September-October 2017 Article

This Month's Article: September-October 2017
The Culver & Port Clinton Railroad - Original owner of N&A #11

Much like the Nelson & Albemarle Railway, the Culver & Port Clinton Railroad was created to serve a parent industry, the Granite Hill Plaster Company (a gypsum-quarrying company), with both companies formed in 1889. 
Nearby gypsum companies (Marsh & Co.; Consumers Gypsum Co.) would be absorbed (like Granite Hill Plaster) into the foundation of the U.S. Gypsum Company that consolidated many small operations around the country in 1901/1902. Gypsum had been discovered in the early 1800's along Lake Erie and specifically in Portage Township of Ottawa County near Port Clinton, Ohio.  The unincorporated town of Gypsum was an indication of the impact this mineral made on the area with two rail lines being developed from the Lake Shore & Michigan Railroad main line (later, the New York Central RR). 
The first locomotive was purchased by either Granite Hill
Plaster or the Culver & Port Clinton Railroad and while likely a new engine, it could have been purchased used (like the N&A's first locomotive acquired from the Richmond City Railway) but no information has been discovered to identify the engine's builder or construction number though a photograph from U. S. Gypsum exists that could be locomotive #1.   Locomotives of that era were expected to have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years (though later locomotive evolution would find the useful life to be closer to 50 years if properly maintained). That first locomotive managed the immediate need of transporting gypsum out to mills and to other manufacturers in Ohio and nearby states using gypsum in their processes (such as glass/ceramic manufacturing).
Granite Hill Plaster would use that first locomotive for 20 years (including the period of their inclusion in U.S. Gypsum at year 12) before Culver & Port Clinton Railroad #2 was ordered from Vulcan to be built at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in October, 1909.  Construction number 1381 had 14x22 cylinders with 40" drivers, slightly different than the standard Vulcan locomotive known by the code word, "Ilios", which could be easily ordered without specifying many details
but standardized with 14x20 cylinders and 37" drivers.For those who don't understand the measurement of cylinders, the 14 represents the cylinder diameter in inches and the 22 represents the stroke distance in inches, so while we abbreviate the representation, it could also be shown as 14"x22" cylinders.  The 2-4-2T wheel arrangement was augmented by "step" pilots on both ends primarily recognizing that the locomotive would not be 'turned' on a turntable or with use of "Wye" trackage and that the 'step' would be used by workers to ride along with the engine and manage coupling and uncoupling cars of gypsum.  This was much the same way in which the N&A used their locomotives - never turned, using only passing sidings to bring the locomotive to the front of
the consist.  Vulcan not only prepared a builder's photo of the Culver & Port Clinton Railroad's #2 locomotive, but also featured the engine in it's "K" edition of their locomotive catalog of 1911. At 86,000 pounds, and with leading/trailing trucks, #2 would serve the Culver & Port Clinton Railroad only through 1923 when acquired by the Nelson & Albemarle Railway.  Before shipping the locomotive to Schuyler, Virginia, the Vulcan Locomotive Works would refurbish #2 to become N&A #11 as noted in an "as re-built" photograph shown here.  The clean look that #2 held when first built and as re-built into #11 would not last too long on a soapstone railway.  The fancy white
outline on the driver weights and on the driver tires along with the outline pinstripes on the cab and flank would be quickly tarnished by daily use.  And there were issues with #11 that caused it to be sent back to Wilkes-Barre for a new boiler in 1927 though that extended the useful life of the locomotive to allow it to be kept through 1954..  Research did not identify any specific use of #11 during the lean years of the 1930's (no photographs
found) and it can only be assumed that #11 held general duties during those years.  In 1940, however, Paramount Pictures and Edward H. Griffith's production company came to Albemarle County to film the feature motion picture "Virginia" and N&A's #9, though planned to be featured in Esmont, ended up on the main  line of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway at Howardsville for opening sequences of the movie.  In preparing #9 for that eventful debut, lettering identifying the Nelson & Albemarle Ry. Co. was placed on the flanks of the tank engines mounted tender - where coal was stored for the locomotive.  In the movie, it's really difficult to identify the locomotive number, obscured by the dirt and dust of the soapstone line, but the lettering on both the locomotive and boxcar was clean and crisp being just added. This lettering also found it's way onto #11 as witnessed by a photo-postcard in the historical society's collection. 
In February 1951, Railroad Magazine featured a photograph of a slightly different angle than the photo-postcard but obviously taken on the same day, some time in 1950 at Schuyler.  With #11 now running on the mainline (albeit possibly due to #9 and #10 being out of service for maintenance) there are many photographs of the locomotive compared to the tank engines that serviced the quarries.   This early time of the 1950's was pivotal for the Nelson & Albemarle Railway as dieselization was being executed even on industrial or short lines and the mainline would become the domain of a GE 44-ton diesel locomotive (c/n 30856) in the spring of 1951, numbered as #1 to restart the roster with diesels.  About this time, #11 was sidelined (retired) and it's 42 years of work life ended.  No longer needed on the mainline, #11 was kept
serviceable as dieselization moved forward.  While the diesel replacement for mainline power had been purchased directly by the Nelson & Albemarle Railway, the next two diesels delivered in early 1953 (GE 35-ton, c/n 31768 and GE 25-ton, c/n 31778)  would be purchased by the soapstone works and numbered in sequence with the railway's first diesel.  These two switchers were decidedly for quarry operations and would replace steam for all operations at Schuyler.  Scrapping came quickly in those years and steam locomotives #9 and #10 would leave the N&A via the connection at Esmont/Warren and likely be sent to Richmond, Virginia's Deepwater Terminal where the scrapper would cut apart the engines for reclamation as they did for so many of the Virginia-based motive power of Class I railroads such as the C&O Railway, Seaboard Air Line, and the Atlantic Coast Line. With two new diesel switchers supporting the quarry and making up trains in Schuyler, the quarry engines, #12, #14, and #15, also left the property to be scrapped. Though there are no photos yet found of N&A steam being cut up at Deepwater Terminal, the search remains to find at least one photograph that includes the last moments of the diminutive tank engines.   
Steam was definitely finished it's last hurrah at the N&A with the full dieselization and while #11 still remained on the engine house siding at Schuyler, it's time was coming to make that trip to the scrapper's torch.  N&A #11 may have been kept into 1954 as a precaution on any issues rising out of the diesels, but the new locomotives were very reliable sending #11 to follow the other N&A steam locomotives.  For the brief years between the end of World War 2 and the forced retirement in 1951, #11 was photographed several times documenting it's continued use and support for the soapstone works before the diesels arrived to end the era of steam along the N&A's right of way.
Photograph Credits

