May 2013 Article

This Month's Article - May 2013
In Search of Steam - FOUND!  N&A #8 Locomotive Photograph
SInce we began documenting and publishing information on the Nelson & Albemarle Railway back in June of 2009, there have been 9 articles written on the Steam, Diesel, and Motorcars owned by the soapstone company or the railway itselt (Diesel #1).  It started with the June 2009 "This Month's Article" covering the background on steam locomotives #5 and #6 that were purchased secondhand from the Manhattan Railroad through used loco dealer, P. McManus.  It continued with the August 2009 article recounting the finding and photographing of the last remaining steam locomotive, the 2nd #2, an original locomotive of the Old Dominion Soapstone Company that joined the roster of the N&A when the company was purchased.  In September 2009 the three rosters that had been published were featured (and can be viewed in the Roster Compilation found in the sidebar to left under "ARCHIVE: This Month's Articles" as the first selection).  Motorcars and Diesels were featured in the November 2009 article while receiving an update six months later in the May 2010 artcile.  There was much to write on Motorcars (especially since there were NO photographs and little information) so another article appeared in January 2011 as we continued to search for details. Then we mention the #8 locomotive and it's being known as the only loco on the roster with a tender in the March 2011 article, "In Search of Steam, Locomotives #3, #4, and #8".  The one line at the bottom of the article really said volumes on how difficult it was to find information, photographs, or documents of any nature on the mysterious #8.  We finally find a picture of loco #5 and mention it in the April 2011 article along with some information on the wreck of diesel #3 and it's possible move to Green Bay, Wisconsin for parts salvage or scrapping (but not likely rebuilding).  Then in February 2012 a new "In Search of Steam - The Missing Locomotives, #2, #3, and #8" was published.  One paragraph covered the limited information on what was purported to be #8:  ..... Around 1905 according to at least 1 prepared roster, the N&A secured a used locomotive rumored to have a tender rather than be configured as most engines on the N&A were as tank locomotives.  The exact wording from that roster is "Unknown, said to have a tender; bought used about 1905."  Buying used locomotives just past the turn of the century may have been much easier than you might expect.  While there were used equipment dealers like P. McManus, there were also railroads advertising to sell their older equipment.  But the best way to locate where a locomotive might have been purchased remains company records though the soapstone companies records were pretty much destroyed in the severe flood in the late 1940's that filled the mill with mud from the Rockfish River.
Recenty an online auction offered a 'specimen' stock certificate of the Virginia Alberene Company and while we normally show interest in this type of related item, the starting bid had us declining to participate!  The specimen did have one interesting element - a photograph of
a locomotive hauling a load of soapstone blocks on a long line of flat cars.  So first the magnifying glass came out and then a photographic image was produced and examined with a 21x eye loupe.  There to our surprise is a locomotive with a tender pulling a long train of soapstone either from a local quarry to the adjacent mill or between the quarries at Alberene to the mill at Schuyler. 
This looks to be our missing #8 locomotive!  
The stock certificate was from the 1920's (reference the preprinted 192_ on the certificate) allowing the stock to have the year added upon issuance.   While the image is small, the photographic
blow up of the area provided more details (and some additional questions!) that are still to be answered. 
Wow, this looks really close to either the #5 or #6 locomotive except there doesn't appear to be any tank covering the boiler though it does appear to have a short area behind the cab where tank locomotives normally store a supply of coal along with a doorway in the side of the cab.  There also appears to be lettering on the side of the tender though no amount of photographic enhancement or enlargement can bring out enough detail to show what the letters spell out.  Once the enlargement was set to a size that the letters might have been readable, pixilation took over and distorted the view.  Not every great find is followed by getting all of the information wanted.  This case is no different as this leaves some  more questions on whether this was originally a tank locomotive, stripped of it's saddle tank and a tender added to provide a water supply and additional coal or if it's still a tank locomotive and the tender was added to support not having to reload coal and water through the day. 
Locomotives on the Nelson & Albemarle Railway had their ups and downs along with the trials and tribulations of the various soapstone companies that evolved over the years.  Good times, bad times, depression, war - were all factors in how the company's financial condition allowed new locomotives, or forced the use of rebuilt or used motive power.  The most significant moment in the history of the roster was the purchase of Vulcan's #9 and #10 in the early 1920's.  These locomotives became the mainstay of the company's main line operations until replaced by diesel #1 in 1950.

Next month we'll get back to the Tales of Esmont, Virginia with Part 2 in our Terrain Series.  Coming in July, the Terrain Series will go on to Alberene.  Copyright 2013 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.