East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad

Narrow Gauge Railroads

Logging Railroad in the Blue Ridge

Last March, I attended a tour of old logging railroad grades led by Aubrey Wiley and the Blue Ridge Chapter of the NRHS.

This narrow gauge Climax cab is on display near the sawmill site of South River Lumber Company. SRLC once had an extensive network of lines in the mountains of eastern Rockbridge and western Amherst counties. The mainline left the company town of Cornwall and followed Irish Creek up into the Blue Ridge.

A short section of the grade is restored along the Blue Ridge Parkway at Yankee Horse Ridge.

The old grades wind around the hollers and along the ridges above Pedlar River and Statons Creek.

Riverton Lime Kiln

This lime kiln once stood up close up to the Norfolk & Western’s Shenandoah line near Front Royal, Virginina.

Of particular interest to me was the fact that the operation used a narrow gauge tram to charge the kilns with limestone quarried nearby.

The narrow gauge tracks were on a high, narrow bridge, with several sections apparently set up to dump carloads of limestone into storage silos.

The tram reached the high bridge by way of a steep incline. I imagine a cable was used to get the cars up and down this steep grade.

The tram ran on 30 inch gauge track to connect the kiln to the quarry.

It was powered by this small Plymouth Diesel locomotive.

The lime was hauled in these small side dump cars, which appear to be homemade.

Pennsylvania Narrow Gauge

My interest in the history of the soapstone business in Virginia has me out in the woods of Albemarle, Nelson, and Amherst Counties late every winter. After hunting season but before the last freeze I go out in search of signs of activity from long ago. Hopes are high to find clues as to what was once there. Maybe a stone foundation, a rotted crosstie, a short piece of wire rope. Any artifact at all is cause for much happiness and photo shooting. Finding something helps create a picture of the past.

I had heard and read about a narrow gauge railroad that ran in south central Pennsylvania, and decided to go see what was left of it. As I drove through Robertsdale, I saw a most amazing sight.

The rails were still in place. It was easy to trace the line through town and see a turning wye.

I hiked several miles of the grade, astounded that the line was still pretty much intact. As I followed the old right of way north, I eventually reached Orbisonia.

Orbisonia is a waking dream for someone interested in industrial history like myself. Facilities that only exist in faded photographs anywhere else are still standing at the East Broad Top shops.

At Mount Union, strings of narrow gauge hopper cars sit in the woods at the edge of town. I just could not get over how so much of the East Broad Top Railroad is still there.