East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicle of an On30 quarry railroad

Shortline Railroads

Nelson & Albemarle Railway

The Nelson & Albemarle Railway took a circuitous route between a connection with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad and the Southern, serving mills at Alberene and Schuyler as well as the soapstone quarries along the way.

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Charles Clegg photo - California Railroad Museum collection

The Nelson & Albemarle was a perfect complement to both the soapstone industry it served and the scenery through which it ran. Vulcan built saddle tank steam locomotives hauled short trains along a lightly graded right-of-way.

Alberene Stone Company and the N&A could certainly provide excellent inspiration for an On30 model railroad. But the N&A is standard gauge …

Upcountry Romance

A Reminiscence in an old railfan publication - "An Upcountry Romance"

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"The heartland of Virginia is rolling and rural, a green countryside given over to small farms, gentlemen's estates, and a quarry or mineral working here and there."

Tom Sullivan ran across an article about the Nelson & Albemarle Railroad by H. Reid in the May 1963
Steam Locomotive & Railroad Tradition magazine, and was kind enough to pass it on to me.

The article is illustrated by a cartoon created by H. Reid himself, portraying many events in the colloquial history of the line in one non-linear jumble of movie stars, rabbit hunts, escaped livestock, and smooches. An N&A train is shown traversing an apparent loop of track connecting Rockfish to Warren.

A rambling, florid story based on the facts but heavy on suppositional dialogue and local legends, the article brought two old impressions back into sharp focus for me. The first is that the N&A was a perfect compliment to the area through which it ran. The little locomotives hauled short trains on a lightly graded right-of-way through the woods and pastures of Piedmont. The mill that provided freight for the railroad was surrounded by a campus of beautiful, small stone buildings that looked transplanted from Cornwall or Wales.

The embellished history in the article also depicted the N&A as an excellent railroad to model. I could imagine that the article had actually been written about a model railroad, an illusion supported by the circular track plan illustrated in the cartoon. "An Upcountry Romance" describes an idealized inspiration for my own model railroad, making me want to develop a backstory that might serve as the text for a pictorial article for a hobby publication.