Two arrested for stealing metal from old Tweetsie Railroad

Rae Augenstein

Two arrested for stealing metal from old Tweetsie Railroad
By Robert Sorrell

Two men were arrested Monday afternoon after they allegedly stole
metal from the old Tweetsie Railroad bed in Elizabethton.

Justine Ross Markland, 19, of 122 Ed Stout Road, Hampton, and Jackie
Lee Johnson, 54, of 309 Southview Circle, Elizabethton, were taken
into custody on Monday and charged with theft over $1,000.

At approximately 1:58 p.m., Officers Kirk Carrier and Jordan Ensor of
the Elizabethton Police Department responded to a report of a theft in
progress. The caller advised 911 dispatchers that men in a white
Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck had just removed railroad metal from the
abandoned East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (the
Tweetsie) in the area of Stateline Road. The caller said the men
placed the metal in the back of the truck and left the scene.

Officer Ensor said he located the victim, Paul Jaeger of Jaeger
Railroad Salvage, and the suspects on South Sycamore Street near East
E Street in downtown Elizabethton.

Jaeger said he observed the white truck with steel loaded in the bed
which matched the same steel he was dismantling along Stateline Road.
Jaeger managed to stop the subjects on Sycamore Street.

The two suspects, Markland and Johnson, said they loaded the steel
into the truck near Big Lots. Markland told officers he did not own
the property the steel was on. The man said he saw other people take
the steel and thought it was “OK,” Ensor stated in an arrest warrant.

Carrier said in a report that Johnson asked officers if he could
return the metal and only receive a summons. Jaeger, the victim,
advised the metal is worth approximately $2,500.

Both men are to appear in General Sessions Court on June 4.

Jaeger and his crew have been actively dismantling the wooden railroad
ties and metal along the tracks as part of Johnson City’s efforts to
develop a Rails-To-Trails project. On Monday evening, Carter County
Tomorrow President Tom Anderson spoke during a meeting about the

Anderson said he has received several phone calls and questions from
local residents about the removal of the rails. He noted Genessee and
Wyoming, Inc., which owns the line, have been taking up the metal
rails and railroad ties for use on other projects they own.

He added that the chamber has also had several people contact them to
determine if they can obtain the railroad ties, spikes and other
materials. “G&W Railroad owns all of that,” he said. “It’s private
property. So the rails, crossties, spikes and all of that stuff can’t
be taken.”

As part of the agreement between G&W Railroad and the city of Johnson
City, the company will have until June of 2013 to completely remove
the rail lines along the trail corridor.

Although the railroad materials are being taken up, construction of
the recreational trail has not yet begun.

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