F. Nelson Blount

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F. Nelson Blount (1918–1967) was president and founder of Blount Seafood Corporation. He was a millionaire and a collector of vintage steam locomotives and rail cars. He founded Steamtown, USA, which was operated by the non-profit corporation Steamtown Foundation.[1] Steamtown was a train museum that ran steam locomotive excursions out of Bellows Falls, Vermont from the 1960s to 1984. Air quality regulations in Vermont forced the collection to be relocated to Scranton, Pennsylvania in the mid-1980s. The Steamtown Foundation declared bankruptcy in the mid-1980s and was acquired by the National Park Service. Some of Blount's collection is still on display at what is now Steamtown National Historic Site. Blount died at the age of 49 on August 31, 1967 in a small aircraft accident.

Biography[edit]

Blount's family had been involved in the shellfish industry since the 1880s. The 1938 hurricane devastated the oyster business in Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay, so Blount helped introduce the bay quahog (a hard-shell clam) as a source of protein during the Second World War. In 1946, he consolidated several smaller shellfish firms to found Blount Seafood Corporation, which provided chopped clams to soup manufacturers throughout the United States, including Campbell Soup. His family still owns and controls the company.

Railroads[edit]

Blount used some of the money that he made in the seafood industry to purchase the narrow gauge Edaville Railroad in South Carver, Massachusetts in the mid-1950s. The Edaville Railroad had narrow gauge engines from Maine, but Blount soon began acquiring standard gauge steam locomotives and cars, in part to save a vanishing technological heritage. Some locomotives were initially displayed at Engine City, a part of Pleasure Island amusement park near Wakefield, Massachusetts. Space constraints soon forced Blount to look for a new home for his collection, and he purchased an engine house and railroad yard in 1959 from the Boston and Maine Railroad in North Walpole, New Hampshire, with equipment arriving there in late 1960. Blount called his collection and museum Steamtown, and the first train ran in 1961. Problems with leasing railroad track and federal regulators led to Steamtown trains running out of Keene, New Hampshire in 1962. Promised support for Steamtown from the state of New Hampshire never materialized, leading to yet another move back to North Walpole in 1963. This was the first year that the collection was open to the public (as opposed to just train rides), and soon the North Walpole site was seen to be too small for the many visitors who came.

In 1964, Steamtown began the move to Bellows Falls, Vermont to a site recently abandoned by the Rutland Railroad. Work was more or less complete there by 1966, but the next summer Blount died in an aircraft crash. Without his funds, Steamtown fell on hard times, and the harsh winters helped speed deterioration of much of the collection. It moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1984 but did not do well there, either. In 1986, the federal government stepped in and established the Steamtown National Historic Site, which officially opened in 1995.

Religion[edit]

In the 1960s, Blount became a devoted evangelical Christian. A biography entitled The Man from Steamtown was written by James R. Adair in 1967 which focuses heavily on his spiritual life.[2] Blount sought to preserve an evangelical Christian legacy by donating his Dublin, New Hampshire homestead and its surrounding farm buildings, pastures, and forest to a group of committed Christian educators in 1964, headed by Mel Moody, who worked together to develop Staghead Farm (as it was then called) into Dublin Christian Academy, a combined elementary school and secondary boarding school.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Adair, James R. "The Man From Steamtown: The Story of F. Nelson Blount" (1967, Moody Press).
  2. ^ Adair, James R. "The Man From Steamtown: The Story of F. Nelson Blount" (1967, Moody Press).

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