March-April 2014 Article

This Month's Article:  March/April 2014
The Story of N&A #3 Diesel
It was inevitable that the Nelson & Albemarle Railway would have diesels operating trains if they were to survive into the modern post-war (WWII) era.  Steam locomotives (and replacement parts) were expensive to maintain and the locomotives most relied upon for daily service were approaching 50 years of age.  Locomotives #9 and #10 were replaced by a General Electric 44-ton diesel (c/n 30856) built in December 1950 for Alberene Stone Company under requisition #RIC-29947 though lettered for the Nelson & Albemarle Railway as #1.  It shipped from GE's Erie, Pennsylvania factory on 9 January 1951 and was likely received by mid-January.    The Nelson & Albemarle Railway had acquired it's first diesel and the days were numbered for the remainder of the steam locomotives serving the quarry and Schuyler mill operations.  Locomotives #11, #12, #14, and #15 were next in line for replacement.   Diesel #1 had replaced main line interchange service with the C&O and now a single General Electric 35-ton diesel (c/n 31768) bought on requisition #RIC-49116-2 would be serving the Schuyler mill having been built in November 1952 and shipped on 5 December 1952.  While N&A #1 was utilized for quite some time in a second life with TTX (nee Hamburg Industries) in North Augusta, South Carolina (formerly Hamburg, South Carolina) it became a parts unit with the acquisition by TTX and would eventually be sent for formal scrapping with Progress Rail according to TTX sources.  N&A #2, the rare 35-ton unit, still lives on supporting rail operations for the French company, Imerys, Inc., at their facility in Sylacauga, Alabama where the unit was sent when the N&A shut down in 1963 (Alabama Marble at the time, a subsidiary of Georgia Marble that owned the Virginia soapstone works).  But it's Diesel #3 of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway that disappeared and eluded tracking until just recently and it is this story that we're telling now.
Life started for the General Electric 25-ton B-diesel as construction number 31778 in January 1953.  Alberene Stone Company ordered the diesle under requisition #RIC-49116-3 and the unit was shipped to Schuyler, Virginia as Alberene Stone Corporation of Virginia No. 3 on 6 February 1953 from GE's Erie plant. <PENNSYLVANIA> The dimunitive 4-wheel diesel would operate on the soapstone companies trackage at quarries in Schuyler.   <VIRGINIA>  Much like the 35-ton #2, this unit was owned by the company, but leased to the Nelson & Albermarle Railway for car movement at the quarries and mill.  Locomotives #11, #12, #14, and #15 would soon be off the property and scrapped during 1953 (likely at Peck Iron & Metal in Richmond, Virginia as the C&O and other Virginia rail lines utilized this scrap dealer heavily during the 1950's).  Daily operations would have been rather simple, moving loaded flat cars of soapstone block to be hoisted off the car and moved to the mill or gang-saw building by overhead crane.  This would carry on for 10 years until the N&A, weary and tired, would cease operations and rail operations shifted to trucking including moving what soapstone blocks were quarried to the nearby mill.  It's unfortunate that from those 10 years, there has not emerged any photograph of this unit in the Alberene Stone Corporation paint/lettering scheme.  N&A #3 would make it's way to Georgia Marble's facility at Nelson, Georgia in 1963.  <GEORGIA>  <
> After some minor use there, would sit idle for many years before bought by an industrial locomotive dealer, Lewis Rhodes of Railrhodes, Inc. out of Monroe, Georgia.  There was quite a bidding war going on for N&A #3 as Tom Lawson, Jr. also tried to purchase this industrial critter before Railrhodes won the deal. 
Jay Thomson captured views of former N&A #3 in August 1985 while in Nelson, Georgia and thanks go to Don Ross for permission to use these from his collection.  (See Don Ross' website at for more info.) 
Lewis Rhodes would sell the small diesel in 2002 to the Great Lakes Calcium Company in Woodville, Ohio.  <OHIO>  Sometime after 2002 but before 2004, the little locomotive was involved in an accident in Woodville.  At that point it appears that our little engine was shipped off to Green Bay, Wisconsin to service the car operations at the Great Lakes Calcium site there.  <WISCONSIN>   Regardless of the accident, GE c/n 31778, repaired, went into daily service in Green Bay. 
Michael Ostertag recorded the units existence (Copyright protected) on  with photo taken at Great Lakes Calcium-Green Bay on 14 June 2008, but was not able to include what construction number/serial number was on the unit.  His capturing the diesel confirmed some repairs to the front end by the headlight as well as notable inclusion of large rear view mirrors.  In late 2013, Kim Kafura captured the 25-ton B-diesel at Great Lakes Calcium in Green Bay and posted these two photos at
Seeing the new photo, the NEARHS contacted Great Lakes Calcium to ask if the serial number could be confirmed as 31778.  On 14 February 2014, "Carl" returned the call with validation that indeed, the little diesel moving cars daily around the facility at Green Bay was GE c/n 31778. 
Great Lakes Calcium was also excited to hear the history of N&A #3.  Having been born in January 1953 and still alive and working daily in February 2014, it's 61st birthday was just celebrated!  It traveled from Pennsylvania to end up in Wisconsin having moved through three states to get there.  The Nelson & Albemarle Railway #3 diesel (along with N&A #2 diesel) still operates and proves that there is extended value in the small industrial locomotive.
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NOTE: The 2014 Roster Update of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway will be staying with us (after each monthly article) until we finish loading photographs as permissions to use arrive!