The Story of Marble, Part 2: The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Updated: May 23
Part 2: The huge block makes its way down the mountainside
It is true that to produce a block of marble weighing fifty-six tons is not a record-breaking feat in American quarrying. However, getting out a block of this size in any quarry involves a vast amount of intensive preparatory work, especially when, as in this case, the quarries are situated high up in almost inaccessible mountain ranges.
When this huge piece was finally brought safely to the surface, more than a year had passed since operations had been started to cut it from the quarry's bed. During that time, a railroad had been extended 600 feet along the side of the mountain to connect directly with the quarry opening.
Another problematic task faced those in charge of the work when it came to lowering the block from the quarry level down the steep incline of the new track to the mainline. A special skid of oak timbers was built with one end resting on two small rail-wheels. The block, fastened to this skid, was then snubbed down the spur track to the lower level. Two electric locomotives were tasked with hauling: one was attached to the front, another to the rear. Then the procession, with one end of the massive block riding on the two wheels while the other end dragged on the rails, started over the three-and-a-half-mile course, twisting and looping down a 2,000-foot drop to the town of Marble.
The road contained several steep grades, one of which is 17 percent, and when the load passed over them, the rear locomotive helped to hold it back so that absolute control as maintained at every point.
In Marble, the block was loaded by block and tackle on a regular railroad flat car for its long journey across the country to Vermont, arriving there in the middle of February. Shortly afterward, the sculptor, the architect, the contractor, and a representative of the Quartermaster General's Department gave it a final inspection and unanimous approval.
Part 3: The block is shipped to Arlington for final fabrication