East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad

Variety Mills - quarries

Variety Mills is a small group of houses in the shadow of Turner Mountain near Canada Gap. There is nothing there now to suggest a busy industrial past except two abandoned soapstone quarries.

The soapstone quarries are silent ponds in the woods. Not much else is left as evidence of the work done here.

The flooded quarries are surrounded by piles of soapstone boulders.

There are foundations and footings in the underbrush. This one apparently supported a large horizontal boiler.

This may have been a pumphouse.

The quarries were served by rail. This section is about three and a half inches tall. Rail this size is most typically used in industrial and narrow gauge applications.

The old railroad right of way connects the quarries to the mill, and the mill to the C&O Railroad along the James River.

Some of the soapstone around the quarries appears to be sawn. Apparently the mill was supplying rough cut soapstone to the quarries as construction material.

Less than half a mile southwest of the quarries in Variety Mills is another one.

I found no evidence of railroad tracks near this quarry. It may have been owned and operated by a different company.

The boulders from this quarry are piled in a long line on the ridge of the hill. Having to transport these stones to a mill on unimproved rural roads would have been difficult.

The floor of an old shed in Variety Mills is being supported by a stack of scrap soapstone slabs.