October 2020 Article

This Month's Article: October 2020
Tracing the Nelson & Albemarle Railway along the Rockfish River

Several years ago, Bill Trout (W. E. Trout, III) of the Virginia Canals & Navigations Society reached out to us regarding any information we might have on the Nelson & Albemarle Railway's right of way between Schuyler and Rockfish on the Rockfish River.  The Rockfish River was being included in an Historic Waterways in the Heart of Virginia series of books (primarily maps with associated text describing navigation on the noted river).  At the time (2011) there was not much to provide Bill as most of the detail collected to that point included few if any references to the river and no photographs of the right of way had been found at that time that were conclusively along the Rockfish line.  Bill and Peter C. Runge prepared The Slate & Willis's River Atlas for their society with publication including the Rockfish & Hardware Rivers in 2012.  If you've followed the Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society for these past few years, you would have noted the work that is ongoing to finalize and publish a comprehensive book that includes a system wide map.  That map was always missing the track layout of the N&A as it was built at Rockfish.  To complicate matters more, the original line between Schuyler and Rockfish was built for trolley equipment purchased secondhand from the Lynchburg Electric Street Railway Company by the Virginia Soapstone Company years before merging with the Albemarle Soapstone Company.  After the Nelson & Albemarle Railway was formed, the Schuyler Railway was folded into the company but the rail line to Rockfish from the mill at Schuyler was too light for the use of steam power.  The rebuilt line, changed the landscape of the line to a more direct path and also included a shift in the track design at Rockfish.  During the last few months as requests for information on the track layout at Rockfish were getting some answers, the topographic map of 1892 was found.  This map outlined the Schuyler Railway track with crossings of the river and arriving into the middle of a company warehouse in Rockfish and connection with the then newly-formed Southern Railway.  This information came a little late to be included in the 3rd edition of their book but will be added to a future edition.  What is lacking though, is the track layout detail in Rockfish once the rail line was rebuilt for steam locomotive use.  Even the sites where buildings stood is difficult to determine as the only remaining landmark is the Rockfish Post Office.  The Virginia Canals & Navigations Society invites individuals to become members.  They can be contacted at 3806 S. Amherst Highway, Madison Heights, VA 24572 or by going online to www.vacanals.org to learn about their work and society.  The map of the Rockfish River between Schuyler and Rockfish can be found on plat 56 in the book.  We'll continue to seek out information to support this society's quest for historical data along the Rockfish River.

Send email to NelsonAlbemarle@comcast.net if you have any comments or questions or wish to contribute to future articles.  Copyright 2020 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.