tank (much like Forney's #5, #6), so this tender may have been added to provide for coal/water capacity while servicing Alberene.
3) Mid-years of the N&A
    a) FIRST ROSTER: For the years between 1920 and 1955, there are MANY things we'd like to know not only about the railway, but also the soapstone operations.  Charles Eben Fisher aka C.E.Fisher, born in Taunton, Massachusetts in 1889, would start the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society in the early part of the century and as part of his fascination with the early days of railroading he would publish rosters that were hand-typed.  The list of his rosters is held at Youngstown State University and includes a notation for a 2-page roster compilation of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway from around 1940.  From this early life of the N&A this roster may include detail on locomotives #2, #3, and #8 that have never been identified.  While the list of rosters is at the university the actual rosters are not (and not in the archives of the R&LHS either).  We continue to look for those 2 pieces of paper and the valuable content they might hold.
    b) SCRAPPING STEAM (EARLY):  We have photographs of certain locomotives that were sold off to Southern Iron & Equipment (SI&E) for rebuilding and resale around 1920 which include the first #1, the second #2 (Old Dominion Soapstone), and #7 (the former "Hutchcraft" of the Proctor Coal Company) where those 3 were included in the sale but a 4th locomotive advertised locomotive, a Forney (either #5 or #6), apparently did not get sold and was scrapped.  We also have a photograph of #4 (the first 'new' locomotive on the N&A) from it's being sold to SI&E in 1924.  What we don't have is any photograph of the sale or scrapping of #2 (the first #2), #3, #5, #6, or #8.  These locomotives likely went to a scrap metals dealer somewhere along the line of the Southern Railway or Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, but there are no records or memorandums that explain the sale and, of course, there are no photographs of them being scrapped.  Note that only recently, we received information from a contributor making us aware of an advertisement for sale of locomotives by the N&A in the trade periodical, Industrial Development and Manufacturers Record (dated January 8, 1920).  It's also possible other locomotives were advertised for sale in that same periodical, so we'll keep looking for those notices too.
    c) REMAINING STEAM:  Yes, there is a remaining steam locomotive, #2 (the second #2) from the Old Dominion Soapstone Company merger/acquisition.  When this was finally sold off for the third or fourth ownership AFTER the N&A, and likely when displayed at a restaurant/motel in Marion, Virginia, the saddle tank over the boiler (used to store water) was removed.  There are no details on the tank removal (the locomotive was sold to an individual, Charles Watson, in 1962) and no photographs have been found while the engine was working on the N&A.  There is one known photo of the second #2 while working as Blue Ridge Railway #4 during the brief time that they owned and used the locomotive for track rebuilding on an upgrade project.  The next photo is of the sans tank view while displayed outside the noted restaurant/motel.  This locomotive may be currently seen (once permission is granted to visit) in Goshen, Virginia at the North Fork Lumber Company.  Call (540) 997-5602 to arrange your visit with owner, Will Harris.  If you do go, be sure to wear long sleeves and pants as the locomotive is on a track segment at the edge of the woods and slightly overgrown.
    d) MOTOR CAR (VELOCIPEDE #2):  At some point, the soapstone company looks to have acquired the Phoenix Soapstone Company and took possession of a 2nd motor car which has been noted as a 4-wheel, gas-powered model DLC, Type 6 Plymouth (from the Fate-Root-Heath Company).  It had been noted as still in the engine house at Schuyler in 1965 making it the last unit from the roster to be present on the property.  There is a photo that may show the motor car in the distance, but the photo is too grainy to tell if this is indeed the motor car or some other industrial car such as a gondola or ballast car.  So, a photo of the motor car, either while on Phoenix Soapstone or N&A property, would answer many questions.
    e) CULVER & PORT CLINTON RAILROAD:  We found good information on the life of N&A Locomotive #7 before the N&A purchased it from the Proctor Coal Company (at the Filson Historical Society in Kentucky).  However, for #11 which belonged to the Culver & Port Clinton Railroad in Ohio before arriving in Schuyler and becoming the last N&A steam locomotive to be scrapped (1954), there is next to nothing!  While public records show The Culver & Port Clinton Railroad in operation, there are no other records, documents, or photographs that show this 2-4-2 wheel arrangement engine.  See - September-October 2017 Article for details on the discovery of information.
    f) CHILE EXPLORATION COMPANY:  A similar situation to the lack of information on the Culver & Port Clinton Railroad also exists regarding N&A #15 which was originally built for the Chile Exploration Company but never delivered to them.  While a builder's photograph does exist, there doesn't seem to be one while serving the soapstone works.  This locomotive was present while many photographers (including H. Reid) visited Schuyler and photographed both the mainline engines and those used in the quarries yet no photograph has been found.