Reference:  Locomotive #1, Culver & Port Clinton Railroad; U.S.Gypsum Company.

Reference:  Vulcan Locomotive Works, Builder's Photo, Culver & Port Clinton Railroad #2; also shown in Steam Locomotive & Railroad Tradition, May 1963

Reference:  Portage County maps; depicting Culver & Port Clinton Railroad tracks; provided by the Ottawa County (Ohio) Historical Society

Reference:  Vulcan Locomotive Works, Builder's Photo, Nelson & Albemarle #11; also shown in Steam Locomotive & Railroad Tradition, May 1963

Reference:  Vulcan Locomotive Works, Catalog K, Culver & Port Clinton Railroad #2 specifications and builder's photo - a copy of this catalog is in the NEARHS collection

Reference:  Railroad Magazine, February 1951, N&A #11 at Schuyler, page 16

Reference:  NEARHS Collection, Photo Postcard, circa 1951 (photographed same day as Railroad Magazine view, but different angle)

Reference:  Don Ross Collection, photograph of #11 from June 22, 1950; similar to an H. Reid photograph postcard in the NEARHS collection from 1948 though could be an August A. Thieme photograph

Reference:  Unknown photographer, negative in NEARHS collection, #11 at Schuyler

Reference:  Unknown photographer, print in NEARHS collection, #11 at Warren on C&O main line, circa 1950

Reference:  Unknown photographer, print in NEARHS collection, #11 at Schuyler with #12 in background, circa 1948-50

Reference:  Unknown photographer, print in NEARHS collection, #11 at Schuyler Engine House, fires dropped, dormant circa 1951-53

Copyright 2017 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.


Send email to NelsonAlbemarle@comcast.net if you have any comments or questions or wish to contribute to future articlesCopyright 2017 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.
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