East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad

Alberene Soapstone

It had been over 25 years since I last wandered the campus of the old soapstone plant in Schuyler, Virginia.

Back then, the operation was all but abandoned, though a small amount of stone was still being cut there by someone. Several owners took over the plant in the intervening years, and security around the property was upgraded. I was never inclined to attempt to get permission to visit until I discovered a new book about Alberene Stone by Kierk Ashmore-Sorenson. Kierk is the owner of Alberene Soapstone, and made it clear through his book that he is interested in the history of the soapstone industry in Virginia.

And so, not long after making contact with Kierk, I was in the office of Alberene Soapstone being given a hardhat and permission to roam the grounds. Being welcomed has opened a new chapter in my interest in soapstone as a modeling subject. My visit renewed my awareness of how interesting the portrayal of a soapstone operation in Nelson County could be -- the setting, quarries, mill, and company town provide an engaging opportunity for both research and rendering.