September/October 2015 Article

This Month's Article: September/October 2015
The future - an N&A short story
In August, we were saddened to tell about the demise of the 2nd Nelson & Albemarle Railway diesel (GE 35-ton diesel c/n 31768, the third locomotive to be designated as #2 on the roster) having been scrapped by the Imerys Corporation in Sylacauga, Alabama back in 2009 or 2010.  With the 1st diesel of the N&A being scrapped by TTX of North Augusta, South Carolina some years back as they upgraded their roster of 44-ton units (GE 44-ton diesel c/n 31856, the third locomotive to be designated as #1 on the roster), only the last diesel purchased for use on the N&A remains, GE 25-ton diesel c/n 31778, the second locomotive to be designated as #3 on the roster.  Built in January 1953 for Alberene Stone Corp. for use as Nelson & Albemarle #3, it was purchased using requisition #RIC-49116-3 1503/747/HBI, and was rated 25-tons at 150hp.  Painted in a standard green color, the engine was shipped to Schuyler, Virginia on 6 February 1953 replacing steam locomotives 12, 14, and 15 used in quarry operations.  It remained in service in Virginia until the line was shut down in 1963.  Officially transferred to Georgia Marble ownership that year, little #3 was sent to Nelson, Georgia where it remained stored out-of-service for quite some time.  Lewis Rhodes of Railrhodes, Inc. of Monroe, Georgia eventually acquired the diesel and in 2002 made the sale of it to Great Lakes Calcium company in Woodville, Ohio.  In 2004, the Great Lakes Calcium - Woodville site was sold to National Lime & Stone who subsequently closed the Woodville Plant.  However, the small critter was involved in a wreck at the Woodville Plant property and was shipped to Green Bay, Wisconsin for repair and assignment to the GLC facility there prior to the sale.  There were no sightings of the GE B-truck unit from 2003 until mid-2008 when unconfirmed photos of a GE 25-ton unit were taken by Michael Ostertag (and posted on on 14 June 2008 that appeared to be c/n31778.  Then in late-2013 Kim Kafura took photographs of former N&A #3 describing the location as Great Lakes Calcium in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Great Lakes Calcium in Green Bay was contacted by phone and they advised on 14 February 2014, that the unit is in use daily to move cars and is indeed GE c/n 31778.  Tracking down the above travels of the engine took several months and required the assistance of notable small critter enthusiast, Tom Lawson, Jr. who guided the early history of how the Schenectady-built unit made it's way to Georgia and then was sold to Great Lakes Calcium. Apparently, the injuries received in that accident in Ohio were minor but are evident in squared-off sheet metal on the front end. 
Thanks to Steve Moss at GLC, permission was granted to visit their facility on Friday, October 9th 2015 where they continue to utilize the GE diesel to move covered hoppers around the facility.  Great Lakes Calcium follows stringent rules for their site covered by Mine Safety rules which are much more intense than OSHA regulations.  I mention the rules because one of the conditions that had to be met was proper rear view mirrors on each side of the diesel.  While the paint is starting to deteriorate on the outside of the unit, GLC has taken good care of the critter as new paint is inside the cab, the prime mover was replaced with a new diesel power plant around 2010 and bushings were replaced to make sure the B-truck unit would continue to function properly (a tough job when original parts for a 62-year old diesel are not readily available).  Note the lettering on the side of the cab exposed through the grey paint showing the much-faded green paint and white lettering of "Alberene Corporation of Va." (though yellow nose stripes may never have been added to this yard-only critter, the original green paint job with yellow stripes would look much like the Green Bay Packers football team colors).  With the direct assistance of a qualified engineer, I was allowed to pilot the locomotive off of a siding and pick up a covered hopper and then spot the car onto a track scale for weighing.  Driving this diesel gave me reflection on the original engineers of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway that used this locomotive to move huge blocks of soapstone from beside the quarries in Schuyler, Virginia to spot for the crane to stage the blocks for the gang saws and assembly mill. 
Many engineers since then have continued to use the diesel to perform real work and from the looks of the care that Great Lakes Calcium continues to provide, the GE 25-ton diesel will work many years into the future. 
Many thanks to the team at Great Lakes Calcium who facilitated the visit and
operation of the engine while there. 
Note:  We've always been provided information that the 25-ton, 150hp locomotive was built in Erie, Pennsylvania but the builder's plate confirms that Schenectady, New York was the assembly location for N&A #3 diesel in January, 1953.

More FutureBook Planning continues (as shown below) and the rewrite of the Origins of the N&A is under edit at this time (likely not to complete until December or late into January).  Also, a publisher has been selected and paper selection completed.

Send email to if you have any comments or questions or wish to contribute to future articles. Copyright 2015 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.