Rockfish to Esmont

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  • States: Virginia   
  • Railroads: N&A   

The Nelson and Albemarle Railroad

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Brick bridge abutments near Esmont, largely overgrown by greenery. Photo by Mike Palmer, May 2004.

The Nelson and Albemarle was a shortline in central Virginia, and was named for the counties it passed through; it served local quarries and mines in the area. The western end of the line interchanged with the Southern (now Norfolk Southern) main line at Rockfish. The eastern end had a spur that extended to Esmont, a small community also served by the C&O at one time. The entire line shut down in the 1940s or 1950s.

One of the more interesting online businesses was a stone quarry at Schuyler. Though rail service to the quarry ceased long ago, parts of the quarry were still in operation as late as 2004. The quarry and surrounding country were the setting for the Waltons TV show; the fictional Walton family was based on the real Hamner family from the Schuyler area.

Thanks to Mike Palmer for contributing information about this route.

The N&A was owned by the Alberene Soapstone enterprises stretching from Alberene to Schuyler (Albemarle & Nelson counties) serving the Soapstone works at those locations as well as the associated quarries. Connecting to Rockfish originally to meet with the Southern Railway, that line washed out in the 1940's. C&O originally served line to Esmont, N&A later leased it and know this because the train numbers changed past Esmont down to interchange with C&O at Warren. Alberene section ended in late 1930's. Dieselized in the 50's and while there remains one of those diesel's around (Georgia Marble has it in GA), there is actually a surviving 0-4-0T steam engine at private ownership in Marion, Virginia. N&A formally shut down in 1963. Garth Groff's booklet, Soapstone Shortlines, is good reference!

Rob Peters
St. Charles, IL
1/6/2009

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Last remaining steam engine is now in Goshen, Virginia at the North Fork Lumbar Company. While in stored condition, visits are permitted with previous arrangements by the owner of the lumbar company.

Rob Peters
Saint Charles, IL
2/1/2010

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My mother and father grew up in Schuyler and, in the 50s, I remember an active freight line along the N&A. The other comments point out what my parents always told me that it connected with the C&O (for east-west shipping) at Warren (yes, it ran through Esmont) and the Southern at Rockfish. Their family stories talked about taking the N&A (it had a 1/2 passenger / 1/2 baggage car) to either end to go on by train either to Richmond on the C&O or to Lynchburg or Charlottesville via the Southern. I still have my mother's steamer trunk with the shipping label on it from when she left Schuyler to go to Lynchburg College...by rail. Schuyler is still there as are the graves of many family members, including great-grandfather, Schuyler George Walker ! The N&A was a classic short line.

Scott Walker
Fredericksburg, VA
2/19/2010

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I lived in Alberene 1938-1953. My father worked at the company store at Schuyler until he retired I have a ticket stub from this railroad. Alberene to Schuyler. Fifty Four Trip Commutation Ticket stub # S 3993 issues to my father C. M.Morris - December 1929 - No. 362.

Also, I have a book by Garth G. Groff, titled: Soapstone Shortlines, Alberene Stone and It's Railroads - A good history of the railroad, The beginning of the plant and community of Alberene and the soapstone plant at Alberene and Schuyler.

Janice Mann
Charlottesville, VA
7/20/2010

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In the book Mixed Train Daily, Lucius Beebe-1947. There is a nice piece on the N and A while it was still in operation in the 40's.

B. Schweizer
Lexington, VA
8/14/2011

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Updating comments from 2009: Last remaining DIESEL from the N&A is now in GREEN BAY, Wisconsin serving the Great Lakes Calcium Company. Unit has been overhauled, works daily, and is in good overall condition. Originally, N&A (Alberene Stone) #3 (the 2nd #3 on the line). See www.nelson-albemarle-railway.org for more details.

Rob Peters
St. Charles, IL
2/26/2016

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Shortened Link: http://a-r.us/5at
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