June 2013 Article

This Month's Article - June 2013
Research Continues 
Writing an article each month requires a tremendous amount of detail to be available to create an outline, identify potential photographs (or commission new ones), and compose the actual words that will fill the space (or overflow into subsequent months) on the specific topic chosen.  While there are easy articles to write because the information is easily located, many times the article encompasses a larger topic that requires not only great amounts of information but also specific photographs or data that isn't well known or easily found without doing research. 
To accomplish articles such as the series on the villages along the Nelson & Albemarle Railway that were home to depots, the research had to extend to physical trips to perform direct research.  At the beginning of June Imagethere was just such a chance to do some research at the University of Virginia where there are limited records from the Nelson & Albemarle Railway (and associated soapstone companies) stored in the archives.  The Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library at UVA has a very secure space and reading room for performing research that is actually under the courtyard in front of the library as seen in the photograph here.  When you consider that many records of the soapstone companies and railway were lost from flood (Schuyler) or bank failure (Esmont), finding a single repository of documents allowed for three days of intense research.  Another surprise during this visit was the full original unpublished manuscript by Garth Groff, "Soapstone Shortlines:  Alberene Stone and its Railroads" - and NOT just the booklet that Garth published in 1991 (Drop Leaf Press - out of print).  Almost an entire day was spent reading through the manuscript and photographing key diagrams that although previously published in magazine articles by Garth were good to have documented for reference later.  The expanded story was amazing with much greater emphasis on the evolution of the N&A under the many varied soapstone companies. 
Research in the library is structured - only limited materials allowed to any researcher at a time - no pens allowed as expected - and while there were no scanners/copiers allowed, you could use a laptop to take notes and a camera to photograph documents (but no flash photography).  Another trip will be planned to Charlottesville, Virginia to again visit the UVA Libraries and hopefully meet Garth Groff (who was unavailable during our visit though he works in the building next to the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library).  Much of what was researched in this trip related to securing detail on Esmont and while in the area, visits were made to Esmont and Schuyler to take current photographs of the area.  There are also other libraries that contain data about the Nelson & Albemarle Railway including the State Library of Virginia (Archives) in Richmond, Virginia so there will be more trips to perform research in other facilities as well.
Next month we'll get back to the Tales of Esmont, Virginia (Part 2) before moving up the line to Alberene and then to Schuyler over in Nelson County.
Send email to NelsonAlbemarle@comcast.net if you have any comments or questions or wish to contribute to future articles.  Copyright 2013 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.