East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad

Working Quarry Photos - 2

When I first started visiting soapstone country in Nelson and Albemarle Counties, there were still many steel guy derricks at the quarries. The tall steel towers rose above the treeline in the woods around Schuyler and Alberene. There were so many that I did not take many photographs of them, thinking they would always be there. Thankfully, Jack Brown did an excellent job of documenting a steel guy derrick at a small quarry operation in Ohio. I have learned a lot from studying his photographs.

My recollection is that many of the derricks at the soapstone quarries were larger than this one Jack photographed, but they operated the same way. An interesting detail of this derrick is that the mast is rather seriously bent. I imagine the guy wires that normally carry the load stretched over time, and were not routinely retightened.

The derrick was controlled from the hoist house. This primitive shed did not provide the hoist operator much protection from the weather.

The operator apparently sat on an old metal tractor seat upholstered with a burlap sack. The control stand for the electric motor and the levers that worked the drums were all close at hand.

Wire rope led out of the front of the hoist house to the base of the derrick. The cableway was protected by a simple fence. Apparently, normal operation of the derrick was to have the boom working an area back in the direction of the hoist house. Consequently, the hoist house had to be beyond the scope of the boom.

At the base of the derrick is a bull wheel. A cable around the perimeter of the wheel would rotate the entire derrick on a pedestal. The cables operating the boom and main sheave ran into the base of the derrick.