May-June 2016 Article

This Month's Article:  May-June 2016
Cabooses of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway
Early in the life of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway, the purchasing agent recognized great deals in buying much equipment for the line as good-used or pre-owned from other railways or railway supply dealers.  This was especially true of non-revenue equipment used to transport stone from quarry to the gang saws or providing the last car on trains bound for Rockfish or Esmont from Schuyler. 
While there are no photographs of the earliest non-revenue equipment, the numbering scheme used on the Nelson & Albemarle Railway's first two cabooses is easy to follow. While locomotives (either Steam or Diesel) started with number 1 and went up to number 15 (steam), the first cabooses on the N&A were numbered 101 and 102.  No records of the purchase of these cabooses has been found as of yet, leaving speculation as to when they were bought and also if they were bought together.  Caboose 101 doesn't appear in any photograph or reference found either.  Caboose 102 is a different story however.  For the longest time, the only photograph of caboose 102 was a black & white postcard print stamped with William S. Young, 23 Parker Avenue, Cranford, N. J. on the back along with a handwritten pencil notation:  Nelson & Albemarle 102, Esmont, Va., 7-23-54.  It took the color photographs of William "Bill" Gordon to recognize that it was blue in color.  That blue color was never painted over and there was reference to the purchase of this as a former-Richmond, Fredericksburg, & Potomac caboose making the blue understandable as the RF&P's color scheme for cabooses rather than the more traditional colors.  This caboose had arch-bar trucks which were removed from authorization to use on main-line railroads and thus outlived it's usefulness.  
The N&A would replace the caboose with another good-used one.  This one was a necessity as passenger service ended on the N&A in 1951.  This bright red caboose had a door on one side only (as the N&A was a point-to-point railway by that time serving only Schuyler to Esmont and then over C&O tracks to Warren) to provide some general freight service but also limited passenger use.  Warren Calloway provided a black & white photograph of the business side of the caboose (with open door) on page 45 of Garth Groff's booklet, Soapstone Shortlines: Alberene Stone and It's Railways.  But it took the surfacing of Bill Gordon's great color photographs from 1959-1960 to see that bright red paint on the caboose with yellow accents.  The simple lettering, N&A, were all that identified the ownership of this caboose.  See the photo here of diesel #1 ready to cross the road with the last caboose in tow and the old '102' caboose sitting on a nearby siding. 
Tracking down the history of this caboose has also been near impossible as there have been no documents found that show it's purchase or any reference to it whatsoever.  Bill Griffin compiled an RF&P Caboose Roster for the RF&P Railroad Historical Society that can be found at http://www.RF& which may explain how the N&A acquired another used caboose originally part of the RF&P fleet.  In reviewing the roster, the following disposal notes may reflect how the N&A acquired the last caboose secondhand.

Unfortunately, there are no records for any of these companies that can be easily located and even if available, may not include the detail necessary to
understand which original caboose was purchased and when.  One place where there were lots of references to non-revenue equipment was in Annual Reports and other documents filed with governmental agencies.  However, none of those documents provided detail other than an accounting of having a number of non-revenue equipment of which cabooses were one type.  Sadly, even the disposition of these two cabooses is unknown though likely sold to a scrap dealer and cut into pieces. 

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