    g) SCRAPPING STEAM (LATE):  With the arrival of diesels to the N&A in 1951, '52, and '53, the railroad started disposing of not only main line steam, but also quarry operations steam as well.  The soapstone company owned (and leased/rented to the N&A) locomotives #9, #10, #11 primarily used for mainline operations and making up trains at Schuyler as well as locomotives #12, #14, and #15 which handled quarry operations moving soapstone blocks from quarry to overhead crane (for transfer to the gang saws and eventually the mill).  There was never a locomotive #13 for obvious reasons.  #9 was 30 years old when the first diesel arrived and would have been scrapped first followed quickly by #10 when the 2nd diesel showed up on the property.  Once diesel #3 came to Schuyler, the need for #12, #14, and #15 would also be gone.  So by 1953, there were five locomotives to be scrapped (four of which were bought new for the soapstone company 28-30 years earlier).  The N&A kept the former Culver & Port Clinton Railroad locomotive, N&A #11, around for another year and scrapped it in 1954 according to company documents found in the University of Virginia Special Collections Archives.  But where were these locomotives scrapped?  At the time, the C&O, Seaboard Air Line, Atlantic Coast Line, and RF&P were scrapping their locomotives at Deepwater Terminal south of the city of Richmond.  It may have been that the N&A locomotives followed that same process and were scrapped there as well, leaving the N&A at Esmont/Warren for the trip to Richmond.  But there are no known photographs showing these locomotives on the scrap line and no document have been found that could confirm they were sent there for their final disposition.
4) Last years of the N&A
    a) DIESEL #1: Having tracked down what were thought to be the last known locations for the diesel roster of the N&A, a visit was made to North Augusta, South Carolina (formerly known as Hamburg, SC) to see if the 44-ton GE that served as N&A #1 (c/n 30856) was still serving TTX, the company that had purchased Hamburg Industries.  Hamburg was once the end point of what was at the time the longest railroad in the world - 136 miles long.  Former #1 had been repainted into Hamburg Industries colors/livery and this was documented via at least one photograph taken by Mac Connery of Durham, North Carolina.  TTX appeared to have sent the locomotive out as scrap (possibly to Progress Rail) when they did not select the unit for a re-engine project.  Another unit did come back from that project with c/n 39088 which would put their re-engine effort during the 1980's.  There is no clear data on the scrapping or disposition and much of this data comes from the personal recollection of TTX management on site.  They also do not recall c/n 30856 ever being repainted in TTX garb.
    b) DIESEL #2: Similar to the visit to locate N&A #1, a visit was made to Sylacauga, Alabama to look for former N&A diesel #2 (35-ton GE c/n 31768).  There are a couple of photographs of former #2 being repainted to Imerys (evidently a division of Georgia Marble/Alabama Marble) colors.  But as fate would have it, this locomotive was scrapped in in late 2009 or early 2010.  The guard on duty at the entrance provided that the locomotive had been the subject of several inquiries as to it's history, but that it had been scrapped.  No late photographs exist nor does any information on who might have performed the scrap operation.
    c) DIESEL #3: Green Bay, Wisconsin turns out to be the last location that N&A diesel #3 has served!  And it's still there, serving the Great Lakes Calcium Company's lake-side facility.  The 25-ton GE (c/n 31778) was the last of the diesels purchased for use by the N&A in January 1953 and was stored out-of-service for some time while in Nelson, Georgia.  Having originated in Erie, Pennsylvania, worked in Schuyler, Virginia, Nelson, Georgia, and Woodville, Ohio before making it's way to Green Bay, Wisconsin, it's been photographed several times at it's current assignment.  This author visited the site (with permission) and was provided an opportunity to pilot the locomotive in spotting a covered hopper and then returning to it's storage siding.  While the unit had been involved in an accident while in Ohio, it is back in working condition for daily operations.  There are currently photographs of this in Schuyler, Nelson (Georgia), and Green Bay, but none from Woodville (Ohio).
    d) ABANDONMENT:  There also are no photographs of the abandonment of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway.  After the tracks were torn out, a photo was published in the newspaper of the forlorn depot at Esmont.  Many photographs were likely taken during those last days but few have ever turned up.

Well, there you have it.  This is another attempt to identify the missing links with the Nelson & Albemarle Railway and close the gap on the knowledge across the span of its existence for 60 years and beyond once transferred to Georgia Marble ownership.  The earliest years remain the hardest to gain traction on information so any help across any of the categories would be helpful, but the earliest ones really have my focus for this next year.

Send email to NelsonAlbemarle@comcast.net if you have any comments or questions or wish to contribute to future articles. Copyright 2017 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.