East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad

Presentation at Schuyler

In a rather roundabout way, an opportunity came my way to participate in a meeting of the Nelson County Historical Society.

The subject of the meeting was to be the soapstone mill town of Schuyler, the location Schuyler Baptist Church. The folks responsible for finding speakers wanted a knowledgeable person to present a history of the Nelson & Albemarle Railroad. Their first choice was Rob Peters, and rightfully so. Rob has done a superb job of accumulating information about the N&A on his
website, but at the time of the meeting, Rob was traveling and would not be able to make it.

With Rob unavailable, the next choice for a speaker on the history of the Nelson & Albemarle would be Garth Groff. Garth is a talented researcher and rail historian who is widely published, having written the definitive history of the N&A,
Soapstone Shortlines. But Garth was not available the day of the meeting, as his historical interests have now extended beyond Nelson County to the castles of 15th Century Scotland. Garth is now very active in the Isenfir Shire of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Going back to the bullpen for the third time, the Nelson County Historical Society finally got a commitment from me to give a presentation on the history of the N&A. I was thrilled at the prospect, but my schedule was tight for that weekend. Being in Schuyler for the meeting would mean getting on the road early that morning and heading east from Grayson County, where I attended the
Wayne Henderson Festival the day before.

I don’t know a great deal about the history of the N&A, but I know enough to be able to put together a 20 minute Power Point presentation.


Meeting these relatively light requirements was all I needed to do in order to get a seat at the front. 80% of what I presented came directly from the sources of Rob Peters and Garth Groff. I appreciate the effort they have put into researching the Nelson & Albemarle Railroad and making their findings available.

The NCHS presented me with a copy of Mary Lyon’s book
The Blue Ridge Tunnel.


Along with this book, I left the meeting with pages of notes on the subjects covered by the other presenters. For many years I have driven to Schuyler and the surrounding area, fascinated by its rugged isolation, always being very self conscious about being an outsider catching brief glimpses of a unique town whose history and setting I found compelling enough to want to model. To be able to participate in a sanctioned discussion of the history of the town in the town itself was really a dream come true. Thanks to Dick Whitehead and the Nelson County Historical Society for the opportunity.