March 2011 Article

This Month's Article - March 2011
In Search of N&A Steam: Locomotives #3 and #4
Back in 2009 we started the series of searching out information on the steam locomotives of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway with some background on the first engines of the N&A that included #1 and #2 (and the later Old Dominion engines that were the 2nd #1 and #2).  We also started this entire article series in June 2009 with the history of N&A #5 and #6 that arrived in Virginia from the Manhattan Railway.  There was good reason to celebrate when we began this journey as a photograph of the original N&A #1 existed in the Smithsonian Institution.  And the 2nd #2, originally part of the Old Dominion Soapstone Company, still exists today though stored without it's water tank in Goshen, Virginia at the North Fork Lumbar Company.  Good photographs of certain Manhattan Railway engines in the same build series as those that were sold to the N&A are available though none of the actual engines (in a closeup photograph) have been found.  <><>  Locomotive #3 remains a mystery.  There is reference to it in the "Soapstone Shortlines: Alberene Stone and it's Railroads" book by Garth Groff but without any detail which is entirely understandable.  At the same time in history, H. L. Lane, a principal in the N&A, also had a mill operation in Esmont where several small steam locomotives were in use and it could be possible that one of these engines was purchased to fill an immediate need on the railroad.  It's also possible that this locomotive was just a small quarry engine bought used and kept only a short time before being sold or scrapped.  This early period of the N&A between 1903 and 1920 when Vulcan locomotives #9 and #10 were purchased is sparse with detail or records mostly due to the Rockfish River flood in the late-1940's that inundated the Schuyler headquarters.  We'll keep looking for this early history as it talks about the large operations that existed in the period when the Alberene mill was active and the line ran between Rockfish and connection to the Southern Railway all the way to Warren and the interchange with the C&O.  <><>  In 1904 the soapstone company recognized the need for a substantial locomotive to handle it's growing business and the first new locomotive was purchased in December of that year from Porter.  With 14x20 cylinders and 42" drivers, the 82,000# locomotive was construction #3107.  This 2-6-2T tank locomotive was consistent with most smaller industrial operations, carrying it's own coal and water supply without the need for a separate tender.  The obvious advantage for the Nelson & Albemarle, as in all of it's mainline locomotives, was the ability to run either direction without turning.  This was an interesting time for the N&A as this engine would spend 20 years on the property before being sold to Southern Iron & Equipment in 1924 becoming their #1939.  Recently, a photograph was identified on the Mississippi Railroads web page,, as an SI&E photograph of #1939 that is in the David S. Price Collection.  See that website for copyright and other information regarding this photographPhotograph is displayed here for reference only and all requests for copies of this photo should be directed to David at his email address:   Southern Iron & Equipment would rebuild the Porter locomotive into a straight 0-6-0 with an 8-wheel tender and sell it to the Batesville & Southwestern Railroad as their #11 on 13 September 1924.  The BSW paid $5000 for the locomotive less $2500 for a trade-in of their #10 engine.  The Batesville & Southwestern had been formed by a partnership with the Illinois Central Railroad in 1910 with R. J. Darnell as it's operator.  This 20 year agreement turned ownership of the rail line over to the IC RR upon the end of the partnership period.  Darnell also operated a lumber mill and owned 19,000 acres of timber land that were the basis for the railroad to be chartered.  Unfortunately no other industry was ever developed along the line.   The Batesville & Southwestern abandoned their line in early February 1931, and this locomotive made it's way back to SI&E as their #2483.  While much of this is documented in Thomas Lawson, Jr.'s book, "Locomotives of Southern Iron & Equipment Company", neither the detail noted on the Mississippi Railroads web page nor the photograph were included in the Cabbage Stack publishing of this book in 2008.  There is no mention of the Porter being sold again and it was likely scrapped directly from SI&E by the 1940's.  <><>  With #1, #2, 2nd #1, and 2nd #2 behind us, mention of #5 and #6 at the beginning or our articles series, and now the limited information on #3 and some detail on #4 provided, the series will pickup again in the future with #7, the former Proctor Coal locomotive and #8 which was apparently the only locomotive on the line with a tender.
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