Lawndale Railway #311
Alexander Chapter NRHS
In November 2007, the Alexander Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society obtained its first narrow gauge boxcar for restoration, one that belonged to the Lawndale Railway. After an extensive restoration and multiple comparisons to some remaining Lawndale cars, it was determined that the first car obtained by the chapter was actually an earlier, rebuilt car from the Carolina & North-Western Railway. Frankly, we were in a quandry about how to properly letter and honor the heritage of one railroad without honoring the other. Fortunately, we have been able to be patient with the decision, and now events have given us our answer.
Since 1994, we have known about the existence of another Lawndale car sitting alongside NC Highway 10. At various stages, we had approached the owner about acquiring the car, only to be politely turned down each time. The last time we inspected the car, in February, 2010, it was still in excellent condition, but was showing some signs of distress and decay. Notably, some water was now entering the car, which would spell the end rather quickly of the boxcar's pristine condition.
As we neared the lettering phase of our first car's restoration, some folks in the chapter decided to make one last effort to obtain the car. Fortunately, we were rewarded with success, and now our chapter can proudly display equipment that was original to the Lawndale Railway, the ET&WNC, and the Carolina & North-Western.
(Right) Where's Waldo?? Sitting underneath some scrub trees among old farm equipment and trucks, a narrow gauge wooden boxcar from the Lawndale Railway & Industrial Company has sat nearly undetected along NC Highway 18 just north of Fallston, North Carolina.
The car has been at this location for at least the last twenty years as it awaited plans for use at a restaurant, a park, and a museum.
After several years of negotiations, the car will now be restored by the Alexander Chapter-NRHS and be displayed at the NC Narrow Gauge Museum.
Upon closer inspection (at left, and below), the boxcar reveals itself from under the scrub and among the other vehicles.
At left, this close-up reveals a wooden car in absolutely remarkable condition. The drip cap molding along the roof line is rotted and tattered, but the siding on this part of the car is in very good condition. Unfortunately, the doors (see below) are missing from the car, and some minor rot is occuring along the floor in these areas. Still, the damage appears minor.
At left, a close inspection of the underside reveals that all truss rods and brake rigging, as expected, are missing entirely. However, there appears to be no rot whatsoever in any of the side, center, end, or intermediate sills. We still might find some unpleasant surprises when we remove the siding, but at first glance, this car is in extremely good condition. Very surprising, the underside of this car is completely painted. From studying the wear marks and remaining metal work, it appears that this painting was done by the railroad itself rather than any subsequent owner.
At right, the interior of the car is in immaculate condition. Some rot on the siding and a bit of roof damage are starting to creep in, but no structural damage is apparent yet. After the deluge of rain the region had in the week prior to this photo being snapped, you can see the water stains beginning to creep in. Still, other than siding, we might be able to get away without any major structural repairs at all!
(Right) This car still retains most of its body hardware, including grab irons, pole pockets, and one coupler.
Could our new car be the Lawndale #311? In this Robert Richardson photograph taken in 1942, the 311 looks to be freshly sided and painted compared to other photographs taken in the series. The grab iron patterns, along with the pole pocket and corner bracket also match identically.
As can be seen, the undertaking of this project is a hefty job indeed. Fortunately, the chapter has the manpower and expertise to make this happen, but we need YOUR help with the funding. So far, work has progressed on the car as far as its complete disassembly, as well as the discovery and repair of the rear-end defect which sidelined the car more than thirty years ago. The Alexander Chapter has also already purchased some repair parts and begun the cleaning and sandblasting of others.
How can you help??
Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can assist us in bringing this magnificent historical car back to life. For your convenience, you can make a donation to the Alexander Chapter-NRHS online by merely clicking on the Paypal button below. Funds will be transferred into our restoration account immediately. 100% of the proceeds of your donation will go to the preservation and restoration of this car.
Secondly, if the internet is not your cup of tea, you may send a tax-deductible donation to: Alexander Chapter-NRHS
PO Box 1205
Hickory, NC 28603
Thirdly, you can join the chapter. Annual dues are $48. Click on the Paypal button and note your name and address, or send a check or money order to the chapter.
Fourthly, attend the NC Railroad Expo on Saturday, April 9th, 2011. Proceeds from this show will go towards restoring this car.
Lastly, send an email to AlexanderNRHS@yahoo.com if you would like to join the Yahoo! Newsletter from the Chapter. You will be advised on the progress of all projects, conventions, members, and activities.