• "Gray Lumber Co" narrow gauge in VA

  • Discussion pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Discussion pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Moderator: therock

  by salminkarkku
This logging company ran a 3'g common carrier "tram road" up to 1917, according to the ICC, and I've been looking for it around Pinebloom in Georgia, where the company had large operations. But I've just found out that it was probably somewhere around the town of Gray, on the n.g. line of the "Atlantic & Danville" in Virginia. Has anyone come across this one?

  by RichM
The Gray family was extremely active in politics and the lumber industry on the southside of the James for 60+ years. Not sure what happened to old Horace... it's been 25 years since I last saw (one of?) his ex-wife(s). But I assume that any rail operation you are able to find had to be around the area around Franklin - Wakefield - Suffolk. That's the family homestead.

  by skeeda
There's an original slide of a Gray Lumber 2-6-2 that is for sale on ebay; item no. is 190065435148. It certainly appears to be n.g. Auction has 2 days-18 hrs. remaining.
  by RailVet
This web address may provide the information you see on the line in Pinebloom, GA.


  by ekrampitzjr
[Deleted duplicate post.]
Last edited by ekrampitzjr on Fri Apr 27, 2007 1:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

  by ekrampitzjr
Apologies for the late entry. Just stumbled across this site and joined. Thought I was the only one crazy enough to care about old railroads and rights of way!

The "town" (optimism if I've ever seen it) of Gray is in Sussex county, Va. This was on the old Atlantic and Danville Railway (A&D) 3' gauge line from near Emporia to Claremont on the James River. The line, the Claremont branch, ran through places such as Yale and the counties of Greensville, Sussex, and Surry.

Just a few weeks back during the winter, I was tracing where the line crossed Va. route 610 at Mason, which is such a tiny place that the Virginia Department of Transportation just put in place small signs on that road to mark it last year. Nothing is there except a couple of nearby houses and a National Bicentennial Farm that has a small shack by the road. I was able to determine the approximate location where the tracks crossed the road, which is now paved but was undoubtedly little more than a dirt path when the line existed. (Some roads in the area are still gravel or dirt, at least for short stretches.)

Gray might be named for the lumbering family. I don't know. Plenty of people with that name are still around. The old right of way (ROW) is marked on the topographic maps in the DeLorme Virginia Atlas & Gazetteer. Parts of county roads and Virginia route 40 now use the old ROW. This line was never upgraded to standard gauge, and it was abandoned and the tracks removed in the late 1930s. Apparently Gray Lumber Co. did take over and lease the tracks briefly in the 1930s before abandonment.

The line met A&D tracks at James River Junction near Emporia, which is actually some 50 miles from the James. These other tracks, which eventually ran from West Norfolk in what is now Portsmouth to Danville, eventually were all standard gauge except for having a third rail for allowing 3' gauge trains in the vicinity of Emporia. This line later became the Norfolk, Franklin & Danville (NF&D). Norfolk Southern now runs these tracks, which end at Lawrenceville today. The rest of the line west to Danville has been abandoned and the tracks removed, but the ROW at least as far as South Hill is still visible.

Lumbering was big in this part of Virginia, and Gray Lumber Co. took over at least one locomotive (No. 26) from the defunct Surry, Sussex & Southampton Railway (SS&S), another lumbering railroad, when that line went defunct in 1930. The Gray family undoubtedly had links to the SS&S. That locomotive was used in turn on the A&P Claremont branch. Later No. 26 was used on a short 3-rail spur linking to the Norfolk & Western tracks in Waverly.

An interesting side note about the NF&D is that a true ghost "town" of sorts exists on that track. That town is Arringdale in Southampton county. A narrow-gauge spur served a lumber mill, which had houses for workers nearby. In the 1960s, when the mill closed, the houses were demolished and the town ceased to exist. Some foundations and couple of crumbling buildings remain but are badly overgrown. The narrow-gauge spur and the third rail on the main tracks are long gone, of course.

In addition, one of the two roads to Arringdale become overgrown and lost, and the other is on private property and normally chained. It has been in use as an access road for farmers. When Norfolk Southern had a derailment and diesel fuel spill on the line several years ago, it had to widen that remaining road to be able to get its recovery equipment to the spill site near Arringdale. The activity didn't exactly endear NS to the owner who keeps the road chained.

In the interests of full disclosure, I live in the area. Hope this helps.
Last edited by ekrampitzjr on Wed May 09, 2007 10:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by gravelyfan
I believe the Pine Creek Railroad/NJ Museum of Transportation (located in Allaire State Park in Wall Township in central New Jersey) has/had a log car from Gray Lumber Company, and perhaps more than one. The SS&S #26 is also there, although it is privately owned and has not operated in a number of years.

  by ekrampitzjr
Thanks for the update on No. 26.

After my post above, I checked and can find no listing at all for a Gray Lumber in Virginia in Whitepages.com. As a lifelong resident of southeastern Virginia for 40+ years, I can say that I had never heard of Gray Lumber before seeing these posts and doing Internet research. That company is evidently long gone under that name.

However, the Camp family of Union Camp fame had massive lumber and land holdings in southern Virginia for its paper mills, especially the one not far away in Franklin. It would not surprise me to find that the Camps bought the Gray operation, perhaps in the 1950s when UC was building up its own resources. The land we own in the area near the old site of Arringdale is former UC land logged in the 1960s and still held by the company until the late 1980s.

International Paper bought Union Camp and now operates the Franklin mill. And the NF&D (old A&D) tracks still run by it.

EDIT: Googled "Gray Lumber", Waverly, Virginia, to try to find what became of the company, and what should pop up but an address and phone number in that town for it! It still exists. I've had trouble finding numbers with Whitepages.com before so I should have been more on guard.

  by RichM
I also recently reviewed the Kalmbach Historical Guide To North American Railroads second edition, and was surprised to find that the Atlantic and Danville ran a narrow gauge line to Waverly from their east-west standard gauge line... I think this probably brings this discussion full circle, in that the Grays then probably ran a narrow gauge operation that either interchanged with A&D, or was acquired by them.